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Bailiffs Explained

If you owe someone money, they may try to collect the debt using a bailiff or debt collector. If these people contact or visit you, you need to know how to deal with them, and what your rights and obligations are the below information can provide you with more information about bailiffs and your rights.

If you are concerned about bailiffs and want to know about the possible debt solutions available to you that could stop bailiffs coming to your home, then talk to one of our debt advisors for immediate advice or call us today on:

0800 093 3537 or complete our Debt Test

Bailiffs Explained

Bailiffs are people that have been authorised on behalf of a creditor (someone you owe money to) to collect a debt that you owe them.

Are there different types of bailiff?

Yes there are different types of bailiffs:

  • County court bailiffs are employed by the County Court, and enforce County Court Judgments (CCJ). County court bailiffs are usually used for debts such as bank loans, credit cards, store cards and other unsecured debts. This type of 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 companies 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. Certified bailiffs must carry a 'distress warrant' or 'liability order'.
  • Private Bailiffs are used by private firms or self employed companies.

Other types of debt collectors are used when you are in arrears with your creditors, in this instance your creditors may send a representative to your home to try and negotiate payments with you, these people do not have the powers to enter your home and seize your goods.

How to avoid being visited by county court bailiffs

If your debt is a County Court Judgment and a warrant of execution has been issued, you can try to stop bailiffs visiting your home by filling in form N245 at your local County Court making an offer to repay the debt, for example by installments - this should always be an offer you can afford to keep. If accepted, this will suspend the warrant so long as you keep up-to-date with the agreed payments.

What should I do if you think a bailiff is at my door?

They must come to your home in daylight hours and you should always ask for identification or authorisation; a bailiff must provide this if you ask them to.
Bailiffs that are collecting unpaid rent will hold a certificate from the county court and they will present this on request. Bailiffs who are collecting unpaid council tax must show written authorisation from the local authority.

Will I be notified in advance about a bailiff visit?

All local authorities must send you a letter that provides 14 days notice of a proposed bailiff visit to collect council tax. County court bailiffs must issue a warning notice allowing 7 days for you to pay.
Ensure that all doors and windows are locked at all times and remember that you do not need to let a bailiff into your home.

Can a bailiff force their way into my home?

Bailiffs from the Inland Revenue collecting for taxes can get a warrant to force entry into your home, but this is very rare. Most bailiffs do not have the right to force their way into your home to take your belongings. Bailiffs excluding those from the Inland Revenue must attempt to enter your home in a peaceful manner i.e. they cannot force entry into your home by breaking windows or a door. These bailiffs are also not allowed to force their way past you if you open the door, however Bailiffs are aware of their limited powers and may try to gain entry into your house by asking to use the telephone or asking to talk about the issue inside, it is important to remember that you do not need to go along with any of these suggestions.
However if you leave a window unlocked or a door open a bailiff can however enter your property, they can also climb over fences and gates, but cannot break them down.

Negotiating with bailiffs

You may negotiate with bailiffs to pay some or all of the debt there and then, so they leave without taking anything. If they accept any payment from you, you'll need to make sure you get a receipt. Bailiffs may be willing to take part in a reasonable negotiation (subject to legal and contractual constraints) - only make an agreement if you can afford to stick to it.
It's likely that the bailiff's fee and expenses for each extra visit will be added to the debt you owe - you may ask for details of these at any time, and fees can be disputed. If you have questions about a bailiff's fees and expenses it's best to get advice.

What happens if a bailiff does gain entry into my home?

The bailiff will usually try to find and take your belongings. Once they are in the house they can go into every room in your house and they can break open any locked door or cupboard. If you try to stop or remove a bailiff from your house this will be seen as assault by you on the bailiff and you could be taken to court.
Once the bailiff has gained peaceful entry into your house they can come to your house again and this time they can break into your home and take your possessions. The bailiff will make clear an intention to seize various belongings, either verbally; by attaching a mark to them, or by touching them. Your possessions will then be sold at a public auction to raise money to pay the debt that you owe.

What can a bailiff take?

Bailiffs can't take essentials such as clothing, bedding, cookers, fridges, most furniture and the 'tools of your trade' (for example, a computer you use for work).
They can take non-essential items such as your television. They can take possessions outside your home (for example, your car or garden equipment), or in unlocked sheds and garages.

Rent and mortgage arrears – evictions

If you're behind with your rent or mortgage payments, your landlord or mortgage lender may get a County Court possession order to evict you. In this situation, the bailiffs are allowed to break into your home.

How can I complain about a bailiff?

Depending on the type of complaint you want to make, you can complain to the person who instructed the bailiff, for example a local authority, the county court (if the bailiff is certificated or a county court bailiff) or a trade association. Most private bailiffs will also belong to a trade association, all of whom have complaints and grievance procedures you can use. The main trade associations are the Certificated Bailiffs Association (CBA) and the Association of Civil Enforcement Agencies (ACEA).

CBA can be contacted by writing to:
c/o Ridgefield House
14 John Dalton Street
M2 6JR
Tel: 0161 839 7225

ACEA can be contacted by writing to:
Chesham House
150 Regent Street

Tel: 0207 432 0366
Fax: 0207 432 0516

To find out more about bailiffs and the debt solutions that can stop bailiff action calls us today on:

0800 093 3537

You may find additional information in the debt sections on the following websites useful reading:

Debt Free Direct

Debt Free Direct has been providing UK residents with debt advice since 1997 and is the leading provider of confidential, specialist advice on serious problems. We can help you discover more about IVA and Debt Management and other financial solutions and advice.

Consumer Credit Counseling Service (CCCS)

Debt help is available online now with no commitment.

Citizens Advice

Citizens Advice Bureau offers free, confidential, impartial and independent advice. Your local Citizens Advice Bureau is listed in the phone book.

National Debtline

The helpline that provides free confidential and independent advice on how to deal with personal debts.