Facing bailiff action? We can help.

Debt Helpline can help stop bailiffs from seizing your wages and possessions. Our team of specialists have over 20 years of experience in dealing with bailiffs, enforcement agents, councils and courts. We can speak to the bailiff or your local council for you and help you negotiate a new payment plan.

We can also brief you on your rights against bailiffs and the powers of bailiffs to help you prepare when one comes knocking at your door.

You don’t have to deal with bailiff action on your own. Contact Debt Helpline today.

How Debt Helpline Can Help

The main goal of our bailiff advice service is to help you keep your belongings while finding a long-term solution for your financial concerns. With our team of insolvency practitioners, accountants and debt advisors, we can help you come up with a solution acceptable to your creditors and the council. In particular, we:

  • Deal with the bailiff company to prevent bailiff visit.
  • Deal with the bailiff and credit owner to stop the current activity (if they’re already at your home).
  • Advise on the best financial solutions possible.
  • Negotiate affordable payments.
  • Provide ongoing support.

To help you prepare for a bailiff action, below are some things you need to know.

What is a Bailiff Action?

A bailiff often called a debt enforcement officer or enforcement agent is a court official or a legally authorised individual hired by a private organisation for debt collection and enforcement. They have fairly extensive legal powers to collect money or seize your property if you fail to pay before deadlines.

What happens when bailiffs come knocking?

At an early stage of such an action, they may just ask you to pay what you owe the creditor. If you cannot pay, they will verify which items belong to you to take note of the items they can remove from your home and sell to clear your debt. All money that is raised from confiscated items or direct payments goes towards clearing the debt and covering attached bailiff fees. It is best to deal with bailiff companies before they send an enforcement agent as you will be charged with every bailiff visit on top of your existing debts.

When do bailiffs visit your home?

If you're worried the encounters may be random, don't be. A bailiff must give seven working days warning in advance of their arrival at a property. If they fail to provide this, they cannot proceed legally with confiscating items or entering your property. A creditor will usually only resort to bailiff action as an absolute last resort for debt collection. They will usually warn you well in advance before passing your debt onto a bailiff, giving you time to negotiate and prepare. If you are still incapable of paying your debts by that time, you should contact your creditor to discuss these difficulties before they pursue bailiff action.

The Golden Rules

The law on bailiffs gives the enforcement agents powers and rights – however, their powers have limitations too. When visited by a bailiff here are the things you and the bailiff can legally do

Don’t ever open the door to a bailiff.

They cannot force an entry (i.e. vandalise an entrance or climb over an obstacle to gain entry) or enter a property if the only one present is under 16.

Don’t let your kids answer the door.

If you have children, make sure that any under the age of 16 know not to answer the door – bailiffs can’t enter a property if a child (under 16) is alone in the house. If you do open the door make sure you stand firm in the doorway, bailiffs can’t push past you to gain entry.

Keep your car out of sight.

If you have a car or another vehicle, do not have it parked outside your property. After verifying it is yours, a bailiff has it within their legal powers to take it and sell it to clear debts. Make sure it is parked in a secure or hidden area. Like a locked garage or around the corner, as they cannot take the vehicle if it is not present on the property and within sight, or alternatively if they cannot gain access to the vehicle.

You’re not required to answer questions.

You do not need to speak or give information to a bailiff, although they may ask questions and attempt to talk to you. Be sure to remember that any information you give them may be used against you, and they can't take anything from you if they can't verify it is yours.

Make sure you are dealing with an authorised bailiff.

To check a bailiff is legitimate, ask for their authorisation. The bailiff should either be wearing an ID badge or have a court order relating to your address that they must produce when asked. If they fail to do so, they are most likely not a certified bailiff and you should not interact with them beyond that point.

Keep your items hidden from outdoor view.

Keep curtains closed and valuable possessions tucked away, so they can’t inspect and inquire about your possessions from the outside.

Ask for a receipt.

If you have the money to pay off the debts to hand, you can provide this to the bailiff to clear debts. Just don’t forget to ask for a receipt of payment.

Contact loved ones.

Make sure to keep in contact with friends and family during this time, as they can help you immensely both financially and emotionally.

If you have additional questions on what bailiffs do and how to deal with bailiffs, get in touch with us immediately for further advice.

When Can Bailiffs Be Used?

