New laws to regulate the behaviour of bailiffs came into force yesterday, aimed at cracking down on aggressive tactics that can leave some debtors living in fear, reports the BBC.
The reforms come as part of a package of changes made to the Tribunals, Courts and Enforcements Act 2007, which came into force on 6 April 2014.
Under the new laws, bailiffs are banned from entering any home at night and are now completely banned from using any physical force against debtors. The rules also prevent bailiffs from entering property when only children are at home.
It is estimated that bailiffs collect around four million debts every year. After the Act comes into force, bailiffs will be referred to as 'Enforcement Officers'.
Bailiffs are debt collectors who often work on behalf of courts such as magistrates' and county courts, as well as Crown Courts and High Courts. Private companies, councils and others may also employ them. The aim of bailiffs is to visit a debtor's home to reclaim goods and possessions in order to recover debts.
However, the changes were felt necessary as debtors were facing highly aggressive tactics from bailiffs when reclaiming money.
The Home Secretary Chris Grayling said the new laws would protect debtors from aggression.
"Aggressive bailiff activity is unacceptable and it is high time that the cowboys out there are stopped from giving the rest of this important industry a bad name," he said.
The new laws will also prohibit bailiffs from seizing essential household items such as cookers, refrigerators and washing machines.
"People will still have to face up to their debts, but they will no longer need to fear their home being raided at night, the threat of violence or having their vital household equipment seized," Grayling added.