A Guide to Dealing with Bailiffs

It can be a scary and daunting experience when bailiffs appear on your door to recover a debt. It is important to know your rights because it will help you know how to deal with the entire situation. Keep in mind that bailiffs have limited powers and they have to follow laws governing them.

This guide is going to look at what you need to do if a bailiff is pursuing you for a single debt. If you are being cashed for multiple debts, then this could be the sign that you need to start assessing your financial situation and you need to take steps to settle your debts.

What is a bailiff?

This is a legally authorized individual tasked with recovering a debt. They are going to directly contact you to ask for payment for your debt.

They cannot enter your home unless you allow them in or they have a warrant.

If the bailiff gains entry, they can seize your belongings so as to raise money to use for your debt if you cannot pay it.

When do they visit your home?

You shouldn’t worry about getting unexpected visits because you are protected by law.

They have to provide at least 7 days’ notice before they come for their first visit. You are also going to get the final demand, which will warn about the use of bailiffs or court action. You are going to get both of them in the post.

Bailiffs cannot collect debts like payday loans, overdrafts, or credit cards unless the creditor takes you to court and gets a County Court Judgement (CCJ) and you have failed to make the payment.

If you are visited by bailiffs and you haven’t gotten any prior warnings, you need to inform them politely of this fact and ask them to first contact their advisors.

What debts can they collect?

  • Parking fine
  • Council tax areas
  • Court fine
  • Family Court Judgement (FCJ)
  • County Court Judgement (CCJ) (This can be suspended by the court)
  • Magistrates’ court fine 
  • High court judgement
  • Maintenance
  • Child support
  • Income Tax, National Insurance and VAT

Compensation Order

Business Rent

What they can’t do

If the doors are locked, they cannot enter your home unless you have invited them in. They can get inside your property if there is an unlocked back door, shed, or garage. Make sure you lock them if you are expecting them.

There are some circumstances where the bailiff can ask the court to allow them to use reasonable force, but this rarely happens. The reasonable force allows them to force a gate or door open, cut through a padlock, and chain or break down a vehicle barrier.

Bailiffs Can:

Once they have gained entry into your home, they can stay inside for as long as they want

Seize control of belongings (they are listed and you can’t dispose of them) and they are going to come back later to take them (they need to have a valid Notice of Intention to Re-enter). This notice is going to give you at least two days and the bailiff has to sign it.

Entering your house using a connecting door if they have gained entry through a building or unlocked garage.

Force entry inside as long as they have a warrant to do that.

Entering the main entrance to your block of flats not forcefully if the door to the flat is open. If the door is closed, they have to get permission before entering (when they don’t have a reasonable force warrant).

Entering your property if they have been invited to the flat or house by your roommate aged 16 or over.

Bailiffs can’t:

  • Enter between 9-5pm
  • Enter when the only person available inside is a child under 16 or a vulnerable person (this can include single parent/ disabled/ elderly/ seriously ill)
  • Force their way inside your home if you have answered your door
  • What the bailiffs can and can’t seize

What can they seize?

  • Luxury items like cars, TVs, Games consoles, and bikes
  • Jointly owned items in the flat or home
  • Any cash, bonds, cheques, shares, stocks, and pawn tickets belonging to you
  • Goods you bought with personal loans
  • Vehicles owned and kept in your home, public highway, or business.

The bailiffs cannot seize:

  • Items belonging to someone else
  • Items you need to study or work such as books, tools, computer equipment up to a certain value (this clause does not cover business rate debt)
  • Items you need for basic domestic needs (cooker, clothes, furniture, fridge, work tools, etc.)
  • Anything that belongs to a child
  • Goods you are paying on a hire purchase basis
  • Goods that also act as your home such as static caravan, houseboat, tent, or campervan.
  • A vehicle used for fire, police, or ambulance work
  • A vehicle parked in private land that is not your business or home.

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