Taking Control: understanding bailiff rights

I sometimes get asked about your rights where bailiffs are concerned. This is quite a specialist area and so I asked Alison Blackwood of StepChange to provide some guidance.

Here at StepChange Debt Charity we are still hearing from our clients about problems with the behaviour of bailiffs and bailiff firms. In fact we were so concerned at instances of bailiff not seeming to follow regulations and standards, that we are working with eight other charities on a campaign “Taking Control” that is calling for further bailiff reform.

But, reform is a long-term aim. What happens if you are visited by a bailiff now? First of all, bailiffs are not the same as debt collectors: a debt collector doesn’t have any special legal powers to collect a debt, whereas a bailiff does. If you are certain you are being contacted by a bailiff, it’s good to know what powers they have, so you understand what they can and can’t do.

Before you get a knock at the door
Before any visit to your home takes place, bailiffs must send you a letter called a notice of enforcement. This will give you seven clear days’ warning before they visit. This means as long as the organisation you owe money to (the creditor) has your current address, you’ll get a warning before the first bailiff visit, and a chance to discuss repaying the amount owed.

If you are not the person named on the notice of enforcement, you should write to the creditor and the bailiff firm, stating that you are not the person named on the enforcement notice. The letters should be sent by recorded delivery and you should keep a copy, so you can prove you have done this if you receive further correspondence, or a visit, about the debt.

If the bailiff then still turns up and is shown your copy of letter and of recorded delivery, along with ID such as a rent bill, that should be sufficient to turn them away. Although we’ve had examples where this hasn’t worked and the case has had to be escalated through the bailiff complaints process – which is another maze-like range of options.

When and where
A bailiff can only visit you at home between 6am and 9pm. There are some exceptions if they’re calling at a business which opens at night, or if a court has given special permission, but this is rare.

Bailiffs can visit any property in England or Wales where you live, or run a business. If you’re self-employed they can visit your business address. But if you work for someone else they shouldn’t call at your workplace. However, if visiting your workplace would let your employer or colleagues know of the debt that would be a “mustn’t” as it breaches the Data Protection Act They can visit someone else’s property if your goods are stored there, but they need to ask the court for permission first.

They can also take any goods you’ve left on a public road, including your car. They can check the DVLA records to find out if you’re the registered owner of a car.

Do you have to let them in?
In most cases a bailiff can only come into your house peacefully through a front or back door. They can’t break in without giving you a chance to let them in voluntarily. This means they must:

• Explain who they are
• Say why they’re calling
• Enter only with your permission
• Enter without using force

For most types of debt, when bailiffs first visit, they’re not allowed to:

• Climb through a window
• Break down doors or use a locksmith
• Push past you or put their foot in the door to stop you closing it
• Enter the property when there’s only a child under 16 at home
• Lie about who they are or why they’re calling

There are some cases when a bailiff is allowed to use force to enter your house if you refuse to let them in. For example, to collect an unpaid magistrates’ court fine; if you are self-employed, to enter your business to collect unpaid county court or high court judgements; or if the bailiff has been given a court order allowing them to use reasonable force to collect HMRC debts, like income tax. However, in most cases they have to ask permission from a judge before they’re allowed to use force, and evidence from the courts shows that this happens very rarely.

What will a bailiff do when they visit?
If you’re not able to pay the debt straight away, a bailiff will look for items which could be taken away and sold. They will try to come into your home to do this, but remember in most cases they can’t force their way in if you refuse.

They’ll make a list of these goods. The goods are then under the bailiff’s ‘control’. It is illegal to sell or give away these controlled goods until you’ve paid off the debt in full.

Bailiffs can remove controlled goods straight away, but it’s much more common for them to leave the goods with you. They’ll draw up a payment arrangement with you called a controlled goods agreement – usually they’ll ask for a lump sum straight away and they may allow you to pay off the rest in instalments.

If you miss any payments under the controlled goods agreement, the bailiffs can come back and remove the controlled goods to sell them – they can use force, if necessary, to take your goods at this point.

What can bailiffs take into control?
A bailiff must leave you with essential goods, including:

• A cooker or microwave, a fridge and a washing machine
• A landline or mobile phone
• Beds and bedding
• A table and chairs
• Appliances to heat and light your house
• Medical or care equipment

Some goods are protected and can’t be taken by a bailiff, for example:

• Goods which are owned by someone else – but they can take goods which you own jointly with someone else
• Pets and assistance dogs
• Tools or other equipment that are essential for your job or study, up to a maximum total value of £1,350
• A vehicle used by a disabled person

The bailiff must discuss the needs of you and everyone else in your household, and reach agreement about which items should be classified as essential and which can’t be taken.

