If you are currently worried about Bailiffs, or if you have Bailiffs coming to your home, then please read the information below.
- A Bailiff is a person who has been authorised to collect a debt on behalf of a creditor.
- Creditors are the companies or people that you owe money to.
- There are three different types of Bailiffs who have different Bailiff rights:
- County court Bailiffs are employees of the County Court and enforce County Court Judgements (CCJ). These are usually for consumer credit debts such as bank loans, credit cards etc.
- A county court Bailiff must be legally authorised to collect the debt on behalf of the creditor and must carry a 'warrant' or 'warrant of execution'.
- Certificated Bailiffs are private firms used by the Magistrates Court to collect fines, and by local councils - once they have obtained a liability order from the Magistrates Court - to collect unpaid council tax, fines, compensation and unpaid maintenance.
- A Certified Bailiff must carry a 'distress warrant' or 'liability order' issued by the magistrates' court.
- Private Bailiffs are used by private firms or self-employed companies.
- If you are in arrears, creditors may sometimes send a representative to your home to try and negotiate payments with you (these people are sometimes called 'advisors' or 'collectors'). These people do not have the powers to enter your home and seize your goods.
How can I tell if the person at my door is a Bailiff?
- Ask for identification or authorisation; a Bailiff must provide this if you ask them to.
- Bailiffs collecting rent must show their certificate from the county court if you ask them to.
- Bailiffs collecting unpaid council tax must show written authorisation from the local authority.
When can a Bailiff come to my home?
- Bailiffs collecting rent are obliged to call between sunrise and sunset.
- All other Bailiffs can call at any time of day or night, however most Bailiffs should call at a 'reasonable' time between 8am to 8pm.
Can a Bailiff force their way into my home?
- Most Bailiffs do not have the right to force their way into your home to take your belongings.
- The only exception is Bailiffs from the Collector of Taxes (Inland Revenue), who can get a warrant to force entry. However, this is very rare.
- All other Bailiffs must try to enter your home in a peaceful manner; this means that they cannot force entry into your home. For example, they can't break in through locked windows or doors.
- A Bailiff can, however, enter your property if a door or window is left open on either the front or back of the property. They can climb over fences and gates, but cannot break them down.
- You do not have to let Bailiffs into your home; a Bailiff cannot force their way past you if you answer the door, unless they are from the Inland Revenue. If all of your doors and windows are securely closed they will not be able to gain peaceful entry unless you let them in.
- Bailiffs are aware of their limited powers and may use a variety of different means to gain entry peacefully, such as attempting to walk into your home when you open the door, asking to use your telephone, suggesting they discuss matters inside etc. You do not have comply with any of these methods.
How to deal with Bailiffs
Prior to the Bailiff visit, it may be worthwhile to arrange for a witness to be at home with you to record events. When the Bailiff arrives, request to see their identification. You can also request to see the issued court order confirming that you owe the money, as well as authorisation for the Bailiff to remove items from your home.
You do not have to open the door or allow the Bailiffs access to your home. If you do greet the Bailiff, you can settle payment immediately or suggest paying in instalments if you do not have all of the money right away. However, Bailiffs can reject negotiations. You can pay the Bailiff outside your home – you do not have to allow them indoors.
If you choose to refuse entry to the Bailiff or ignore them completely, they will return at a later date and the problem will not go away. Bailiffs charge additional fees for each visit and can seize possessions from outside your home if they are not granted access, such as your car.
What to do when items are seized
Once inside the property, Bailiffs will identify items that they will seize to cover the costs of your debt. They will then prepare a list of these items and ask you to sign a 'walking possession agreement'. This will confirm that these goods now belong to the Bailiffs and can be collected at a later date. Check this list carefully, as in some cases Bailiffs have taken goods that outweigh the value of the debt. This can occur when items are not individually valued before removal.
If you have an issue with the items seized, you can complain to the Bailiff's firm if they are hired privately, or to your local authority if the Bailiffs are issued by the council.
What should I do if a Bailiff is about to visit my home?
- Remember you do not have to let a Bailiff into your house or flat.
- If all your doors and windows are locked, the Bailiff will not be able to gain access to your home. If they cannot get in, they cannot lawfully seize goods.
- A Bailiff may call a number of times to try and gain entry. Eventually they will return the warrant to the court or local authority if they are unable to gain entry, or you do not have enough goods to pay off the debt and fees.
Will I get advance notice of a Bailiff visit?
- From 1 April 1998, all local authorities must send you a letter giving 14 days' notice of a proposed Bailiff visit to collect council tax.
- County court Bailiffs must issue a warning notice allowing seven days for you to pay.
What happens if a Bailiff does gain peaceful entry to my home?
- Once a Bailiff has entered your home they will usually try to find and seize your personal belongings.
- Once they are in your home, the Bailiff has the right to go into all rooms and can break open any locked doors or cupboards.
- Once the Bailiff has gained peaceful entry and has identified what goods they will seize, they have the right to call again and enter your home without your permission to collect them. This means they can then break in to take your goods.
- If you attempt to remove a Bailiff from your property once they have gained peaceful entry, this is seen as an assault by you on the Bailiff and you could be taken to court.
- Once inside your home, a Bailiff will attempt to seize your goods in order to sell them at a public auction to raise money to pay the debt that you owe.
- The Bailiff will make clear an intention to seize various belongings, either verbally, by attaching a mark to them, or by touching them.
For more information regarding Bailiffs, call us now on 0808 163 9579 to speak to an advisor or complete the form below.
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