System allows bailiffs to get away with rule breaking, says Citizens Advice

Bailiffs are not being held to account when they break the rules because the complaints system is complicated and intimidating, according to new research from Citizens Advice.

Figures obtained by the charity from the Ministry of Justice show just 56 complaints were made through a court-based process introduced as part of the bailiff reforms in 2014.

In the report – The Rules of Enforcement – released last week, Citizens Advice also reveals 72% of people who experience a bailiff breaking the rules do not complain at all.

Interviews with advisers and people who have sought help from Citizens Advice shows people do not complain because:

  • It is unclear how to make a complaint
  • The pressure of bailiff enforcement action puts people off complaining
  • There is a lack of faith in the process

Previous research from the national charity revealed bailiffs in England and Wales broke the rules 850,000 times in the past two years. The lack of an effective complaints system means bailiffs are not held to account.

The report was released on the same day that MPs were set to debate bailiff regulation and receive a response from a justice minister.

As part of the “Taking Control” group on bailiff reform, Citizens Advice is calling on the government to introduce a bailiff regulator and establish an independent complaints process.

Government reforms introduced in 2014, which included rules for bailiffs to obey, have not worked because they have not been properly enforced, the charity says.

There has been a 24% rise in people coming to Citizens Advice with bailiff problems since 2014.

The charity helped one person make a complaint after a bailiff aggressively pursued a parking fine that actually belonged to their son, who didn’t live at the home. The money was eventually refunded, but only after 18 months by the enforcement agency’s independent adjudicator.

In comparison, the Financial Conduct Authority for example requires firms to resolve all claims within 8 weeks.

Janie Moor, CEO of Citizens Advice South Hams says, “Bailiffs are getting away with breaking rules designed to protect those who are struggling.  The complaints process is also complicated and frustrating; people lack faith in a system where you are required to complain to the bailiff’s firm in the first instance.

Bad practice by bailiffs is widespread and causes stress, anxiety and further financial harm. The government has said it wants to end this for good, to do so it must bring rule-breaking bailiffs into line by establishing an independent regulator.

Alongside this, the Ministry of Justice should introduce an independent complaints process. It’s important complaints are reviewed independently of the bailiff industry and outside the court system”.

To get advice from Citizens Advice South Hams:

Visit and click on “How can we help”

Call 03444 111 444

Come along to one of our drop in sessions:

Follaton House, Totnes, Mon-Thurs 10 – 4

Caring Town Information Exchange, Totnes, Weds 9.30 – 12.30

The Watermark Centre, Ivybridge, Mon, 9.30 – 12.30

Quay House, Kingsbridge, Tues, 9.30 – 12.30

Dartmouth Clinic, Tues, 9.30 – 12.30


I always find the people at the Citizens Advice more than helpful. They go out of their way to deal with distressed and confused people in a compassionate and sensitive way. Citizens Advice is a wonderful service – long may it last.

John – January 2024

Our awards and achievements

Queens Award for Voluntary Service

Support Us

Support South Hams Citizens Advice with Give as You Live

Skip to content