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Stop Bailiffs - Help & Advice

A bailiff is someone who has the legal power to recover debts on behalf of creditors.

They can do this by asking you to pay what you owe, or by seizing some of your assets to sell, in order to pay off your debts. They can be instructed by courts, or appointed by a private firm. Creditors normally turn to bailiffs only when they have tried all other recovery options.

What is a bailiff?

A bailiff is someone who has the legal power to recover debts on behalf of creditors.

They can do this by asking you to pay what you owe, or by seizing some of your assets to sell, in order to pay off your debts. They can be instructed by courts, or appointed by a private firm. Creditors normally turn to bailiffs only when they have tried all other recovery options.

Bailiffs can collect a range of debts, including:

  • – Council tax
  • – High court and county court judgements
  • – Parking penalties
  • – Child support
  • – Income tax
  • – National insurance
  • – Business rent
  • – VAT
  • – Magistrate court fines

Bailiffs are responsible for collecting unpaid debts in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland. If you live in Scotland, Sheriff Officers carry out this function.

It is also important to know the difference between bailiffs and debt collectors. Debt collectors do not have the same rights as bailiffs and sheriff officers – they can visit you at home, request payment, and arrange a repayment schedule with you, but they cannot seize possessions, or enter your home by force under any circumstances. If a debt collector claims to be a bailiff, they are committing a criminal offence.

Knowing exactly how to deal with bailiffs can be challenging, but understanding what they can and cannot legally do will help you to stay safe when encountering them.

What Rights do Bailiffs have?

Although bailiffs have more power than debt collectors, they still must stick to a strict set of rules.

A bailiff is not allowed to visit your property at all until a notice of enforcement is served. This means that if a bailiff is going to visit your property, you must be given at least seven days’ notice in writing, received either by post or hand delivered to you.

As of 2007, the powers which bailiffs possess have been brought under tighter control. This means they can no longer enter properties when only children under the age of 16 are at home, enter by any means other than a door, seize essential items, or carry out their visits in the middle of the night. In addition, bailiffs are now banned from using physical force against the people they visit. They are also required to undergo mandatory training before they begin to work.

When bailiffs visit, they must:

  • – Identify themselves
  • – Declare the purpose of their visit and for whom they are acting
  • – Ask your permission to enter

When bailiffs visit, they must not:

  • – Enter your home without permission
  • – Force entry – unless collecting a criminal fine, tax, or to remove goods following the breach of a Controlled Goods Agreement
  • – Force entry on their first visit
  • – Force entry without the correct warrant (Usually a Magistrates Court Warrant)
  • – Enter your home if the only person at home is aged 16 or under
  • – Enter your home if the only person at home is disabled
  • – Enter through any means other than the door
  • – Visit your property between the hours of 9pm and 6am, or on public holidays

What can I do if there are Bailiffs at my Door for someone else?

Occasionally, bailiffs might visit your home looking for someone else. This could happen for two main reasons: either the bailiff is looking for a friend or family member who shares your address, or they are looking for someone at the incorrect address.

If the bailiff is seeking someone not known at your address

It is best not to let them in. You could suggest speaking to them at a safe distance from your door. Showing them a council tax bill to prove your identity will usually make them leave. Alternatively, try to phone the company or court who sent them and explain the mistake.

If the bailiff is seeking someone you live with

Living with someone does not make you liable for their debt. In this situation, explain to the bailiff they the person they are looking for is not at home. If this is their first visit, they cannot enter the property without your permission under any circumstances. If they have a warrant to enter, they can come in to document or seize goods. However, bailiffs cannot seize goods in the property which the debtor does not own. You may need to prove ownership, which can be done with a bill, receipt, or order form. Make the person who owes the debt aware of the visit as soon as possible, and advise them to get advice about their debt, or call the creditor who sent the bailiff to arrange a repayment plan.

Joint Debt

If you and someone else have taken on a debt together, you are both liable for its repayment, even if the other person usually deals with it. If the other person is behind with their payments and a bailiff has been employed to recover the debt, they could document or seize property belonging to both of you.

