Knowing your rights when dealing with a bailiff

Bailiffs appearing on your doorstep to recover a debt can be a scary and daunting experience. Knowing your rights will go a long way to help you deal with the situation. Remember, bailiffs have limited powers and must adhere to the laws that govern them.

Our quick guide to bailiffs below will help you understand your rights when dealing with a bailiff and what they can and cannot do. In this we look at;

What you should do if you are being pursued by a bailiff for single or multiple debts as this could be a sign that you need to assess your financial situation and should take action to clear your debts.

Worried about a bailiff visit?

At this stage, if you are worried about your debts or an impending visit from a bailiff, talk to one of our advisors on 0333 939 7919 or complete our contact form and we’ll call you back.

What debts do bailiffs collect?

  • Council Tax Arrears
  • Parking Fine
  • Court Fine
  • County Court Judgement
  • Family Court Judgement (FCJ)
  • High Court Judgement
  • Magistrates’ Court Fine
  • Child Support
  • Maintenance
  • Compensation Order
  • Income Tax, National Insurance and VAT

What bailiffs can and cannot do

If your doors are locked, a bailiff cannot legally enter your home unless you invite them in. However, they can gain entry to your property if they find an unlocked back door, garage or shed, so keep them locked if you’re expecting a visit.

In certain circumstances a bailiff may receive permission from the court to use reasonable force, although it is quite rare for this to happen. Reasonable force allows a bailiff to force a door or gate open, cut through a padlock and chain or break down a vehicle barrier.

Bailiffs CAN:

  • Stay in the house for as long as they require once they have gained entry.
  • Seize control of your belongings (they list them and you cannot then dispose of them yourself) and return at a later date to take them away (with a valid Notice of Intention to Re-enter). The notice of intention must give you at least two days clear notice and be signed by the bailiff.
  • Enter your house through a connecting door if they have acquired entry through an unlocked garage or building.
  • Force entry into your home if they have a warrant to do so.
  • Enter the main entrance to your block of flats by peaceful means (not forceful) if the door to your flat is locked they must then have your permission to enter (if they don’t have a reasonable force warrant).
  • Enter your property if they’ve been invited by a house or flat mate over the age of 16.

Bailiffs CANNOT:

  • Enter your house between 9pm and 6am
  • Climb over any walls, fences or in through any windows
  • Enter premises where only a child (under 16) or a vulnerable person (this may include: single parent/elderly/disabled/seriously ill) is present
  • Force their way past you if you answer the door to them

What bailiffs can and cannot seize

Bailiffs CAN seize:

  • Luxury items such as TVs, cars, bikes and games consoles
  • Jointly owned items in the home or flat
  • Goods which were bought with personal loans
  • Any cash, cheques, bonds, stocks, shares, and pawn tickets that belong to you
  • Vehicle owned by you and kept at your home, business or public highway

Bailiffs CANNOT seize:

  • Someone else’s belongings
  • Items you need for work or study such as tools, books or computer equipment up to the value of £1,350 (business rate debt is not covered by this clause)
  • Things you need for basic domestic needs (clothes/cooker/fridge/furniture/work tools, etc.)
  • Anything that belongs to a child
  • Goods currently being paid for on hire purchase
  • Goods which also act as your home such as a houseboat, static caravan, campervan or tent
  • A vehicle which is used for police, fire or ambulance work
  • A vehicle parked on private land that is not your home or business

How to deal with a bailiff visit

If you are aware of an impending visit you may wish to make sure you let everyone in the house know to avoid any confusion. You may also find it comforting to have a member of your family or a friend with you when the bailiffs come.

If you cannot afford to pay your debt you do not legally have to co-operate with bailiffs but this may cause problems, such as court action further down the line, so it is well worth co-operating.

If you don’t let them in they may try to seize your belongings from outside of your house, such as your car or motorbike. They may also return for a second time to try again.

If the bailiff cannot get payment, get into your house or seize any goods from outside your house they may refer your debt back to your creditor. Your creditor may then take court action, make you bankrupt, or in extreme cases, file for imprisonment.

You may be able to get a refund of fees or your goods returned if a bailiff has broken the rules, so make sure you keep a detailed record of the times and dates of any incidents that occur.

In most cases the bailiff who will visit you will be employed by a private firm, even if the debt you have is a government or council debt.

Bailiffs and your debts

Having knowledge about what bailiffs can and cannot do can make all the difference when dealing with them. It can change a stressful situation into a straightforward and clear resolution. However, it is important to seek advice. Finding out as much information as possible will help. Seeking advice for your own individual circumstances could start you on your journey, free from problem debt.

If you want to discuss your situation, unsure about how to deal with bailiffs or want to talk about your debts, please call us on 0333 939 7919