Find out more
The law on bailiffs is complicated. The StepChange and National Debtline websites give more information on how best to deal with bailiff action, depending upon the type of debt you have. You can also find a fact sheet on how to complain about a private bailiff which includes sample letters.

Remember, if you need help with debt or are worried about a bailiff visit, please seek free advice from an independent debt charity as soon as possible.

And, if you feel pressured by bailiffs, campaign for change
You can share your experience on the Taking Control website. All stories shared are anonymously and the only data stored is your parliamentary constituency, so we can more effectively lobby local MPs for reform.

Biography
Alison Blackwood has been the Senior Campaigns & Policy Advocate at StepChange Debt Charity since May 2016, and is responsible for the organisation’s campaigning and policy work on civil procedure and enforcement. Before that she worked as a Senior Campaigns Officer at Citizens Advice, Strategy & Improvement Manager at London Borough of Camden and Head of Policy & Knowledge at London Voluntary Service Council. Alison is an RSA Fellow and has been a trustee of various small London charities and Chair of a local community enterprise organisation, Communities in Focus.

Posted in Complaining, Laws | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Ambulance chasers hit a brick wall

Number of Claims Management companies now at an all-time low

Figures released last week by the Claims Management Regulator (CMR) show that the number of companies providing Claims Management is now at an all-time low. The annual report, covering the period 2016 to 2017, indicates that there are now only 1388 regulated companies providing Claims Management in the UK.

These companies shared combined revenues of some £726 million in the year to 30 November 2016. Their activities cover PPI, personal injuries etc. But over the past few years thousands of companies have been struck off or have voluntarily given up. At the peak in 2011 there were 3213 companies active in this sector.

The number of companies seeking to register for Claims Management is also at an all-time low.  Only 107 new applications to become a CM company were made in 2016 and applications were down 47% in the “personal injury” sector. Overall, fewer than a quarter of all the 6722 companies registered on the CMR database are still operating.

The fall in number of companies, and low registration of new companies is due in part to a stricter regulatory environment. Claims Management companies must abide by a range of statutory conditions and comply with conduct rules. During 2016 some 69 companies were shut down by the regulator for non-compliance.

Helen Dewdney, The Complaining Cow consumer champion and author of How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results! says she is pleased to see this reduction in claims management companies. “So often we see companies doing what consumers can easily do themselves. There are plenty of template letters available for the likes of PPI claims and flight delays which people can use to claim 100% of what they are due. The more complicated cases, where you may need help from a third-party, are very rare.”

Marcus Williamson, editor of the consumer website http://CEOemail.com – which provides contact details for CEOs – says that it’s not worth losing 20-30% of a claim to a CMC. “It’s time that people stop wasting money on using Claims Management Companies and take matters into their own hands”, says Williamson, “Whether it’s PPI or flight claims, just write to customer services, demand redress and escalate to the CEO if necessary.”

PPI claims remain high but with a slight decline. The deadline for making PPI claims is August 2019, so it is likely that there will be continued decline in CMCs, as the last remaining PPI claims are made.

The CMR report cites a “substantial increase” in the emergence of CMCs working in the area  of holiday illness. There have been recent reports of claims management companies encouraging people to make false claims of illness against holiday companies. The regulator says it has established a team to work with reputable CMCs, tour operators, ABTA and solicitors to clamp down on this behaviour.

Notes for editors

Latest CMR report, released on 4 August 2017 https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/claims-management-regulator-annual-reports

Delayed flight template letter http://www.thecomplainingcow.co.uk/airline-claim-compensation-letter-template/

 

 

Posted in Latest News | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Information Commissioner encourages disclosure of fire safety information in light of the Grenfell Tower tragedy

Re-blogged from ICO

The ICO has published this blog by Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham:

https://iconewsblog.org.uk/2017/08/02/information-commissioner-encourages-disclosure-of-fire-safety-information-in-light-of-the-grenfell-tower-tragedy/

Full text below:

Information Commissioner encourages disclosure of fire safety information in light of the Grenfell Tower tragedy

By Elizabeth Denham, Information Commissioner

In the wake of tragedies like the Grenfell Tower fire, public bodies are forced to look at all aspects of their roles and responsibilities.

They take a critical look at how they do things and evaluate how their practices can be improved.

My office is concerned with transparency. As the independent regulator of the Freedom of Information Act, my job is to ensure people have easy access to records they are entitled to see.

We have started work to consider how councils and other public authorities can make fire safety information available now and in the future. How they can be transparent.

Seven weeks on from the Grenfell fire, while many continue to come to terms with unimaginable personal loss, others are fighting battles on the information front.

People in many parts of the country are looking for reassurance of appropriate fire safety measures to prevent further tragedies elsewhere.

Others are looking for essential information to hold organisations to account as well as gaining a fuller understanding of the issues surrounding fire safety and decision-making related to social housing.

