Bailiff enforcement and vulnerability is a vitally important subject. If you or anyone you know, is vulnerable and facing bailiff enforcement, this page should be of assistance. The Taking Control of Goods Regulations introduced in 2014, provide some important protection from bailiff action for those who are genuinely vulnerable. However, such protection is only possible if the enforcement company are made aware of any vulnerability at the earliest possible stage.

How do I know if I am considered vulnerable?

Vulnerability, for ‘enforcement’ purposes is very difficult to define. For example, being disabled does not necessarily mean that you will be excluded from bailiff enforcement. Some people may be constantly vulnerable (due to permanent lack of mental capacity or very severe disability etc).  Others may be  temporarily vulnerable (for example, through suffering mental health 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 your medical condition could worsen if a bailiff were to visit you or where you are unable to manage your 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 alike. On the difficult subject of vulnerability,  they provide 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 difficulty in understanding, speaking or reading English

I am vulnerable…can a bailiff seize my vehicle?

A vehicle that is used for transportation needs of a disabled person will be exempt from seizure as long as it is displaying a valid blue disability badge. If the blue badge is not displayed….the vehicle can be seized.

Bailiff fees and vulnerability

If you  are vulnerable, further protection is provided under Regulation 12 of the Taking Control of Goods (Fees) Regulations 2014.  If an enforcement agent visits your property and is satisfied that you are vulnerable, he should not remove any goods.  Instead, he must give you an opportunity to seek advice from a debt advice agency/charity etc. If he fails to do so, he cannot charge the enforcement fee of £235.

It is important to stress here that even if the bailiff is satisfied that you are vulnerable, he is still able to request payment from you. What he cant do, is to remove your goods without giving you an opportunity to seek advice as outlined above.

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 (preferably on receipt of the Notice of Enforcement). By doing so, you will likely avoid 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. You will be advised what documentary evidence they require. It is usual for a  letter from your doctor or specialist to be requested. A letter from the DWP confirming an award of Disability Living Allowance/Carers Allowance/PiP/ESA may also be necessary.

Local Government Ombudsman’s decisions about vulnerability and bailiff enforcement.

Since the Taking Control of Goods Regulations was introduced in 2014, there have been some very important decisions made by the Ombudsman regarding bailiff enforcement and vulnerability. Details of these decisions can be accessed here.

Bailiff enforcement and vulnerable households.

If you are vulnerable, please do not be tempted to download template letters from internet sites. In particular, please don’t be tempted to send a template letter to claim that you are from a vulnerable household. If there is a serious disability in the family, whilst this does not exclude the bailiff from taking enforcement action, it is important to bring such instances to the enforcement agencies attention. This 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.

Welfare Department

Given the importance of vulnerability to the enforcement industry (and their local authority clients) most companies have dedicated Welfare Departments with specialty trained staff. Once vulnerability has been identified, the account will usually be managed in-house. A personal visit from a bailiff/enforcement agent will generally be avoided.

Commentary 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 in confidence using our online Enquiry Form. Alternatively, you can contact us by phone. Details can be found on our Contact page.