Private bailiffs dressed in stab vests, wearing bodycams and driving white vans covered in fluorescent police-style trim have been accused of confusing vulnerable tenants, a housing charity warns.
Safer Renting is worried it is becoming a growing problem after stepping in during two incidents involving S&K Property Enforcement.
Bailiffs arrived at the home of a charity worker's house in London while she was at her office and her five children were alone, telling her to leave the property.
Although her landlord had never pursued an official court order, he had previously cut off her heating and water in an attempt to evict her. The charity workers managed to convince the firm to leave after a two-hour stand-off.
Safer Renting has also helped another tenant who got a visit from S&K, sporting the same uniforms and fluorescent vans. He had withheld rent after years of failing to get his landlord to repair a raft of problems.
Safer Renting caseworker John-Luke Bolton tells LandlordZONE that both incidents involved rent-to-rent arrangements which can make it difficult to work out who is responsible.
“The enforcement company turns up saying that someone doesn’t have the right to be there, but when a property owner sub-lets, they don’t always know who the landlord is that’s letting to tenants,” he explains. “We think owners should be directly liable for any activities.”
Bolton acknowledges that while officers in these cases didn’t claim to be police, he believes their outfits and set-up could confuse a frightened tenant who isn’t fully informed - and confused his own staff attending the incidents.
“Tenants should question why they are there if they don’t have a court order,” he adds.
A spokesman for S&K tells Novara Media that agents always identify themselves while setting out their reasons for attendance.
It denies its agents have ever identified or misrepresented themselves as police officers, or acted in a manner that would suggest they were police officers. “Our staff wear uniforms which clearly identify them as enforcement agents,” he says. “The same applies to all vehicles used.”
Picture credit: Stock/Shutterstock