Bailiff help and information

Bailiffs & enforcement agents. Expert help and information:

Bailiffs in England & Wales are now known as ’enforcement agents', however the general public still call them bailiffs for short.

They have the power to remove and sell your goods to pay a debt by law. In most cases, they can only get involved after your creditor has taken you to court.

In this section we highlight what bailiffs can and cannot do along with what bailiffs can take when they visit. We will also talk about bailiffs' fees and your rights when dealing with bailiffs. On this page we highlight some of the important questions we get asked about bailiffs.

1 What is a bailiff?

If you have not paid your debts at the given due date, the court or any private firm can appoint bailiffs. A bailiff is someone that has the legal power to recover debts on behalf of your creditors. This recovery can be made by selling your assets.

Your creditors appoint bailiffs to recover their payments in case you have not opted for an agreement in terms of your debt payments. In doing so, the bailiffs will ask you regarding your assets or seize some of your assets for selling.

Your creditors may appoint bailiffs when they have tried all other methods for recovering their debts. In addition, the bailiffs can collect several debts including:

  Parking Penalties

  Council Tax arrears

  Child Support payments

  Insurance including National Insurance, health insurance etc.

  Rents including property rents, business rents etc.

  Value-added taxes

  Magistrate Court Fines

Furthermore, the bailiffs operate in the jurisdiction of England, Wales, and Northern Ireland. The Sherriff Officers carry out the duty of bailiffs in Scotland.

1.1 Difference between Debt Collectors and Bailiffs:

It is important to know the difference between bailiffs and debt collectors. Debt collectors do not exercise the same rights as bailiffs. Debt collectors will visit you at your home and require the collection of your debt immediately.

In addition, they can collect payment and leave without causing any concern. In addition, debt collectors can also cooperate in terms of rescheduling payments according to your ease.

Debt collectors cannot seize your possessions, neither can they enter your house with force under any pertaining circumstances. It is classed as a criminal offense for a debt collector to class themselves as a bailiff.

2 What rights do Bailiffs Exercise?

Bailiffs exercise more power than debt collectors do; however, they must exercise their rights within the boundaries of the laws.

The laws that are applicable to bailiffs include the following;

  Bailiffs must not enter your home without a notice of enforcement. You will be given a notice of enforcement seven days prior to the visit. This will be sent via post or by hand delivery.

  Bailiffs are not permitted to enter your premises if there are children under the age of sixteen within the premises. In addition, they cannot use other means of entry other than the front door.

  Bailiffs are banned from physical use of force against people.

  Bailiffs must identify themselves, declare their purpose of visit as well as provide information regarding the creditor that has sent them. They must ask for your permission before entering the house premises.

  Bailiffs are allowed to force entry but only when collecting criminal fines, taxes or to remove goods that have breached the Controlled Goods Agreement.

  Bailiffs must not visit your premises between 9pm to 6am as well as on public holidays. In addition, they must take permission for entrance in case the owner is disabled.

2.1 What rights do Bailiffs exercise upon entrance?

Bailiffs exercise more power than a debt collector does; however, they must exercise their rights within the boundaries of the laws in place.

Bailiffs may enter peacefully or forcefully. Upon entrance, they will request you to set out the assets that belong to you as well as those that do not. For the items that do not belong to you, you will be asked to provide proof of who they belong to. Otherwise, the bailiffs will exercise the right to seize those items as well.

They are liable to seize the property as well as sell it if necessary. Moreover, your creditor will provide a list of items that you have taken debt against. The bailiffs will then document those items in accordance with the Controlled Goods Agreement.

The Control Goods Agreement is an agreement that has been made between you and your creditor regarding the payment of the goods.

3 What can you do if a Bailiff is at your door?

In some cases, bailiffs come visiting your home looking for someone else. In addition, bailiffs can come looking for someone who is related to you.

In such cases, it is better not to let them in your home. Since the bailiffs will identify themselves and will not enter without your permission, you can ask them to wait outside whilst you provide them with a council tax bill to prove your identity.

If the bailiffs have pursued the entrance, you can call the relevant court or the creditor that has sent them to clear the situation.

In case bailiffs are looking for someone you live with; you can explain to them if the person is not at home. Furthermore, living with someone who has not paid his debts does not make you accountable for their debts.

However, if the bailiffs present a warrant, they are permitted to enter the premises, document as well as seize goods that belong to the debtor. However, they are not liable to seize anything that does not belong to the debtor. In such cases, you are to prove the ownership of the assets via bill, receipt or order form.

Furthermore, you are required to inform the debtor of the situation immediately to avoid further inconvenience. In case you have taken a joint debt along with the person you are living with, you are liable for its payment.

In such case, the bailiffs can enter the premises if any one of the debtors is present as well as document and seize the property that belongs to both of you.

