How to Beat the Bailiffs

February 5, 2013 6:06 pm

Amongst some of the industries that are booming since the capitalist car crash are food banks, Cash Converters (pawn shops), exploitative pay-day loan shark companies and bailiffs.

We heard recently in the news that the government is to introduce new laws to restrict some of the bailiffs’ practices. Presumably, some of these bailiff companies have clearly been up to no good for this government to require them not to visit people’s homes at night,  not to enter premises when there are children alone and to resist the temptation to use violence.

The fact is, in the main, bailiffs are there to profit from the misery of people unfortunate enough to find themselves in financial difficulties. Bailiffs use intimidation and threats. They hope to make an unreasonable profit on top of it all.

Treat them for what they are – legalised burglars.

Bailiff Busters

I’m not writing this to try to tell people to avoid paying debts especially, but isn’t it far better to be able to deal directly, and in a reasonable manner, with the people who are owed the money and to be able to re-pay said debt at a reasonable, manageable pace? You can’t pay back in a lump sum what you haven’t got.

I was active in the victorious anti-poll tax campaign between 1988 and 1992. After all the protests, marches, demonstrations, the lobbying of the councils and magistrates courts, the subsequent phase of the campaign was to ‘beat the bailiffs’.

Accordingly, we formed ‘Bailiff Busting Teams’.Bailiff

The protesting phase may have stayed the authorities’ hand for a period, but the real fight took place when thousands of people were summoned. We advised everybody to show up to court. That way, we clogged up the system. The magistrates only had so much time to deal with us and it was they who were intimidated by a packed gallery.

They tried to deal with cases en-bloc, handing down liability orders by the dozen, but we demanded that everyone got an individual hearing. Each person was handed a sheet with a list of questions to put to the bench to waste as much time as possible.  It dragged on for months. But, finally, orders were issued – and we were ready for them.

Goon Squad

What to do about the bailiffs?

Initially, you may get a visit from a lone bailiff. They’ll be polite, ‘helpful’ even. These are the soft arm of bailiff companies. They will use persuasion and try to (nicely) instil fear of the consequences of not paying: “If you don’t pay”, they’ll  tell you, “we’ll remove goods from your home.”

One of our  members had one such visitor. He left an invoice for the debt plus the £750 commission they wanted on top. On the invoice was his phone number. We called him. I told him who we were and that, if he ever set foot in our borough again, we would form a picket outside his home with placards telling all his neighbours what he did for a living. He wasn’t happy. I told him the picket would be peaceful, non-violent, but lively. He got my drift. He promised he wouldn’t return.

Instead, he must have activated his goon squad. Little did he know, we were ready for them too.

Legalised burglars

We outlined to our members how we intended to beat the bailiffs:

  • We formed ‘telephone trees’ – many of us exchanged telephone numbers and we would phone around in the event of someone getting a visit so we could lend ‘on-the-spot’ support.
  • We told people not to allow bailiffs entry – bailiffs can only gain entry if invited by an adult and, once in, they can legally return.
  • We warned people to ensure doors and windows were secure – bailiffs can gain lawful entrance, if nobody is at home, through an open window.
  • They can only remove items that belong to you – buy a book of sales receipts and arrange with a friend or family member who you can ‘sell’ such items to them – hey presto – the goods are no longer yours to be confiscated.
  • There are only certain items they can take – they can’t remove cookers, fridges, fittings, TVs, beds etc.

In short, treat bailiffs like the legalised burglars they are.

The ‘telephone tree’ system was very effective. On one occasion, just as I arrived home from work, I received a call from a friend to say there were bailiffs outside the house of one of our members, a woman called Maureen. I quickly made a few calls and got up there.

When I arrived, there was a 7.5 ton van parked outside Maureen’s house. She was stood at the front window, looking quite shaken. Four more cars pulled up and around a dozen fellow  members, men and women, got out. The two thugs inside the bailiff van wound up their windows quick.

Four of us worked both sides of the street in both directions and knocked up the neighbours to ask for more support to make up the numbers. We had nearly twenty people now stood in the driveway of the house: ‘They shall not pass’.

It was quite useful to have a camera (or, in these days, a phone camera). Taking photos of them makes them awful shy. One of them picked up his copy of the Sun and hid his face while his sidekick dipped his head beneath the dashboard. One of them made a phone-call.

A policeman arrived and the bailiff complained about us, but the cop told him there was no public disorder going on and he disappeared once he had established that we were only going to remain there as a physical barrier to stop the bailiffs entering the house.

The bailiffs gave up and drove away. Some of us jumped in our cars and tailed them to make sure they left the area. We followed them for a good few miles. They circled a roundabout about seven times with us behind him, trying to shake us off, then they gave up and headed out of town.

Direct hit

We phoned one of our local councillors to complain about the bailiffs intimidating one of our people. The next day, the council announced suspension of the use of bailiffs until they could draw up a ‘code of practice’. We’d scored a direct hit and got invaluable press coverage that sent a big message out to thousands more people that they need not fear the bailiffs visiting them. (We even re-enacted our picket outside the house for the newspaper’s photographer two days later!)

beat the bailiffs

All the bailiffs could do then, once they knew they were getting nowhere, was to hand the liability order back to the courts who then set in motion either wage or benefit arrestment. The positive thing about this was, there is a sliding scale as to exactly how much of your wages or benefits may be arrested – a much more manageable way of paying off the debt – and no inflated bailiff charge.

But, for the poll tax, the writing was already on the wall. After Thatcher had been ditched, her successor – John Major – had to announce that he was ‘not persuaded that the (poll tax) was acceptable to the British people’ and it was to be abolished.

This only emboldened our movement. Non-payment soared even higher.

The poll tax, along with Thatcher herself, had been consigned to the ‘dustbin of history’.

As for the bailiffs, they would have to look elsewhere for their blood money. They needn’t have worried their poor little selves too much, as the mortgage rates were about to hit 14%,  ‘negative equity’ was just around the corner.

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