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New laws will curb behaviour of aggressive bailiffs

New laws are to be introduced to tackle aggressive bailiffs in England and Wales. Likely to be implemented next year, they will ban bailiffs from entering properties when only children are present, from entering homes at night, and from using force.

The move comes after Citizens Advice said it had received tens of thousands of complaints about bailiffs, including reports of children’s toys and even pets being seized.

But some landlords may have been puzzled by references in the media to bailiffs going into private rented properties, sometimes forcing their way in, without the permission of courts.

Lawyer Luke Maunder, of Barlow Robbins, who specialises in debt recovery law, said in practice such cases are extremely rare.

Maunder said: “It has been reported that bailiffs will not be allowed to use force against the person or enter homes with just children present. This is ridiculous – this is not something that has ever been allowed.

“Bailiffs and high court enforcement officers are only allowed to use reasonable force to obtain peaceful entry. They are not allowed to force entry into residential properties and certainly not when there are only children in the property. 

“They are only allowed to use force to enter commercial premises for the recovery of a debt and in certain cases when enforcing Crown debts, such as unpaid council tax.”
He added: “Landlords can distrain for rent, which is where a bailiff goes in without going to court. That being said, it is an ancient remedy, a minefield to do properly and only available in certain specific circumstances. 

“The reality is that it is extremely rare (I have never seen it) when dealing with residential premises and, of course, the comments on the news shouldn’t imply that a remedy used against commercial premises victimises residential tenants.

“Bailiffs and high court enforcement officers have typically been portrayed by the media as big burly men that will come and force their way into your homes and take all your belongings. This is incorrect. They are required to complete training, have a code of practice, and they are not allowed to force their way into your home. 

“There are also restrictions on what they can take, eg they can take your flat screen television but not anything that is essential for you to live or work.”

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