The Taking Control of Goods Regulations 2013 came into effect in 2014 and to coincide with this, the Ministry of Justice introduced the Taking Control of Goods: National Standards It should be stressed that although the Taking Control of Goods National Standards are not legally binding, the government’s intention is that the National Standards are intended for use by all enforcement agents, the enforcement companies that employ them, and the creditor (in most cases the local authority or HMCTS) who use their services.
The Taking Control of Goods National Standards 2014 can be read here and below we have selected important parts of the National Standards that we should be of assistance to debtors.
8. Creditors should act proportionately when seeking to recover debt, taking into account debtors’ circumstances.
12. Creditors must not issue a warrant knowing that the debtor is not at the address, as a means of tracing the debtor at no cost.
20. Enforcement agents must not be deceitful by misrepresenting their powers, qualifications, capacities, experience or abilities, including, but not restricted to;
• Falsely implying or stating that action can or will be taken when legally it cannot be taken by that agent.
• Falsely implying or stating that a particular course of action will ensue before it is possible to know whether such action would be permissible
• Falsely implying or stating that action has been taken when it has not
21. Enforcement agents must not act in a threatening manner when visiting the debtor by making gestures or taking actions which could reasonably be construed as suggesting harm or risk of harm to debtors, their families, appointed
third parties or property.
23. Enforcement agents, for the purpose of taking control of goods shall, without the use of unlawful force, gain access to the goods. The enforcement agent must produce all relevant notices and documents, such as controlled goods agreements, that are required by regulations or statute.
24. Debtors must not be pressed to make unrealistic offers and should be asked to consider carefully any offer they voluntarily make and where possible refer to free debt advice.
25. Where a creditor has indicated they will accept a reasonable repayment offer, enforcement agents must refer such offers onto the creditor.
27. Enforcement agents must not act in a way likely to be publicly embarrassing to the debtor, either deliberately or negligently (that is to say through lack of care)
45. The complaints procedure should be set out in plain English, have a main point of contact, set time limits for dealing with complaints and include an independent appeal process where appropriate. A register should be maintained to record all complaints and complainants should be notified of the outcome of disputes.
Information and confidentiality
52. Enforcement agents should, so far as it is practical, avoid disclosing the purpose of their visit to anyone other than the debtor or a third-party nominated by the debtor, for example an advice agency representative. Where the debtor is not seen, the relevant documents must be left at the address in a sealed envelope addressed to the debtor.
53. Enforcement agents should make debtors aware of the possible additional costs of enforcement which will be incurred if further action becomes necessary. If a written request is made, an itemised account should be provided.
Times and Hours
55. Enforcement agents should be respectful of the religion and culture of others at all times. They should carefully consider the appropriateness of undertaking enforcement on any day of religious or cultural observance or during any major religious or cultural festival.
56. Enforcement action should only be carried out between the hours of 6.00am and 9.00pm, or at any time during trading hours, unless otherwise authorised by a court
Mode of entry
57. Enforcement agents should not seek to gain peaceable entry to premises under false pretences; for example asking to use the toilet, or to use the telephone. They should be clear as to why they are seeking entry to the premises.
59. Enforcement agents must only use a door or usual means of entry to enter premises.
60. A power to enter premises by force exists for the execution of High Court and County Court debts at business premises or at any premises where an enforcement agent is enforcing criminal penalties. This power should only be used to the extent that it is reasonably required and only after the debtor has been warned that the power exists and the consequences of a wilful refusal to co-operate.
61. A power to re-enter premises by force applies to both residential and business premises where a controlled goods agreement is in place and the goods remain on the premises but the debtor has failed to comply with the repayment terms of the controlled goods agreement. This power should only be used to the extent that it is reasonably required and only after the debtor has been given notice of the enforcement agent’s intention to re-enter.
64. Enforcement agents should not remove anything clearly identifiable as an item belonging to, or for the exclusive use of a child (person under the age of 16) or items clearly identifiable as required for the care and treatment of the disabled, elderly and seriously ill.
66. Enforcement agents should take all reasonable steps to satisfy themselves that the value of the goods taken into control to cover the sum outstanding is proportional to the value of the debt and fees owed.
67. Enforcement agents should not take control or remove goods clearly belonging solely to a third-party not responsible for the debt. Where a claim is made, the third-party should be given clear instructions on the process required to recover
69. Where enforcement agents have multiple warrants for a single debtor, an enforcement agent must take control of goods, and sell or dispose of these goods, on the same occasion except where it is not practical to do so.
72. Enforcement agents must withdraw from domestic premises if the only person present is, or appears to be, under the age of 16 or is deemed to be vulnerable by the enforcement agent; they can ask when the debtor will be home – if appropriate.
73. Enforcement agents must withdraw without making enquiries if the only persons present are children who appear to be under the age of 12.
74. A debtor may be considered vulnerable if, for reasons of age, health or disability they are unable to safeguard their personal welfare or the personal welfare of other members of the household.
75. The enforcement agent must be sure that the debtor or the person to whom they are entering into a controlled goods agreement understands the agreement and the consequences if the agreement is not complied with.
Commentary from Bailiff Advice
If you are concerned that the enforcement agent or local authority may have failed to take into consideration the Taking Control of Goods National Standards when enforcing a debt, you can email a question to Bailiff Advice in confidence using our online Enquiry Form
Alternatively, you can contact our free helpline. Please refer to our Contact Page for further details.