New virtual enforcement powers for bailiffs
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Virtual bailiffs visits to reduce Covid-19 spread
Thanks to a High Court ruling in January, bailiff visits no longer have to be done by a bailiff coming round to your house – they can now be done via Zoom, FaceTime or WhatsApp instead.
You’ll now be able to show a bailiff around your home via a phone or laptop while they note down details of your possessions. This allows bailiffs to make Controlled Goods Agreements (CGAs) and agree payment plans without actually entering your home, a move which could help protect both you and the bailiffs by reducing the spread of Covid-19.
Aside from protecting you from potentially catching Covid-19, this may also allow you to keep hold of your possessions; by making a CGA over Zoom, you’ll be able to stop your items being taken and sold at auction, and you’ll also avoid the £200 charge it costs for bailiffs physically visiting your house.
Why have virtual bailiff visits only just been announced?
Virtual bailiff visits were initially planned to launch in August 2020 after the idea for a video bailiff visit was designed by Just, who are a provider of debt collection services.
The idea was challenged by many collection agencies who felt that a physical visit to a person’s house was needed in order to take control of goods, but this was dismissed by the High Court, with the ruling stating that a bailiff can enter into a CGA without actually visiting a person’s home.
Just’s chairman Jamie Waller said: ‘Designing a solution that allowed bailiffs to work from home, protected debtors from bailiffs visiting them and spreading the virus and saving debtor’s money, while ensuring the creditors were paid what is owed was clearly the right thing to do. I am pleased that it was an innovation by Just.’
Does this mean that bailiffs can’t visit my house any more?
Whilst virtual visits are now an option, it doesn’t mean that a bailiff can’t visit your home any longer. If you make a plan to repay what you owe with a bailiff after completing a virtual visit and don’t stick to it, then it’s likely that further action might be taken against you in the future – including goods being taken physically.
What is a Controlled Goods Agreement?
A CGA is an agreement between you and the bailiffs that stops them from taking control of your possessions and selling them at auction.
If you sign a CGA, you’ll usually agree to a payment plan at the same time to repay what you owe over a period of time. If you don’t stick to the terms of the CGA, then the bailiff might return and sell the items listed on it at auction.
The CGA will include details of any items taken control of, such as:
- Games consoles
- Computers/laptops (if you don’t need them for work)
- Vehicles (if you don’t need them for work)
Some of the things that bailiffs can’t take control of include:
- Vehicles or computer equipment you need for work up to a value of £1,350
- Things that belong to other people who aren’t named on the debt
- Things you need to cook food e.g cooker or microwave
- Mobile phones
- Tables and chairs for your family
For more information about what bailiffs can take and what your rights are if a bailiff does visit, please visit Dealing with Bailiffs during Coronavirus, or give us a call on 0800 280 2816 for free, no-obligation debt advice about your situation.