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:
- ‘certificated enforcement agents’
- ‘high court enforcement officers’
- ‘county court and family court bailiffs’
- ‘civilian enforcement officers’
Bailiffs must usually give you at least 7 days’ notice of their first visit.
If a Bailiff visits you.
- If you know that a visit is likely, make sure that you do not leave any external doors open. Although bailiffs should not get into your home through an open window, it is still a good idea to keep your windows closed.
- If the bailiffs have not already taken details of your car, hide it well away from your property or lock it in a garage. If you do not have access to a garage, you could park the vehicle away from your property. However, if the bailiff finds it, they could clamp and possibly remove it. The bailiffs can also clamp and possibly remove your vehicle if you park it on your own drive.
- When bailiffs visit, they should show you identification such as a badge or ID card, when you request it, so you know who they are.
- In most cases, bailiffs should not force entry to your home if they have not been in before.
- You do not have to let the bailiff into your home if they have not been in peacefully before.
Check the bailiff’s identity
Before you let a bailiff in to take your things or pay them, ask to see:
- proof of their identity, such as a badge, ID card or enforcement agent certificate
- which company they’re from
- a telephone contact number
- a detailed breakdown of the amount owed
You can ask for proof of a bailiff’s identity and authorisation 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.
Please call our office for advice and support on 0203 318 0990.