Surge in people seeking online help with bailiffs

The number of people seeking advice online on how to deal with bailiffs almost trebled in April 2013 highlighting the issue of debt and the measures l…

The number of people seeking advice online on how to deal with bailiffs almost trebled in April 2013 highlighting the issue of debt and the measures lenders put in place to recoup finances.

Overall, the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) saw more than 37,000 people seek advice on its website in April 2013, which was 87 per cent more than the same month in 2012.

From April 2012 to March 2013, the CAB said it helped with 60,652 problems with bailiffs in England and Wales, a third of which were for council tax debts.

Council tax arrears is also an issue and CAB assisted in 161,564 problems in this area.

Meanwhile, in the last five years, there has been a 38 per cent increase in problems with private bailiffs and almost nine in ten issues with all bailiffs relate to private ones who are responsible for collecting debts. These debts include council tax debts and unpaid parking penalties.

The behaviour of some bailiffs is becoming a major issue for vulnerable people and the CAB has revealed that in August 2012 two in five bailiffs (39 per cent) threatened to use force to get into the property, while 16 per cent said they would call the police to gain access.

A quarter of bailiffs said they would take items that are banned from removal, such as clothing or work tools, while 29 per cent threatened to remove good that belonged to someone else.

Bailiffs can be a major cause of stress to those struggling with their finances and in August 2012, almost four-fifths (78 per cent) of the cases had caused stress and anxiety, while 35 per cent of people said they had mental or physical health problems exacerbated as a result (23 per cent and 12 per cent respectively).

Citizens Advice chief executive Gillian Guy said: "A third of the bailiff problems we help with each year are for council tax debt. We see cases where bailiffs overstate their powers, act aggressively and bump up debts by levying excessive fees and charges. 

"Local authorities must protect people from bailiffs who flout the law by helping people early on who are struggling to pay their council tax."

By Amy White

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