Can Bailiffs enter your Home?

Bailiffs can enter your home only under certain circumstances. If they try to enter under the wrong circumstances, they are breaking the law. On their first visit, bailiffs can only enter if you grant them permission, or through a door that has been left open.

Can Bailiffs Force Entry?

Bailiffs can only enter by force under certain circumstances. They are never permitted to break down a door, but must return with a locksmith. Bailiffs can enter by force under the following circumstances:

  • – If they have a Magistrates Court Warrant
  • – If they have gained peaceful entry to your home before
  • – To seize goods, if they have been moved to a different property

What happens when Bailiffs gain Peaceful Entry?

If you have granted a bailiff peaceful entry into your property you have to be aware that their rights have now changed. Once granted peaceful entry, bailiffs are allowed to go into every room of your home and document items to take away.

If you do choose to allow a bailiff into your home, they’ll ask you to set out which items belong to you and which don’t. If you claim certain items don’t belong to you, bailiffs may ask you to prove this is the case. If they suspect the items do belong to you and you can’t prove otherwise, the bailiffs may seize these items.

Whilst the bailiff cannot take items away upon entering a property peacefully for the first time, they are now allowed to return to the premises and, if necessary, enter forcefully to seize property in order to sell it. It’s important to be very wary and know your rights before ever granting a bailiff access to your property.

When bailiffs document your assets, this is part of a Controlled Goods Agreement. This is an agreement made between you and your creditor, that should you fail to keep up with an agreed upon repayment schedule, they are entitled to send a bailiff to seize the goods listed.

What can bailiffs take?

If you allow bailiffs to enter your property, they can begin seizing property instead of establishing a Controlled Goods Agreement.

Bailiffs can take luxury items such as:

  • – TVs
  • – Computers
  • – Gaming consoles
  • – Jewellery

Bailiffs cannot take necessities such as:

  • – Clothes
  • – White goods such as fridges, freezers or washing machines
  • – Work/study tools and equipment with a combined value of less than £1,350
  • – Pets or service animals
  • – Fixtures and fittings
  • – Children’s toys

Can a Bailiff take my Car?

Cars are something of a special case, and can only be seized by bailiffs under certain circumstances. It should be noted that even if a bailiff is not granted entry to your home, they will still be able to clamp or seize your car if it is parked at your home, business, or on a public road. If you think your car might be in danger from bailiffs, you can move it elsewhere, or keep it in a locked garage to prevent them taking it when you are not home. Bailiffs cannot seize or clamp your car if:

  • – You hold a blue disability badge
  • – The car is on finance
  • – The car is essential for your job, and worth no more than £1,350
  • – The vehicle is your main home (a camper van or house boat, for instance)

Under any other circumstances, bailiffs can take your car and sell it to pay off your debts.

Bailiff Fees

When bailiffs are involved with your debts, they incur fees:

Compliance – £75

When bailiffs write to you to inform you of their planned visit, £75 will be added to your debts

Enforcement – £235 plus 7.5% of your Debts over £1,500

This is the fee you would pay for a bailiff’s first visit. The overall cost will vary depending on your level of debt. If you owed the creditor £3,000, for example, you would pay the £235 flat fee, plus £112.50, (7.5% of the balance above £1,500), totaling £347.50.

Sale – £112 plus 7.5% of your Debts over £1,500

If your goods are sold by a bailiff, this is what you will pay. If you owed £3,000, this fee would be £224.50.

How to avoid Bailiffs

Bailiffs must provide seven days’ notice, in writing, of a planned visit. This allows you a few days to contact your creditor, or get advice about how to sort out your debt, which could prevent the visit from happening. If a bailiff is at your door for the first time, you are entitled to not grant them entry, and ask them to leave. Alternatively, you can attempt to organise a repayment programme with them directly, but it is advisable that you do this over the phone or through the letterbox. If a bailiff ever behaves violently towards you, you can call the police on 999.

If you’ve received a Notice of Enforcement, call Creditfix immediately to discuss your options. We’re here to help and offer free, impartial advice.

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