Harborough’s MP raised at Westminster the case of two constituents who had items taken by a bailiff for a debt that was not theirs.
Neil O’Brien MP spoke about the incident during a Westminster Hall debate on bailiffs and whether reform was needed of the system.
He told fellow MPs of the pensioners’ story when bailiffs arrived without them knowing in advance at their house at 7.22am with a tow truck to take their car and other items from the house.
It later emerged they were taking items in relations to a debt belonging to their son. However, the couple were not told they did not have to surrender items that did not belong to their son.
Mr O’Brien read a letter from them which ended saying: “I…find it reprehensible that two pensioners should be coerced, albeit politely, into having to hand over their pension savings for something that they are not in any way culpable for. Nor can we believe that British law supports the kind of action we have experienced.”
Mr O’Brien said: “They are absolutely right. It is clear that the law needs to change and that we need to go beyond the 2014 reforms, and I am glad that the Government have announced the call for evidence.”
He set out six things he believes need to be changed in relation to the bailiff system.
First he said an independent regulator of bailiffs was needed.
Second, he said there needs to be better communication so problem debts can be highlighted and discussed, with affordable payment plans offered.
Thirdly, Mr O’Brien pointed out that in the case he raised the couple were never told of their rights, unlike what would have happened if they had been arrested.
Fourth he said a complaints procedure needs to be set up that can fine bailiffs.
Fifthly he said the level of fees charged by bailiffs needs controlling – in the case he raised Mr O’Brien said the bailiffs’ involvement increased the debt by half. Finally he said training standards for bailiffs needs to be improved.
After the debate, Mr O'Brien said: “I was shocked to learn there was no independent regulator in this field, when they exist in areas such as parking enforcement. I spoke in Parliament on behalf of my constituent and anyone else who has found themselves in this difficult position.
“Changes needed include better training for bailiffs and more to codify the rights of those being contacted by bailiffs, so they are clear on their rights and obligations. This can obviously be a highly distressing time and it is important that reforms are made to the system to ensure that it operates fairly and justly.”