Balliff fees set to rise with Council tie-up

Profit-sharing from personal crisis? It appears that way. Baliffs' fees are set to rise thanks to hard-up local councils wanting a share of increasingly handsome profits from debt collection fees - and these extra costs will fall squarely on the shoulders of you-know-who. That's right, compounding the misery of their debt even more. Is this fair?



Makings of a scandal

It doesn't appear so. Labour MP Austin Mitchell told the Guardian he is worried about the issue. Mitchell claims it has the making of a scandal. "The industry needs an ombudsman, an effective independent regulator. Otherwise malpractice is going to flourish," he said.

"Like the constant pattern of phantom visits where they are charging for visiting people and putting notes through a letter box to say they have – but just not doing it. Then there is the scale of the charges, which are ludicrous in many cases. The methods of operation and abuses all require an independent regulator."

Unregulated

Part of the problem is that the debt collection industry is unregulated. But driving up fees by local councils may well, in turn, encourage further excessive fees from bailiffs, plus encourage the more aggressive, less attractive aspects of the trade.

Harrow Council, the Guardian reports, is planing to introduce competition when its debt recovery contract – parking, council tax and housing benefit overpayment – comes up for re-tender shortly. Two firms will start with 50% of the work, but one of the firm's share of the work may increase if it turns in a better performance than its rival.

Remember the rules

Remember that the only time a bailiff has the right to use reasonable force to enter your property would be if they were collecting unpaid criminal fines. The Citizens Advice Bureau say that for certain debts like council tax, certificated bailiffs must be used.

"To qualify as a certificated bailiff, the bailiff must apply for a certificate from the county court every two years. They must also meet certain conditions, for example, they must be able to show they are a fit and proper person to hold a certificate. If they don't act properly, they may lose their certificate. This would mean they can no longer work as a certificated bailiff."

Do be aware that if bailiffs can't get into your house, they may still be able to seize a car parked in your road, if they're sure it belong to you. You can read more here.
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