Bailiff vs Debt Collectors: what’s the difference?
Understandably, receiving a letter from an enforcement or debt collection agency is enough to give anyone a fright. A million thoughts running through your head; they’re going to take my things, they’re going to break down my door, I’m going to lose everything.
This topic is something we get asked about often, and it’s a common misunderstanding that bailiffs and debt collectors are the same thing. However, they are very much different – they each have different powers and you have different rights depending on which one contacts you.
So, in order to help, we’re shining a light on the differences between them and some advice on what to do should you be contacted by either one.
The key differences
The most important difference to note is that debt collection agencies do not have any legal powers in terms of collecting on a debt, where as bailiffs do. Bailiffs are also ordered by the court, whereas debt collectors are only ordered by a creditor themselves.
Powers Bailiffs have that debt collectors don’t have
Bailiffs have legal powers to enforce the collection of a debt, whereas debt collection agencies do not. Debt collectors are only able to take you to court for a debt and are unable to enter your home or take any of your belongings.
Bailiffs are legally allowed to visit you at home, remove goods and sell them to pay the balance you owe. They are only able to visit once you have been sent a notice of enforcement advising you of impending action.
Debt collectors will generally only contact you via telephone, email or written letter. If you speak to a debt collector, they are required to show you ID on request and they are unable to force you to make a payment on the spot; you can do this over the phone directly with the creditor if this is what you would prefer.
Neither are able to use violent, intimidating or aggressive tactics to try and force you to make a payment you cannot afford. Bailiffs cannot take any items that are essential to your everyday living or anything that is on lease or hire purchase.
How to deal with Bailiffs
If you receive a notice of enforcement, this will normally be seven days before they are due to visit, and this is how much time you will have to either clear the debt in full or come to some form of payment agreement.
As such, it’s important not to ignore this notice as if you do, the bailiffs will visit, and your goods will be taken. Contact both the enforcement agency and the creditor immediately to negotiate a way to repay the debt.
If you are visited by a bailiff, you do not have to open the door to them, you can speak to them through a window or the letterbox. Keep your doors and the remaining windows locked and ask the agent to provide you a copy of the warrant and their ID.
You can place household items in a secure location prior to the visit to avoid certain items being taken. This includes your car, which you can move well away from your home. However, if the agents have already visited and have any items listed down, it is a criminal offence to hide them.
It’s also important to note that arguing or becoming aggressive with a bailiff will lead to them calling the police and potentially your arrest, so it’s always best to try to remain calm, as hard as it may seem.
How to deal with Debt Collectors
As with bailiffs, it’s important not to ignore any contact from debt collection agencies as it will only lead to the debt escalating and further action being taken against you.
Find out the details of the debt they are contacting you for and ensure that it is a debt you are liable for. Ask the collection agency for a copy of the original credit agreement (they must legally provide this to you if requested) to confirm this – if they can’t, the debt should then be written off. If you are being harassed by them, you are within your right to ask the to contact you by post only.
If you do not owe the debt, inform the company in writing that the debt is not yours and advise that you will contact Trading Standard if the contact continues.
If you do owe the debt, it’s best to contact them to negotiate a repayment plan. Debt collection agencies are more willing to do this as they do not have legal powers and generally want to avoid taking further action.
Don’t despair. No matter what your circumstances are you can get debt help & advice. If you have received a Notice of Enforcement you can call Creditfix immediately on 0808 2234 102 to discuss your situation and options. Our friendly experts are on hand to offer you free and confidential guidance to choose the solution that’s right for you.