Know your rights - Bailiffs
Bailiffs: the law and your rights
A bailiff is a person authorised to collect a debt for a
creditor. They must have what is known as a warrant or a warrant of
execution (issued by the Court) to collect a County
Court Judgement "CCJ" debt.
The guidance below mainly applies if you are being pursued by a
bailiff for a single debt, if you are being pursued by bailiffs for
multiple debts this is a sign that you need to assess your
financial situation and take action to clear your debts. Get advice
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What do I do if a bailiff calls?
- First DO NOT invite the bailiff/person into your house. They
may ask if they can discuss your debts and repayment options inside
your home or they may try and march in as soon as you answer the
door. As with any stranger, always answer the door with the chain
- All bailiffs should carry identification. Always ask for it and
for a copy of the warrant they are collecting. Some creditors will
send people around to your house who are not bailiffs to try and
secure payment from you.
Can a bailiff force his way into my home? Bailiffs rights of
- A bailiff cannot use force to gain access to your home. They
can only enter via what is known as peaceful entry. Entering
through an unlocked door or window this would be allowed as
peaceful entry. Pushing their way past you at the front door is
forceable entry and is not permitted.
- Bailiffs should know these rights but you should be aware they
may try to gain entry by asking you to let them come in to discuss
What will happen if I let the bailiff enter my home
- If the bailiff has been allowed in peacefully they have the
right to search your house. They can even forceably enter locked
areas. They will look for any property and possessions of value
which they can take away and sell to pay the debt you owe
- They will usually list the property they want to take or
clearly mark it as property they have seized. They can then leave
someone in your house whilst they arrange to collect the property
or more usually they will ask you to sign a "walking possession
- This means that you agree not to remove these goods and that
you acknowledge they now belong to the bailiff. He will then
usually advise you that he will return to collect the goods for
sale or you agree with him a schedule for paying him the money you
- Your goods are also likely to be sold at auction, to pay off
your debts, where they may be sold for as little as 10% of their
cost. So you should be prepared that,for any given debt, they may
seize goods of substantial original cost.
- In addition to the original debt and court costs, you will
usually have to pay for each visit the bailiff makes. So if they
return at an agreed date and you are not there your debt may
increase substantially with their costs.
- Remember that once the bailiff has entered peaceably they then
have the right to force their way in to collect the goods at a
Is there any property in my home a bailiff is not allowed to
- A bailiff is only allowed to seize goods that you own. They
will usually assume everything in the house is yours and it will be
up to the owner of the goods to prove to them that they are not
yours. If you have receipts or rental agreements which show the
goods are not yours it is much simpler to show the bailiff them
before they have seized them.
- If the debt is rent arrears they may seize property in your
home even if it does not belong to you.
- Finally, a bailiff cannot seize any tools, equipment or
vehicles used by you in your employment , trade or occupation. They
also cannot seize property used by you for your basic living needs
and those of your family. This includes things like your fridge and
cooker and clothing. They must also leave you with at least one TV
although additional TV's and things like DVD players can be
Can I remove or hide goods from a bailiff?
- It is not illegal to do this before a bailiff arrives unless
the debt is for rent due. Remember that once a bailiff has gained
peaceable entry they can come back at anytime to look for more
goods they may think you have in your house.
Who pays for a bailiffs visit and how much do they charge?
- The costs of a bailiff are added onto your debt. If you think
the bailiffs costs are unreasonable you can ask a Court to review
them to see if it agrees.
- Remember each visit will result in additional costs being added
to your debt each time. So a small debt such as a parking ticket
could end up costing you hundreds of pounds to pay off.
What happens if a bailiff does not gain entry to your
- The bailiff will usually keep visiting your home and if they
are unable to gain entry the warrant for the debt will be
eventually be returned to the Court. They will advise the Court
that they have been unable to gain entry or that you have
insufficient goods to pay your debts and the bailiffs costs in
Is a bailiff allowed to visit my home at anytime of the day or
- If the debt is in respect of rent then they are only allowed to
visit during daylight hours. For any other debts bailiffs should
call at a "reasonable time of day".
- If you are unhappy with the times at which they call you should
take their details and contact the persons who instruct them to
complain. Often bailiffs belong to an association or trade body and
it may be possible to complain to them.
What are my debt options?