As the number of people with serious debts continues to rise, the powers given to bailiffs and their conduct when recovering money is likely to come under greater scrutiny.
The government has announced bailiffs will not be given greater powers to force entry but also said a scheme to regulate the sector will not begin for another three years
We asked for your comments, a selection of which are below. This debate is now closed.
MOST RECENT COMMENTS
I recently forgot to pay the congestion charge and the fine came to £200, but when the bailiffs turned up they added on another £650 to the total making it almost impossible for someone to find the amount of money they are after. Bailiffs can charge any amount they like and get away with it. That makes it feel like extortion and the whole industry needs regulating now, not in 2012.
My employer failed to pay a one-man taxi firm what he was owed for six months, despite repeated polite requests. It was only when he threatened court action that he got paid. We don't use him anymore. In my 30 years as both employee and employer, I have found that businesses by and large are the worst offenders when it comes to fulfilling their obligations - and are often quite cynical about how they use the law to avoid paying their dues. The ones I have known have done this knowingly, intentionally and fully aware of their actions. Everyone deserves to be paid promptly what they're owed.
I have no debts - at all, but I have had a debt collector at my door for someone else's debt. A simple mix up meant that I was being harassed for nearly three years. Until this incompetent "industry" can get things right, then of course they should have no right of entry into people's houses.
Derek Church, Sussex
I recently lost my job. It's so very easy to slip into debt and I'm there already. Everybody wants a piece of you when you have no money and it's emotionally challenging to deal with. My marriage has broken down and that has left a further mountain of debt to deal with. As for a small business being owed money, perhaps you will see this as a steep learning curve for the future in managing the business.
It is all very well blaming the debtor for everything and yes I agree that people should pay their dues but where is the responsibility from those that let these people get into debt in the first place? It's no good creaming off in the good times then screaming blue murder as soon as things change. No, both parties are to blame here.
Michael McIver, Hastings
I am sorry. I am a person who has borrowed too much and has had to default on the loans due to mental and physical health problems. I would love to pay back the money. Our family has been plagued by problems which mean that I am a carer for my husband and youngest child. We are a family just not coping. We have very little money and because of our difficulties, had little understanding of the immense debt we were getting into. The seduction of easy credit led us astray.
Anon, North Shields
People who are in debt have plenty of opportunities to sort out a repayment schedule with a creditor before the bailiff stage is reached. If you can't repay, then don't borrow in the first place. If you thought you could pay but then hit difficulties, get in touch with the person you owe money to and try and reach an agreement. If you ignore your responsibilities, then don't complain when someone contacts you for repayment even if that ends up being the bailiff. Why should the person you owe money to suffer? They gave you credit of some description at a cost to them - you need to pay it back! A thief would be sent to prison if found guilty, why is this any different?
Bailiffs should be left back in the last century, they have no place in a decent society. They are hired thugs, doing the court's business.
Mike Johnson, Southampton
We are a charity helping vulnerable debtors. The bailiff who spoke on your programme was enforcing High Court debts and his sense of responsiblity is not representative of the behaviour of many baillifs enforcing Magistrates Court judgments, who show no concern for the vulnerable.
Joanna Kennedy, UK
We are a small charity with County Court Judgements against a company for several thousand pounds. The judgements are useless without a mechanism for enforcement. We have had to incur court, private detective and bailiff costs with no result against a firm which is still trading and has not paid a penny despite the judgements. We have to keep on going as it is not owed to us - it is owed to the charity. Courts need to have their own enforcement arm.
Jim Barrow, Wolverhampton
Extending bailiff powers is the last thing we need. Remember how easy it is to fall into debt through no fault of your own, especially in today's climate. Some of those who've made comments here might do well to keep that in mind.
While I have every sympathy with those who are owed money by people who have attempted to evade their debts, a thought needs to be given to those people, like myself, who are private tenants. I live in a house where there have been several previous occupants who are currently being chased for unpaid debts. If debt collectors had the power to force entry upon a first visit, how many of those forced entries are going to result in the loss of personal possessions to completely innocent people? I think the industry needs to have adequate safeguards in place to ensure that this kind of scenario does not occur. Forced entry should only be permitted when the occupancy of the defaulter has been proven beyond question and all other avenues of pursuing the debt have been exhausted.
