Posts Tagged ‘bailiff’

Bailiffs get unreasonable powers

May 1, 2009

I had earlier had the view that bailiffs were well contained by sensible limits. Thanks to The Times online I find this is not now so.

You may at times have thought me unreasonably hostile to this government; however I further view this as a little snide piece from a business dominated group.

Thanks to the Zacchaeus 2000 Trust the new measures are being fought vigorously and Jack Straw has already taken some action to mitigate the legislation. However, some measures which need to be understood remain.

Councils are already making more use of bailiffs, says The Times, to collect Council Tax arrears. Our ‘People’s’ ministers were going to extend bailiffs’ powers so they can use force when to seize goods in cases of civil debts.

We are indebted to Zacchaeus and its new lawyer, Joanna Kennedy, for forcing a halt to this return to the bad old days. Kennedy’s and the trust’s aim remains to roll back the legislation – Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Act 2007 – ‘ “…and although ministers have said that they will not enact them, they remain on the statute book. So the Government could change its mind at any time. We’d like the provision to allow the use of force and effect forcible entry removed entirely.” ‘

Here! Here! Bailiffs still have a right to use force over unpaid criminal fines under the Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Act 2004, such as for non-payment of a TV licence or motoring offence. For the past 400 years until that Act, entry to a person’s home had to be peaceful.

What a disgusting piece of legislation from a disgusting Government.

Quite incredibly the details of MoJ guidance to bailiffs on forcible entry appears to have been made a state secret!. These have been withheld “for reasons of the health and safety of bailiffs”. How, trust chairman Reverend Paul Nicolson, asks, “can we or the magistrates’ courts tell if bailiffs are keeping the rules if the rules are kept secret?”

Under a Freedom of Information request, a version of the guidance was released, with 15 of 30 pages redacted. An appeal to the Information Commissioner led to reissued guidance last autumn with different redactions — including some parts previously seen.

To put it mildly this is a business government. And a total betrayal of the founding of the Labour Party. That party was formed to fight the very excesses by business that Brown and his band are bringing back onto the statute book. It makes the Tories look positively socialist!

Explaining her new role Kennedy explains: “I had been a lawyer for 30 years and I enjoyed it, but increasingly I found the amorality of the commercial legal process frustrating and I wanted to do something a bit more worthwhile. A lot of it,” she added, “was making the rich richer and, as lawyers, becoming rich yourself.”

Welcome to the world of defending the under-privileged Joanna; more strength to your elbow and those of Rev Nicholson and Zacchaeus. We certainly need you.

Joseph Harris
Debt Control Man

Is Bankruptcy a Good Option?

August 18, 2008

It’s certainly tempting.

The idea of being able to hide behind a wall erected against creditors can seem great in moments of panic and feelings of being very oppressed by heavy debts.

But obviously I have cautions for you!

Let me be clear first that what I write here certainly applies to debt in England and Wales, and though there are similarities to other places you do need to check. In the US for example there have been some changes in the bankruptcy laws which are rather nasty to debtors.

When I first realised my debt position my first thought was to go bankrupt. I was in a state of panic and to some extent my mind switched off. Maybe you have done the same, maybe you have not really had that experience.

Fortunately I calmed, and even when an advisor with one of the charity debt specialists told me I was ‘the best candidate for bankruptcy’ he had come across I spent my time considering his advice.

Very roughly going bankrupt puts all your financial affairs in the hands of the Official Receiver; he or she, not you, decide where your money goes and what creditors can expect, and what you, the debtor, need to live on. All your assets go into the pot.

Although this state usually lasts for just a year it can involve the loss of your home, even if the debt is nothing to do with your mortgage, or if you own your home outright. Other assets get included: car, holiday home, valuable record collection for example. And all this is likely to be examined, looked through and valued by a bailiff.

When you have debts you cannot pay, whatever approach you take, it is likely that any valuables will be considered as available for part of the debt repayment in some way.

It is unlikely that the bailiff or any other representative of the creditor or of the Official Receiver will know how to get the best value for these things.

Indeed you might have noticed that where debt leads to repossession of a house and home it is often the case that the repossessed house is sold at auction, often for a ridiculously low price. Less indeed that if the creditor treats the debtor with some civility and reaches an alternative deal for renting with an option to restart the mortgage at some future point.

Anyway that is another discussion, and mortgages are not something I offer expertise about, though many of my suggestions would be applicable for mortgage debtors as for others.

But if you do have a collection and you know that you do not have the income to meet your debts my advice would be to sell it yourself. That money must still go into the pot, so don’t try to hide it. This way it will at least show that you have tried to make the best restitution possible, and that will be a positive factor in your dealings.

There is an initial cost to bankruptcy. I think it has risen to just over £500. There is a small variation depending on whether the hearings are at a county court—not all handle bankruptcy—or at the High Court in central London, which acts for the Greater London area.

Where the applicant debtor is in a state of privation, or otherwise in severe financial difficulty, the court and the Receiver have the right to refund the charges. But those charges do have to be made up front.

Dealing with the Official Receiver is said to be a relatively friendly experience and is conducted across a table rather than in a formal courtroom. The job of this official is to help you to create a new beginning, though you will undoubtedly be put through a very fine mill of questioning and examination of your financial affairs.

These days there is a queue, and there will be some delay though I have no detail as to how long.

It includes the fact of being persona non grata for new debt for six years, even though you may become a discharged bankrupt within one.

There are some situations in which you may still be chased for some debts, but I think this is rare. Still you should make sure that you have any risk that way covered, and plenty research is in order as well as a discussion on the point with the Official Receiver should you take, or be forced into, this path.

You name will appear in the local newspaper as a bankrupt and it is possible everyone you know, and all your family, will hear about it and point fingers. They may be sympathetic—I believe that is far and away the more likely response.

But it can affect a lot of your relationships, possibly including your work. And you will be permitted to have only a basic bank account; that might badly affect any self-employed person, and cause problems for almost anyone.I think most advisors, most creditors and perhaps most debtors see bankruptcy as a last resort, that final step when all other ways of resolving the situation have failed.

I do agree with that. So if you are tempted down that path make sure you have thought through every other possibility, and understand the effects of this one on your life, well into the future.

Joseph Harris
Debt Control Man