Bailiff enforcement and vulnerability
If a person is vulnerable the enforcement regulations provide some protection from bailiff action but this 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 important page to our website.
Vulnerability for the purpose of bailiff enforcement is very difficult to define and it is important to be aware that 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.
With vulnerability being so difficult to define, the Taking Control of Goods regulations state that the following groups might be considered vulnerable:
- The elderly
- People with a disability
- The seriously ill
- The recently bereaved
- Single parent families
- Pregnant women
- Unemployed people
- Those who have obvious difficulty in understanding, speaking or reading English.
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
The Taking Control of Goods National Standards provides additional guidance on vulnerability such as:
Section 72: Enforcement agents must withdraw from domestic premises if the only person present is, or appears to be, under the age of 16 or is deemed to be vulnerable by the enforcement agent.
Section 73: Enforcement agents must withdraw without making enquiries if the only persons present are children who appear to be under the age of 12.
Section 74: A debtor may be considered vulnerable if, for reasons of age, health or disability they are unable to safeguard their personal welfare or the personal welfare of other members of the household.
Section 75: The enforcement agent must be sure that the debtor or the person to whom they are entering into a controlled goods agreement understands the agreement and the consequences if the agreement is not complied with.
Our page on the Taking Control of Goods National Standards can be accessed here.
Motor vehicles and vulnerability
The statutory regulations provide that a vehicle displaying a blue disability badge, will be exempt from being taken into control by the bailiff/enforcement agent.
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 that person owing the debt as being vulnerable, that he should not remove goods and instead, he must give the person 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 this template, 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 against the debtor 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. 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
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.