The government believes that it is better for the economy to protect debtors who wilfully rack up debts they never intend to repay rather than help honest sensible creditors recover their hard earned money.
Simon Downs, Basingstoke
Not all demands from bailiffs are correct. I've helped in two cases where, even though we were corresponding actively, the "creditors" appointed debt collection agencies who each wrote a threatening letter. We wrote back telling them that their client had given them incorrect information and they should ask for copies of specific correspondence. The conclusion was that the debt collectors dropped the cases straight away, which was to their credit.
Chris Grey, Guildford
While I'm sure there are a lot of cases where these laws are needed to recover genuine debts there also needs to be strong protection against unscrupulous collectors. Several friends of mine are currently being threatened by bailiffs due to a previous tenant's debt. Fortunately they're trainee lawyers so know how to handle it but there are plenty of people who would've been intimidated into either letting them in or paying up for someone else's debt.
Once again the government seems to be siding with the debtor and not the people owed money. I am a private landlord owed £5,000 by a tenant who wrecked my house and although I won my case in court (incurring further costs), I am not any closer to getting my money back. The difficulty is finding the debtor and taking their property and/or getting the money paid back out of their wages/income support etc. This is putting great financial strain on my family and we risk getting behind on our mortgage. The government needs to give bailiffs greater powers and make it easier to trace people that have gone to ground because of debts. The government approach is only concerned with people having problems because of the recession and not serial debtors with no intention of paying.
For the past year I have tried to get a landlord debtor to pay the money they owe. The bailiff has been useless. They only visited during working hours when the debtor is not in the property and gave up after six months (even though the court order was supposed to last a year). At present the legislation and powers do not go far enough to recover debt from defaulters. The debtor has a car the bailiff could seize but the court does not have the power to request the registration details from the DVLC. It's crazy. Once thing I have learned from the whole process is never to be scared of the bailiff, just don't open the door to them. The law is clearly on the debtor's side.
It's outrageous that people who owe money are able to wriggle out of it by not answering the door. These are the people who have overspent and helped to contribute to the dire financial state we are in at the moment. As someone who has not joined the orgy of overspending during the last 10 years, I would like to see these people reduced to my circumstances. As a saver, I would like to see my savings protected. For the government to delay implementing this law simply because there are so many over-spenders just shows how little it cares about the economy and how much it cares about courting the voter.
Alison Wright, Salisbury
Regarding the email from Sharon [below], I'm sorry to read that you were so incensed by this incident. However, I think the issue you should take up is not so much with the bailiffs but with your daughter, who thought it was ok not to pay her electricity bill, to ignore reminder letters when she knew that your address was on the form and to cause you so much stress. I feel sorry for your daughter in so much as her co-sharers probably let her down but let's hope that she has learnt a valuable lesson. I would call this a successful bailiff operation. They managed to get the money owed to the electricity company.
Alison Wright, Salisbury
After my daughter left university, I received - and this was the first I knew of it - letters from bailiffs claiming they'd be coming to my home to seize goods to the value of my daughter's debt. It turned out that the house my daughter had rented was used by five students and my daughter's name was given to a utility provider. The last electricity bill had not been paid. I told the bailiffs I was not responsible for the debt of my daughter and other tenants of the house, but they insisted that as my address was provided as the home address, they had the right to come into my house and seize goods and nothing I could say appeared to dissuade them. I was afraid they'd turn up and force entry and I would have to go to law to get my goods returned. My daughter immediately paid the debt. I was incensed that the bailiffs felt they had the right to force entry to a property entirely unrelated to the property incurring the debt. Surely this sort of activity on the part of debt collectors must be curbed?
We run a vehicle rental company and we are owed over £6,500 by one debtor in Rotherham as a sole trader, and his company owes us over £17,000 on vehicle rentals and damages. We have a CCJ against the individual and he has defaulted on the first payment. We seem powerless to enforce payment. The stress and anxiety caused by these people who wilfully rip off companies is debilitating. I seriously believe he never had any intention of paying us. There seems to be too many loopholes for individuals which seem to encourage people to run up debt and then get away with not paying the majority of it. What about helping the businesses to recover what they are owed? Current legislation seems to be biased in favour of the debtor.