A bailiff (enforcement agent) may visit your home if you do not pay your debts – such as Council Tax bills, parking fines, court fines, and county court or family court judgments.
A bailiff may also visit your home for other reasons, for example, to serve court documents or give notices and summons.
There are different kinds of bailiffs, known as:
Bailiffs must usually give you at least 7 days’ notice of their first visit.
If a Bailiff visits you:
Check the bailiff’s identity
Before you let a bailiff in to take your things or pay them, ask to see:
You can ask for proof of a bailiff’s identity and authorization even if they’ve visited before – for example, ask them to put it through the letterbox or show it at the window.
Paying a bailiff
You can pay the bailiff on the doorstep – you do not have to let them into your home.
Make sure you get a receipt to prove you’ve paid.
If you cannot pay all the money right away, speak to the bailiff about how you could pay the money back.
Offer to pay what you can afford in weekly or monthly payments.
The bailiff does not have to accept your offer.
What bailiffs can and cannot take
If you let a bailiff into your home, they may take some of your belongings to sell.
Bailiffs can take luxury items, for example, a TV or games console.
They cannot take:
Things you need, such as your clothes, cooker or fridge
Work tools and equipment which together are worth less than £1,350
Someone else’s belongings, such as your partner’s computer
You’ll have to prove that someone else’s goods do not belong to you.
Complaining about bailiffs
Get a written breakdown of what the bailiffs say you owe. The law says that the bailiffs can only add set charges to your debt. You can complain if they have charged you too much.
If you are not sure whether bailiffs have the powers they say they have, get advice. All bailiffs should behave professionally. They must act within the law at all times and follow agreed national standards.
Most bailiffs need to have a certificate from the county court to allow them to act. You can complain to the court and ask for the bailiff’s certificate to be withdrawn. Contact us for advice, if you are considering making this type of complaint or if you need extra help to deal with bailiffs.
High Court Enforcement
If a creditor has a CCJ against you, they may be able to enforce it in the High Court by taking control of goods. Business and trade creditors are likely to do this. Also, it can sometimes be done for unpaid nursery fees, funeral charges, or even water charges. This is because these types of debt are not covered by the “Consumer Credit Act 1974″.
Taking control of goods involves High Court Enforcement Officers (HCEOs) visiting you. HCEOs are High Court bailiffs. If the HCEOs gain entry, they may list your goods and ask you to sign a “controlled goods agreement”. This allows you to keep using the goods listed. However, if you do not pay, the goods listed on the controlled goods agreement can be removed and sold. In some situations, your goods may be removed straight away or, as a last resort, locked up in a room on your premises.