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Bailiffs | Information

What is a Bailiff?

When you are unable to pay your debts, your creditor may appoint a Bailiff to collect the debt on their behalf. There are different types of Bailiffs; county court, certificated, private etc... Different Bailiffs have different powers to collect debts. But there are certains rules and regulations that apply to ALL Bailiffs. We have outlined some of these below.

What powers does a Bailiff have?

  • A Bailiff should usually give you 7 days notice of their first visit.
  • The Bailiff must be legally authorised to collect the debt. They must have a 'warrant' or 'warrant of execution' if the Bailiff is recovering money owed under a CCJ.
  • Bailiifs used by the magistrates court to collect unpaid council tax, outstanding fines, compensation or unpaid maintenance will be acting on a 'distress warrant' or a 'liability order'.
  • Sometimes a creditor will send a representative to your home to try and negotiate your payments, sometimes known as debt collectors, advisers etc. These are not to be confused with Bailiffs. They have no powers to enter your home and seize goods.
  • Bailiffs cannot enter your home between 9pm and 6am.
  • Most Bailiffs cannot force entry into your home. The only exception to this is a Bailiff that is collecting unpaid criminal fines, Income Tax or Stamp Duty, but they will only do so as a last resort. All other Bailiiffs can only gain entry peacefully.
  • They cannot enter your home if there are only residents under 16 or vulnerable people at home.
  • You do not have to let a bailiff enter your home and they cannot force their way past you if you answer the door.

Can I be arrested/put in jail for not letting a Bailiff into my house?

You cannot be arrested or imprisoned by a Bailiff. If they have the police with them, it is merely to prevent a breach of the peace, so don't feel threatened by this. You cannot be arrested for refusing a Bailiff entry into your home. The only way you can be imprisoned for not paying your debts is by willfully refusing to pay council tax, child maintenance or magistrates court fines. This means that the magistrates must be satisfied that you have the money but choose not to pay.

What happens if a Bailiff gains peaceful entry to my property?

When a Bailiff has gained peacful entry to your home, they will normally try to look for and take goods that they can seize. When they are in the house they have access to enter ALL rooms and can break open a locked door or a cupboard. After the bailiff has gained peaceful entry s/he has the right to call again and enter even without your permission, i.e. s/he can break in and remove your goods. You cannot attempt to remove a Bailiff after they have gained peaceful entry as this will be deemed as assault and you could be taken to court over any such action.

Are there any goods that the Bailiff cannot seize?

A Bailiff cannot seize the following goods

  • tools, goods, vehicles and other equipment necessary for emplyoment/ business use
  • clothing, bedding, furniture, household equipment and anything used for basic domestic use for you and your family

Will I be notified of a Bailiffs pending visit?

New legislation from 1st April 1998 states that the local authorities must notify you by way of a letter giving you 14 days notice of a proposed Bailiff visit to collect council tax. County court Bailiffs must issue a warning notice, allowing you 7 days to pay.

What should I do if a Bailiff is about to visit?

If a Bailiff is about to make their first visit, remember firstly that you DO NOT HAVE to let them in. Ensure that all entry points to the house, such as doors, open windows etc are all closed and locked. They may try and call several times to try and gain entry to your home. If, after a certain length of time, they are unable to gain entry to your home, they will return the warrant to the court or local authority.

Bailiff complaints

You can complain about a bailiff if:

  • you feel they have threatened or harassed you,
  • they tried to break into your home without a warrant
  • they tried to charge incorrect fees
  • if they try to take someone elses goods.
  • they take essential items, including work related items.

If you have any complaints about a Bailiff, you can complain to whoever sent the Bailiff, be it the local authorities, the county court or the people you owe money to. Most private Bailiffs belong to an association that will have set complaints and grievance procedures.

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