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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 from one of our advisors now by completing our short online form:

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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 on.
  • 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 entry

  • 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 your debts.

What will happen if I let the bailiff enter my home peacefully?

  • 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 them.
  • 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 agreement".
  • 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 owe.
  • 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 later date.

Is there any property in my home a bailiff is not allowed to seize?

  • 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 taken.

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 home?

  • 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 full.

Is a bailiff allowed to visit my home at anytime of the day or week ?

  • 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?

ailiffs: 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 .
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 things 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 on.
* 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?

* 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 things.



What will happen if I let the bailiff enter my home peacefully?

* 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 of value which they can take away and sell to pay your debt.
* 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 agreement".
* 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 owe.
* Your goods are also likely to be sold at auction 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 later date.



Is there any property in my home a bailiff is not allowed to seize?

* 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 taken.



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 home?

* 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 full.



Is a bailiff allowed to visit my home at anytime of the day or week ?

* 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.