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What to do if Bailiffs visit

An enforcement agent (bailiff) is an individual who has a legal power to collect certain debts by either asking you to pay what you owe or taking and selling your belongings to raise the money.

What debts can they collect?

Bailiffs can be instructed to collect on a wide range of debts, including:

  • Business Rent
  • Council tax
  • Parking penalties
  • Business Rates
  • Child Support
  • Child maintenance
  • County Court Judgments (CCJs)
  • Magistrates court fines and compensation orders
  • High Court Judgments
  • Income Tax
  • National Insurance
  • VAT

How to avoid a Bailiffs visit

If you’re behind on payments or owe money, it’s important that you deal with these debts before bailiffs are instructed to act against you.

Being visited by bailiffs can be very stressful and upsetting, but it can usually be avoided if you speak to the organisation you owe money to about your situation. Try to come to an agreement in which you can pay back your debt at an affordable rate.

If you are struggling with debts owed to numerous creditors and you simply cannot afford the sums they require, you may want to consider a formal solution including an IVA, Debt Relief Order or Bankruptcy all of which will stop creditor action.

If Bailiffs come to your home

They can only gain entry by “peaceable” means and cannot force themselves in, but they can enter via unlocked door, open window, over fence to go in via back door. There are some exceptions to this when:

  • the bailiff is chasing up unpaid magistrates’ court fines;
  • the bailiff wants to enter your trade or business premises to chase up unpaid county court judgements (CCJs) ) or High court judgements;
  • the bailiff has been given a court order allowing them to use reasonable force to enter your property to collect debts owed to HM Revenue and Customs;
  • the bailiff has been given a court order allowing them use reasonable force to enter other premises where they believe you may have deliberately taken your belongings to stop them being seized;

In these situations, a bailiff is allowed to use reasonable force to get into the premises.

Reasonable force

  • forcing a door open by breaking the lock or hinges;
  • forcing a gate open;
  • cutting through a padlock and chain that has been put over a door, gate or loading bay;
  • breaking down a vehicle barrier.

Unreasonable force

  • pushing you or anyone else out of the way;
  • breaking a window to get in;
  • taking up floorboards to access part of your property;
  • climbing over a fence or wall.

You do not have to let a bailiff into your home, even if they say that you do. If you want to stop bailiff action, you will need to take steps to deal with the debt you owe. You could do this by contacting your creditor, speaking to the bailiff through the letterbox or a window, or leaving your home to talk to the bailiff outside.

  • Ensure that all doors and windows are closed and locked at all times – bailiffs are allowed to get into your home through a usual means of entry, such as an unlocked door. It is advisable to keep your windows closed as it will make you feel more secure and protect you from illegal bailiff action.
  • Make everyone in the house aware to keep windows and doors locked and not to answer the door unless it’s someone they know.
  • Do not open the door to a bailiff – if there’s a knock at the door or the doorbell goes, ask who’s there before opening the door. If a child under 16 will be alone in your home, make sure they know to tell the bailiff they are under 16 and home alone, as this will mean the bailiff has to leave.
  • You may choose to have a friend or a relative with you in the house for support, especially if you know the bailiff will be coming at a certain time.
  • Do not let the bailiff in, even if they ask to use your toilet or say they just want to talk. Once the bailiff is in, your belongings may be taken. The bailiff may tell you that they have a right to enter your home to take control of your belongings. This is technically correct, but you also have a right not to let them into your home. The bailiff can only enter peaceably and with your permission, unless they have the court’s permission to use force.
  • Speak through the door or letterbox. Ask to see their authorisation, proof of identity or evidence of the court’s permission to force their way into your home – they can put it through the letterbox or under the door.
  • Ask the bailiff to leave, keep calm and polite and tell them you will contact the creditor directly to arrange a repayment plan for the debt.
  • if you want to pay them, offer what you can afford to pay. If the bailiffs accept, ask to talk to them outside. Go out, close the door behind you and pay them outside – don’t let them into the house to pay. Make sure you get a receipt for the payment.

Moving goods to 3rd party property

As long as correct orders in place they can take your possessions from anywhere in England and Wales.

Vehicles

Bailiffs can take a vehicle wherever it is parked. They cannot take a car on HP but you need to prove it is a subject to HP.

Clamping

Bailiffs need a license from the Security Industry Authority to clamp your car. Ask for proof of SIA registration.

Fees for taking goods

If County court has issued a warrant of execution you have to pay the fee for this whether or not good seized. Council tax is charged for 1st and 2nd visits even if goods are not taken.

What happens if Bailiffs get in?

  • They can search your home.
  • Bailiffs acting for County Court cannot take protected goods – clothing, bedding, furniture, household equipment or provisions for basic domestic needs.
  • Bailiffs cannot take tools of trade used personally in employment, business or vocation.
  • Bailiffs cannot take 3rd party goods, but you will need to prove they are owned by someone else.
  • They cannot take rented goods, assets on finance, fixtures and fittings and children’s belongings.
  • Bailiffs should only take goods which raise the amount you owe. However, generally personal possessions are unlikely to realise a great deal at auction which is why Bailiffs will generally look to take assets of highest value.
  • When a bailiff has decided which of your belongings should be taken into control, you will be given a list containing the details of all the objects, called an inventory.
  • The goods themselves will be treated as controlled goods, meaning they are now under the control of the bailiffs and you’re not allowed to sell them, remove them from wherever they are stored, or pass them onto someone else.
  • You will be given a notice explaining this, called a notice after entry or taking control of goods.
  • You may still be able to get your belongings back at this stage, providing you follow the right procedures that are set out in the information the bailiff gives you.
  • You may be able to negotiate more time to find the money to pay what you owe by entering into a controlled goods agreementwith the bailiff. This is where you agree that you won’t get rid of or give away any of the goods the bailiff has taken control of while you pay back what you owe. If you break the agreement at any point, the bailiff can come back to take these belongings and use force to get in if necessary.

If the Bailiff has called and not been able to get in or if you have agreed to pay in instalments which you cannot afford, contact The Debt Advisor on 0800 0851825 and we will help you complete an application for suspension of a warrant and/or variation of an order.

If you have debt issues and would like to speak to an experienced advisor, do call The Debt Advisor today on 0800 0851 825.

Important Information

All debt solutions should be very carefully considered. Fees will be charged if a solution is taken in order for us to set up your plan and maintain it – all fees will be outlined during your consultation. For further information on fees, please see the FAQ section of the different solutions available. Retained payment may place you further into arrears. You have the right to a cooling off period of 14 days. It is likely that your ability to obtain further credit in the short term will be affected and this may also be the case over the medium to long term. Calls to our free phone number from mobile phones and other networks may be charged.

The Insolvency Service website has helpful information on https://www.gov.uk/options-for-paying-off-your-debts/overview to support those who find themselves in financial difficulty during the recession.

There are sources of free debt advice and services. You can find out more by contacting the Money Advice Service on 0800 138 7777 or by visiting their website.