On 6th April 2014, the “Taking Control of Goods” Regulations came into force. Although the title is a bit of a mouthful, these regulations should have a huge impact on the way that bailiffs and high court enforcement officers currently operate. These reforms are intended to standardise and simplify the often controversial process, of seizing money and goods. More importantly, they will help to protect vulnerable people who are in debt. They should make enforcement officers accountable for their actions but also allowing them to carry out their role legally and effectively.
The new rules say when a debtor’s premises can be entered; what goods can be taken, how a repayment scheme can be arranged and how the goods are sold if the debt remains unpaid.
One of the most significant changes is that the debtor must now be given seven days notice before an enforcement officer can come to their property, then people can use that time to make arrangements to pay the debt, before the bailiff turns up at their door. As this will reduce also the costs of enforcement, it should be an extra incentive for people to sort out their debt payments.
But in reality, as bailiffs usually get involved at the very end of the debt recovery process, the individual will have had many opportunities to pay before this stage. Many in the industry have expressed the concern that this notice period will give time for people to hide or dispose of their assets and will prevent any chance of the successful recovery of goods.
The regulations do provide a clear fee structure, which was previously a confusing part of the enforcement process. The reforms to the fee structure are long overdue and are a welcome addition.
So it remains to be seen what long term impact the new regulations will have on the rates of recovery and debt settlement.