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.
This page will help you understand your rights when dealing with a bailiff and what they can and cannot do. We cover:
The page concentrates on what you should do if you are being pursued by a bailiff for a single debt. If you are being chased by bailiffs for multiple debts it could be a sign that you need to assess your financial situation and should take action to clear your debts.
At this stage, if you are worried about your debts or an impending visit from a bailiff, talk to one of our advisors on 0800 542 5685 or request a call back
A bailiff is an individual who is legally authorised to recover an outstanding debt. Bailiffs will contact you directly to ask for payment of the debt.
They cannot legally enter your home unless you invite them in or they have a warrant to do so.
If they gain entry to your home they may seize your belongings to raise the money to pay the debt if you can't afford to pay it.
You should not get an unexpected visit from the bailiffs.
Bailiffs need to provide you with at least 7 days' notice of their first visit. You should have also received a final demand, which will have warned you of court action or the use of bailiffs. These should both come in the post.
Bailiffs DO NOT collect debts, such as payday loans, credit cards or overdrafts unless the creditor has taken you to court and got a County Court Judgment (CCJ) and you have failed to pay it.
If bailiffs visit you and you haven't received any prior warning you should politely inform them of this fact and ask them to contact their advisors.
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 call.
In extreme 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 seize:
Bailiffs CANNOT seize:
Walking possession agreements are now called controlled goods agreements. Bailiffs can take goods immediately if you grant peaceful entry into your home, but usually they will not, as long as you make an agreement with the bailiff to repay the debt in instalments.
The controlled goods agreement allows a bailiff to take control of your goods by making a list of what can be taken. Provided your payments are paid as agreed and on time, the goods will be left in your possession whilst the debt is being repaid.
Be aware that any missed or late payment will break the agreement, so it is vital that you only agree to pay what you can afford and when you can afford it. Also be aware that any vehicle you own, if parked on your own drive or the public highway, may be seized without peaceful entry having been granted.
If you are dealing with bailiff action before 6 April 2014, different rules may apply. If you are unsure please call us on 0800 542 5685 or request a call back
If you get letters informing you of a coming visit you should contact your creditor to try to organise payment of the debt to avoid further costs. If you allow bailiffs to be summoned to you, you must pay the following additional fees:
Fixed fees (if you owe less than £1,500):
If you owe more than £1,500 you have to pay a percentage of your debt each time the bailiffs visit your home.
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 can complain about a bailiff if they:
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. If you wish to complain you must go to the company the bailiff works for or the people you owe money to.
If you are dealing with bailiff action that began before 6 April 2014, different rules may apply than those explained above. If you are unsure please call us on 0800 542 5685.
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, but seeking advice for your own individual circumstances could be the turning point to a debt free future.
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 0800 542 5685 or start a live chat
Company registration number: 05157741, DPA registration number: Z8927124. ClearDebt Ltd is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority number: 565479.A guide from the Insolvency Service: Dealing with Creditors as recommended by the Money Advice Service. Alternative free-to-consumer debt advice organisations as recommended by the Money Advice Service.