As six million fall behind on coronavirus bills, Citizens Advice outlines the top five bailiff and eviction need-to-knows - The Leamington Observer

As six million fall behind on coronavirus bills, Citizens Advice outlines the top five bailiff and eviction need-to-knows

Leamington Editorial 22nd Aug, 2020 Updated: 22nd Aug, 2020   0

The temporary ban on eviction for renters and the ban on face-to-face collection of debts is coming to an end. Experts from Citizens Advice’s debt and housing teams answer some frequently asked questions for people likely to be affected by these changes.

This advice comes as research from the charity reveals that one in nine  people, the equivalent of six million people nationwide, have fallen behind on a household bill because of coronavirus.

1. Can a bailiff visit my house to take my belongings?

Lorraine Charlton, debt expert at Citizens Advice says: “All bailiffs should send you a letter before they visit, to check if you’re more vulnerable because of coronavirus. They should also follow government guidance on social distancing.




“Many bailiffs have also made a voluntary commitment to take into account vulnerability or financial hardship caused by coronavirus and refer people to debt advisors in those circumstances.

“If they’re collecting debts owed to your local council, court fines or child maintenance they should give you 30 days’ notice before they visit. They shouldn’t enter your home to take your goods – they should only talk to you, collect money or give you documents.”


2. What should I do if I think the bailiffs are breaking the rules?

Lorraine Charlton, debt expert at Citizens Advice says: “Sadly, we saw many examples of bailiffs not following the rules before the coronavirus outbreak. We hope that they’ll stick to the new guidance, but this might not be the case.

“If bailiffs break the rules around entering your home, take, or threaten to take, things they shouldn’t, or refuse a reasonable repayment offer you should complain.

“You should also complain if bailiffs harass you or act aggressively, including using threats or intimidation, offensive language or visit, text or call you repeatedly.

“You should complain to the organisation you owe money to, as well as to the bailiff company concerned.  Complaining won’t cancel your original debt, but it can give you a chance to deal with it in a way that suits you.”

3. I was being chased by bailiffs before lockdown – when will I have to pay?

Lorraine Charlton, debt expert at Citizens Advice says: “Bailiffs usually have 12 months to collect a debt, from the date they send their first letter to you. This letter is called a ‘notice of enforcement’.

“If the 12 month deadline fell during the period of the ban on visits i.e. the notice of enforcement is dated 27 March 2019 to 22 September 2019, then the bailiffs will automatically have an additional 12 months to collect the debt. Speak to your local Citizens Advice about the best way to deal with this extension.

“If the bailiff has already been into your home and listed things you own, you need to carry on making agreed payments. If you can’t afford to pay, contact the bailiff and the organisation you owe money to, and speak to your local Citizens Advice.”

4. What should I do if I’m served an eviction notice?

Amy Hughes, Senior Housing Expert at Citizens Advice says: “The restart of eviction proceedings will be very worrying for those tenants still reeling from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on their finances.

“You should act straight away and start gathering evidence such as receipts for rent paid or any communications with your landlord.

“Landlords have to give you notice before they can apply to court for a possession order. For most tenancy types this notice must now be 3 months. There are some exceptions – for example if you are a lodger living in the same house as your landlord they do not have to get a court order evict you and can give less notice.

“For proceedings halted by the possession ban, your landlord must serve a ‘reactivation notice’ on both you and the court.

“If your landlord tries to force you to leave without a court order, this will be a criminal offence.

“If a possession order had already been made against you before 27 March 2020, then your landlord may apply for this to be enforced when the ban comes to an end. You should receive 14 days notice of the eviction date and will need to seek immediate advice.”

5. What should I do if I am struggling to pay my rent?

Amy Hughes, Senior Housing Expert at Citizens Advice says: “It’s really important to speak to your landlord and tell them your situation. It might help to tell your landlord why you have fallen behind with your rent, for example, if you have been furloughed, or lost out on work.

“See if you can agree to a repayment plan to pay off your rent arrears. This would mean making smaller payments to your landlord over a longer period of time. Don’t offer to pay more than you can realistically afford.

“If your landlord doesn’t agree to a payment plan, keep a record of what you offered to pay and your communication with your landlord.

“If you get Housing Benefit or Universal Credit and you can’t pay your rent, you might be able to get a ‘Discretionary Housing Payment’ from your local council to help pay. If you’re struggling, you should also make sure to check you’re getting all the benefits that you’re entitled to.”

Extension to the ban on new eviction proceedings until 20 September:

On Friday the Government announced an extension to the ban on new eviction proceedings until 20 September. Dame Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice says: “We’re really pleased the government has stepped in to keep its promise that no renter will lose their home because of the coronavirus pandemic – for now at least.

“During this extended pause on new eviction proceedings, we hope the government will work with Citizens Advice and others to put in place a series of protections which will help those who’ve built up rent arrears get back on their feet.

“We’d like to see funding for a dedicated set of protections, including measures such as grants for those in arrears due to coronavirus.

“This would not only directly help those affected, but also contribute towards consumer confidence and the economic recovery.”

To get advice online or find your local Citizens Advice, visit www.citizensadvice.org.uk or call the Citizens Advice consumer service on 0808 223 1133.

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