As I have previously written, Part 3 of the TCE Act 2007 is expected to be enacted in April 2014.
It was discussed in Parliament on 17th July 2013 and a commencement order has been issued.
However, with Parliament now in recess until 2nd September, we are concerned that time might be running a little short for enactment in April, especially as draft regulations have not yet been published.
Summary of expected changes
Below are the main changes that were included in the “Transforming Bailiff Action” consultation and the Government response to that consultation.
7 day letter to debtors before first attendance
This will be charged at approximately £75 plus VAT and will be sent out seven days prior to the enforcement officer’s first attendance.
On the positive side, this in itself should see an increase in online or telephone payments and arrangements being set up. However, the downside is that those who have no intention of paying may take the opportunity to remove or hide assets prior to the enforcement officer’s visit.
New fee scales
New fee scales will be introduced which are allocated according to the different stages of the enforcement process. This will provide clarity and transparency to debtors.
Whilst the actual amounts have not yet been finalised, bailiffs and HCEOs will have different fee scales, and the HCEO fees will be higher. This is due to the complexity of High Court enforcement, the higher value of the debts to be enforced and the level of personal responsibility of the authorised officer to the creditor and their duty to the court.
You can see the detail of the proposed fees in this article. It is expected that the fees will be placed into a separate instrument so that they can be reviewed on a regular basis without the need for the entire legislation to go back before Parliament.
The High Court and County Courts Jurisdiction Order 1991
The Ministry of Justice will consider the impacts of the new fee regime and then review the Order. This could see HCEOs being permitted to enforce judgments below £600 and those regulated by the Consumer Credit Act, which would give creditors greater choice for enforcement action.
The Ministry of Justice is still considering whether to retain its proposal that a car will have to remain clamped for 24 hours before removal. I believe that the 24 hour delay may place the seized vehicle in jeopardy – for example, unlawful removal of the clamp or stripping the car of wheels etc.
- Sale of seized goods - the time delay between seizure and sale will increase from four days to seven
- Peaceable entry will be ONLY through a door, not a window anymore.
- The enforcement industry will remain self-regulated.
On the whole, we welcome the changes at The Sheriffs Office. They should make for greater clarity and transparency on key aspects of enforcement, without fundamentally impacting on the effectiveness of High Court enforcement as a means of recovering unpaid judgments and orders. The current fees are also decades out of date, and reform was much needed!
However, I am concerned about the fact that draft regulations have not yet been published and the resulting ever-decreasing time scale for HCEOs to implement the reforms.
We are hoping that the draft regulations will be published soon - once they are we will let you know the details.
David is the former CEO of The Sheriffs Office.