If a person is vulnerable, the enforcement regulations provide some protection from bailiff action. However, such protection is only possible if the bailiff/enforcement company are aware of the vulnerability at the earliest possible stage. Given the degree of misunderstanding about vulnerability, we have introduced this new page.
Vulnerability for ‘enforcement’ purposes is very difficult to define and being disabled does not necessarily mean that a person will be excluded from bailiff enforcement. For example; some people may be constantly vulnerable (due to permanent lack of mental capacity or very severe disability etc), but others only temporarily vulnerable (for example, through suffering mental illness for a short period of time, bereavement, pregnancy, unemployment etc). Each case is unique and will be looked at individually by the enforcement company or bailiff.
By and large, when it comes to bailiff enforcement, vulnerability is usually reserved for extreme cases. An example could be where the medical condition of the vulnerable person could worsen if a bailiff were to visit or where the individual is unable to manage his or her own affairs etc.
The Taking Control of Goods National Standards 2014
Although the National Standards are not legally binding, they are nonetheless a very helpful tool for the enforcement industry and creditors and on the difficult subject of vulnerability, they provide that the following groups might be considered vulnerable:
People with a disability
The seriously ill
The recently bereaved
Single parent families
Those who have difficulty in understanding, speaking or reading English
Motor vehicles and vulnerability
The statutory regulations provide that a vehicle that is used for transportation needs of a disabled person, will be exempt from being taken into control as long as it is displaying a valid blue disability badge.
Bailiff fees and vulnerability
Further protection for vulnerable debtors is provided under Regulation 12 of the Taking Control of Goods (Fees) Regulations 2014 and states that if the enforcement agent visits the property and identifies the person owing the debt as being vulnerable, that he should not remove goods and instead, he must give the debtor a chance to seek advice from a debt advice agency/charity etc. If he fails to do so, the enforcement fee of £235 is not recoverable.
Do I have to provide any evidence that I may be vulnerable?
In the first instance, it is vitally important to contact the enforcement agency at the earliest opportunity (on receipt of the Notice of Enforcement) as this could avoid the need for a personal visit being made. Initial contact should be made by telephone and a brief outline of your personal circumstances should be given to the operator who will usually advise what documentary evidence they require. Sometimes a letter from a doctor or specialist is required or a copy of a letter from the DWP confirming an award of Disability Living Allowance/Carers Allowance.
Bailiff enforcement and vulnerable households.
Unfortunately, there are a number of internet sites that encourage people to send a letter to the enforcement agent to claim that they are from a vulnerable household in the mistaken belief that the enforcement agent will return the debt back to the council or court. A popular ‘vulnerable household’ template letter that features on many of the Freeman on the Land/debt avoidance websites is this one. Given the misrepresentation of the regulations in the letter, it is hardly surprising that the majority of enforcement companies do not take it seriously !!
If there is serious disability in the family (for instance, where the parent or partner is the registered carer for a son, daughter or spouse) whilst this does not exclude the bailiff from taking enforcement action, it is nonetheless vitally important to bring such instances to the attention of the enforcement agency at the earliest possible stage as it may affect the approach made by the enforcement agent and possibly lead to the debt being managed in-house by the enforcement company’s Welfare Department as opposed to it being passed to an individual enforcement agent.
Will my debt be returned to the council/court?
Only in exceptional cases. This is because, since the regulations were overhauled in April 2014, most enforcement companies now have in-house Welfare Departments and what usually happens, is that once vulnerability has been identified, the account will be managed in-house by the trained Welfare Team.
Note from Bailiff Advice Online:
If you are vulnerable and worried about a bailiff visit or have contacted the enforcement company or bailiff and are having difficulty getting the company to accept that you are genuinely vulnerable, then please do not hesitate to contact us. You can email a question to us using our Question page or alternatively, you can contact us by phone. Details can be found on our Contact us page.