The repercussions for people living in social housing across the country have highlighted the significance of access to fire safety records in a way that few of us could have imagined a few months ago.

And that’s where transparency comes in. People have a right to know how their services and communities are run. And in an era when people are increasingly looking for answers, protecting this right to Freedom of Information (FOI) is a crucial part of my job.

There is likely to be a compelling public interest in releasing fire safety information as part of a Freedom of Information request. And I know there are councils and other public bodies that are meeting these requests.

But I am encouraging them to go further.

Unless there is a good reason not to, I urge public organisations holding relevant fire risk assessments and other fire safety information to consider publishing these records proactively.

Use your judgement. Be transparent. Don’t wait to be asked.

Where process is a mere barrier, bring it down. Don’t give worried residents cause to believe it will be months before they get the information they’ve asked for if you can make it readily available to everyone.

As a starting point, if public bodies are frequently disclosing information to people making individual FOI requests about fire safety records, they should think about proactive publication. Making information easily accessible to everyone.

If proactive publication is not feasible, it is still important that public authorities review any requested information carefully and bear in mind the weight that public interest arguments in favour of disclosure are likely to have.

They should be mindful that some fire safety information may fall under the Environmental Information Regulations, which sets out similar requirements to the FOI Act.

If an authority holds these types of records – particularly related to housing – it should conduct an audit of what it has and develop a plan of what it could routinely disclose in a long-term approach to improving transparency.

Of course there are sometimes specific reasons for withholding information in the public interest. There may need to be considerations about the impact of disclosing specific information related to criminal investigations or statutory inquiries, for example.

This is for the now. But I am also considering the future.

Most of us think of Freedom of Information in terms of requests put to us by the people we serve. But transparency is a two-way street and there is a requirement for public authorities to set out what information will be made routinely available through a document called a publication scheme.

I know that the ICO’s current guidance on publication schemes does not specifically require the routine release of fire safety reports, but my office is reviewing its position in the light of what happened at Grenfell Tower.

Transparency and the public interest are constantly shaped by changing contexts and the public bodies who effectively gain trust are the ones who adapt and change their approach.

We are analysing whether the publication schemes and associated definition documents for local and joint authorities should be updated to include information related to fire safety. We will consult with the relevant authorities as well as other expert stakeholders on this matter in the autumn. I recognise the importance of working with others as we move forward.

My office is also looking at the wider picture and how social housing organisations can be more transparent. For example, Housing Associations are currently not subject to Freedom of Information Act because the Act does not designate them as public bodies. It is clear to me that this is a significant gap in the public’s right to know.

I will address this issue in my forthcoming report to Parliament about extending the reach of FOI legislation.

Posted in Latest News | Leave a comment

25 top finance blogs (saving, making, investing, tips & more)

Although this blog is about consumer rights and how not to get fobbed off, I thought it might be useful to share some good money blogs with you. If you are interested in knowing your rights you may also be interested in finding out about ways to save and make money on a variety of things from holidays to personal finance, food to energy saving and selling stuff! There are of course thousands of blogs out there run by people keen to share their ideas and sometimes you may stumble across them and some that are equally as good that you don’t. So I’ll list some for you all in one place so that if you fancy putting your feet up with a cuppa or glass of wine, here are some good ones to start you off. If you find any of them useful or you’d like them to cover a financial issue that fits with their blog then please do mention it in a comment on their (not mine!) blog.

I have tried to provide a varied list to give lots of choice of what’s out there, so that each one I’m showing you, is for the most part, quite different to another.

Be Clever With Your Cash is a blog about helping you do the same. It picked up Best Personal Finance Blog at this year’s Headlinemoney awards. (I was nominated I’ll have you know, but my blog is pretty niche! “I only do complaining” I often say!) Run by Andy Webb covers all sorts of great stuff.

Skint Dad fed up of being skint and struggling to make ends meet; in 2013 husband and wife team Ricky and Naomi Willis launched the blog to help other people in the same boat. Whether you’re looking to cut back on your food bill, save for a rainy day, or find inventive ways to up your income; Skint Dad has the answer. Masses on here (even a guest post from yours truly hidden away. They won Headline Money award last year and various awards in the UK Money blogger of the year awards.

LottyEarns Charlotte Burns is the current UKMB Blogger of the year,  and her blog focuses on luxury on a budget. It can be done and Charlotte provides many a tip on how.

Skintedmintedmum Charlotte and Minted mum Jane, both personal finance journalists, offer family finance tips to other mums whatever their budget. That little bit different in concept to other blogs which I like, so well worth a visit.