4 What can Bailiffs take?

Upon entrance in the premises, the bailiffs can begin documenting the items as well as seizing the property that you own. This can include:

  Luxury items including TVs, computers, Gaming appliances, jewelry etc.

  Bailiffs cannot take necessity items including clothes, white goods including fridges, washing machines etc. study tools with a combined amount of less than £1,350, pets etc.

  In case of seizing the car, the bailiffs can seize the car unless you present a blue disability badge; prove that the car is on finance, the car is worth less than £1,350. In other circumstances, the bailiffs have the right to seize your car as well.

5 Can the Police get involved with the Bailiffs?

The police can get involved with bailiffs if they are ordered legally from the court for the collection of the debt for the creditor. The police are to work in accordance with the principles of Human Rights Legislation and the Race Relations Amendment Act 2000.

In addition, the act provides a guide for the police who are involved with the bailiffs for collecting the debt.

Bailiffs exercise the authority based on the warrant issued by the court. They can also call the police to counter the situation of the process based on the distress warrant issued by the court.

The police are to confirm their identity as well as of the debtor. The bailiffs must produce valid documentation of their proceedings such as court warrant, ID, written authorization on creditor’s behalf etc.

In case the bailiff is unable to provide credible evidence, the police are obliged to remove the bailiff from the premises as well as stop them from entering the premises until enough evidence has been produced.

The police authority must maintain order as well as act accordingly whilst also determining any unlawful act. In such case, the police must remain impartial in their actions. Furthermore, the police must not act as an intermediary other than regulating the procedure peacefully. In addition, the police officers must not assist in helping the bailiffs seizing the goods.

The police must determine any unlawful act as well as arrest the debtor in case the person is causing distress during the procedure, concealing goods, trying to exclude the bailiff forcibly. Moreover, the actions of the bailiff will also be monitored in the context of any unlawful activity.

The police are permitted to arrest the bailiffs, if they pose a threat, assault the debtor, or damage the assets not belonging to the debtor.

5.1 Will the Bailiffs be like seen on TV?

As shown on the documentaries on TV, for most cases bailiffs do not possess the legal right to break in and seize the possessions of the debtors.

Most bailiffs spend most of their time knocking on the doors, asking politely for entrance. They may even make payment arrangements to help you pay back your creditors.

The content shown on the TV is made in the manner to keep the show interesting, attracting the viewers. As the viewers are more interested in emotional drama as well as confrontational situations, the documentaries depict the same circumstances to make them effectively interesting.

Dealing with bailiffs is an unpleasant experience. We at Free Debt Helpline can provide you with an effective information regarding your possible experience with bailiffs in the future.

6 What debts do bailiffs collect? 

Bailiffs cannot collect Consumer Credit Act-regulated debts such as payday loans, credit cards or overdrafts unless:

  • The creditor has taken you to court and obtained a County Court judgment (CCJ)
  • You have avoided the CCJ or that you did not pay the amount the court ordered

As well as unpaid CCJs, bailiffs collect several other types of debt, including:

Council tax arrears

Child maintenance arrears

Criminal fines

Parking penalties issued by a local authority

Tax and National Insurance arrears if you are self-employed


7 Can the police get involved with bailiffs?

The police can only help a bailiff do their job in very limited circumstances. This is allowed if:

The bailiff is enforcing a High Court legal authority of control.

The bailiff has applied to the court for a warrant to force entry and the court has agreed that the police can help with this.

The police cannot help bailiffs in any other circumstances.

The police may attend with a bailiff to make sure there is no disturbance. They have to remain impartial and cannot help the bailiffs.
Once a bailiff has made a list of your goods and taken them into control you can also be arrested if you hide, remove or deliberately damage any of these goods.
If you behave in a threatening or aggressive manner you could be arrested. The bailiff could also be arrested if they act like this. You can also be arrested if you obstruct a bailiff such as physically stopping them from removing goods.

You cannot be arrested for refusing entry to a bailiff if they have not already been in and made a list of goods.

8 Will they be like the bailiffs I’ve seen on TV

Documentaries about bailiffs often focus on business debts or repossessions of homes or vehicles. This is because they have a legal right to break into the property in these cases. For most types of debt, they do not have a right to break in.
The reality is that bailiffs spend a lot of their time knocking on doors and making payment arrangements. This does not make very interesting TV. Viewers are more likely to be interested in emotional or confrontational situations, even though those are not as common.

Of course, dealing with bailiffs will always be an unpleasant experience, but the situations depicted in TV soaps and documentaries often make it look a lot worse than it is in real life.

9 We can help with bailiffs

A visit or a letter from a bailiff is a sign that you need free and impartial debt help. We can provide you with information on budgeting to help you deal with the debts and help manage your situation.

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