Bailiffs can only legally be used to collect certain types of debt, these include:
  • Council tax.
  • Compensation orders and magistrates’ court fines
  • Parking penalties
  • Child support maintenance
  • County court judgements (CCJs)
  • High court judgements
  • Business rates
  • TV licence fines
  • Income tax, national insurance and VAT

Bailiffs Vs Debt Collectors

A debt collector does not have the legal power to remove possessions from your property to pay debts, while a Bailiff does. But always remember that a bailiff must give advanced warning of their arrival, failure to do so means it is unlikely they are a certified bailiff.

Bailiffs must also undergo specialist training and be fully certified by a court for debt collection. If you are in any doubt, always ask to see identification and contact the firm they are representing. A debt collector does not go through this training, and will use intimidation tactics to scare people into paying debts. Do not let a debt collector posing as a bailiff scare you into paying debts however, as they do not legally have the power to confiscate goods.

Bailiff - Frequently Asked Questions

1Bailiffs at the door?

When a bailiff comes knocking it can be extremely stressful and scary. As soon as you receive a bailiff warning through the post, be sure to immediately start preparing for their arrival. You can contact us if you receive such a warning, and by working together we can try and tackle the debt before the bailiffs come knocking.

Usually you will not have to let a bailiff into your home on their first visit. There are very strict rules and guidelines governing a bailiff’s conduct with each visit. On their first visit to a property they can not use force to gain entry or use any sort of deliberate intimidation, just peaceful methods (asking you to invite them in, for example, so they can inspect your property and possessions). They also aren’t allowed to gain entry between 9pm and 6am, any attempt to do so is a violation of their legal powers.

Bailiffs are only permitted to gain entry through normal methods like:
  • An open door
  • Gate
  • Attached garage
They can’t enter:
  • Through a window
  • By climbing over a wall or fence
  • By climbing over a locked gate or barrier
2Is a Bailiff in your home?

A bailiff doesn't have to enter you home, at least not on the first visit, but if a bailiff does enter your home, make sure you see identification and authorisation first. If they don’t have any paperwork, or it is incorrect/incomplete in any way, then you are within your rights to ask them to leave.

f a bailiff behaves threateningly or harassing then you can get bailiff action against you dropped by the firm or agency employing them. It can help greatly if you film a bailiff’s actions on a camera or mobile phone as evidence of any claims you make.

If a bailiff enters your home to find that a child under the age of 16 is the only one in the house, then they must exit the property immediately as they do not have the legal powers to enter a house if the only one present is under 16.

If you are unable to pay the bailiff they will begin making a list of your possessions that could be sold to pay off the debt and will try to verify what belongs to you. However, there are certain items a bailiff are not permitted to take. After a bailiff has identified and verified what goods belong to you from their list, they will start to collect them for reselling, these goods will now be referred to as ‘controlled goods.’ The bailiff has the power to start removing these goods from your property immediately.

Once a bailiff has entered your home once, either invited or otherwise permitted, and provided they followed the legal guidelines, they can enter your home on any other occasion with or without your permission (gaining entry through force if necessary) to remove or impound your possessions they have verifies to be yours.

A Bailiff, after taking control of your goods will be remove them, have them valued and then sold. Alternatively you can enter into a controlled goods agreement, where you make regular payments equal to their value, and your possessions will be returned to you after the payments are made.

While it is not the case for all bailiffs, some bailiffs are given the legal right to force entry to your home. This is only allowed for certain types of debt, and the bailiff must have a court order permitting them to do this, you should ask them to present this as proof that they have the legal power to forcibly enter your home. If the bailiff has no court order and forces their way into your home, then you can complain and action may be dropped against you.

3What cant a bailiff take?
Here’s some types of items that bailiffs can’t take:
  • Soft furnishings, clothing, furniture, fixtures and fittings, household equipment and goods that meet a basic domestic requirement.
  • Items or equipment that the debtor needs for employment, business, trade, their profession, study or education (this includes things like tools, books, telephones, computer equipment and vehicles), unless other items in the house don’t exceed a value of £1,350
  • Goods owned by another person. But you will need to prove this with receipts.
  • Items the heat or light the home.
  • Hired goods (goods on credit sale can be removed as they belong to the person).
  • Goods that belong to children.
  • Pets
4What if a bailiff has entered my home?

If you have already allowed a bailiff into your home then they can force their way in on any other occasion. They have a legal right, after the first visit, to enter your home so you should let them in if they have already entered your home in the past.

Here are a few reasons why a bailiff may wish to re-enter your home:
  • They did not meet the possession value on their first visit and want to check if you have purchased anything new.
  • To look at items they have taken control of but not removed.
  • To remove items that they have already taken control of.

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