Thinking Thrifty David blogs about making, managing and saving money. Having recently taken the plunge and invested in his own business instead of the bank, he picked up the best new blog award at The SHOMO Awards 2016

Debt Camel Sara blogs about everything to do with debt and credit ratings. An important aspect of that is better budgeting, aiming for a small emergency fund and reducing your borrowing costs and expenses wherever possible. Sara also write a guest post on my blog Everything you need to know about Payday loans so you know she must be good!

Your Money Sorted Eileen’s blog helps UK based women to make the most of their money, through helping them to improve their money mindset. She’s got some interesting freebie guides on tips and mindset, I’m just signing up for a couple.

Reduced Grub shows people that you don’t need a huge budget to eat decent food. Lots of ideas for cheap tasty meals by Kelly here.

Mrs Mummypenny Lynn blogs about healthy wealth, body and mind. A personal journey with lots of tips etc. you may take some inspiration.

Katy Kicker Katy blogs about money saving as a parent, allotment owner and person committed to random acts of kindness. Find money saving advice on a whole host of subjects.

Savvy in Somerset Fiona writes mostly about money saving but other personal finance bits and she comes from Somerset too! (All the best people do 😉 Oh and Fiona? 8 tests I took. 8!

Money Saver Moneymaker Jenny writes a blog that encourages women to make money from home, with a focus on turning hobbies into business. Like me not able to resist a bargain and she shares her money saving finds, leaving you with more money all round to spend.

The Diary of a Frugal Family is all about Cass and her family’s journey to living a more frugal lifestyle having as much fun as possible along the way. You’ll find everything from money to meal planning and from Teen DIYs to Travel posts and you’ll find a free budget planner.

From Pennies to Pounds  Francesca writes about how to save  and earn money from home to pay off debt and achieve your financial goals. Different to the many blogs like this as Francesca is newly married with a daughter and is at uni so may appeal to students out there!

The Frugal Cottage Nicola blogs about budgeting, money saving and early retirement and won the People’s Choice Award last year at the SHOMOs.

Money Tree Man with the help of his Money Tree girlfriend writes a blog about saving money to achieve financial independence, starting with buying a house! Investments etc. Whilst that may be a little different to other blogs which talk about tips, saving money etc. etc., anyone that writes “Rants and bants”, “A quick google can be the difference investment ingenuity of fiscal fucktardedry!” and “Little bitch syndrome” has got to be worth a peruse.

Much More With Less Faith is a personal finance journalist who writes about moving to the country, living on less and making the most of it. Posts focus on food, finance, family, flowers and fitness, all with a frugal spin.

Pounds and Sense Nick blogs about making money, saving money and investing money, aimed especially (though not exclusively) at over sixties

A few more on saving and making money: Time and Pence, Money Saving Girl, Emma Drew,   Thrifty Mum,  I Beat Debt  and Homely Economics

Not really a blog but is a site that supplies links to individual bargain items Latest Deals UK

and one of my long standing Twitter buddies who I’ve been following for yonks. Ok different to all the other finance blogs listed but it IS finance and I want to include him so there!

So a special no 26:

Banker’s Umbrella blog on private banking and wealth management

And if you’ve come here via someone tweeting this page – you can find out About Me and you can GET THE BOOK! How To Complain: The ESSENTIAL Consumer Guide to Getting REFUNDS, Redress and RESULTS! for tips, information advice, guidance, consumer rights/laws and template letters and you can find that all over the blog as well.

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Your rights and how to complain about ferries and cruises

Ferries/cruises
The Consumer Rights Act 2015 was applied to ferries from 1st October 2016. You are now entitled to services carried out with reasonable skill and care. If they are not then you should be able to gain redress.

If your ferry service is cancelled or departure is delayed for more than 90 minutes, you are entitled to either an alternative sailing at the earliest opportunity at no additional cost or reimbursement of the ticket price which should be paid within seven days. If you choose an alternative crossing, you’re still entitled to claim compensation for the delay to your original journey.

While you wait (when delayed for more than 90 minutes or it is expected to be cancelled) you are entitled to meals and refreshments if they can be reasonably supplied even if the reason is bad weather.

If an overnight stay is required due to the delay/cancellation then the ferry or cruise operator must offer you accommodation free of charge, if possible. This can be on board or ashore.

Your ferry company can offer alternatives such as permitting you to make your own separate plans to travel and reimburse your expenses. No overnight accommodation has to be offered or costs reimbursed if the delay is caused by weather conditions endangering the safe operation of the ship.

For all things complaining holidays see All you need to know about booking/complaining about holidays/flights

For more advice, tips and templates for complaining  see GET THE BOOK! How To Complain: The ESSENTIAL Consumer Guide to Getting REFUNDS, Redress and RESULTS!

Posted in Complaining, Complaints, Complaints gaining redress, General complaints | Tagged , , | Leave a comment