Dealing With Bailiffs And Debt Collectors
If you have outstanding debt and you have missed your payments, you could be threatened with court action. Eventually, a bailiff will be instructed by the court to collect your debt. You should never avoid a Bailiffs Notice. Depending on what the notice that you receive contains, you will have options to stop the bailiff action, but you need to act quickly. On April 6, 2014, the rules regarding bailiffs have changed. You should understand what this means.
What is a Bailiff?
A bailiff is someone who has limited power to collect certain types of debt. Bailiffs are court appointed officials or they work for a registered private firm. Bailiffs are also known as enforcement agents. If you receive paperwork from a bailiff, this is the term that they will use.
If you are in debt, a bailiff will come to your home to see if you own anything of worth that can be sold to pay off the debt. If you do own anything that you can sell, the proceeds will go to paying off your debt as well as paying the bailiffs fees and other charges. In some cases, the fees can cost more than the original debt. If a bailiff is going to be coming to your home, you should get a warning from your creditors first. When most creditors write to you, they will let you know that they are considering sending a bailiff to your home.
In some cases, the letter will be worded to make you believe that they bailiff has already been instructed to go to your home. Since this can be very upsetting and frightening, you should make sure you read the letter carefully. Any letter that you get that mentions a bailiff should be taken seriously. You should use that opportunity to decide to clear up your debt or arrears. If you are struggling financially and you cannot afford to repay your debt, you should speak to the creditor directly to see if there is an arrangement that you can make that will stop them from taking further action.
When Can Bailiffs Take Action?
If other methods of recovering the debt have been exhausted, such as letters and phone calls, the creditor will then sanction a bailiff. When it comes to personal debt, there are only certain types where a bailiff can be used. Some of these include:
- Council tax parking penalties
- County Court Judgments (CCJ) (for example, consumer credit debts that have unpaid)
- Magistrates court fines
- Orders of compensation
- Child support or maintenance payments
- High court judgments that have gone unpaid
- Unpaid income tax, National insurance, or VAT
There are some business debts that can be subject to bailiff action but are not listed here. If you have any outstanding business debt, you should seek advice from an expert.
What Is a Debt Collector?
Some creditors will choose to use debt collectors to assist them in collecting a debt that they believe is owed to them. If you are getting phone calls and correspondence, you should figure out who you are dealing with. Debt collectors and bailiffs are not the same things and debt collectors don’t have the same legal power that bailiffs do.
Have You Received an Enforcement Notice?
An enforcement notice is a written warning to let you know that a bailiff has been instructed to take action against you. The enforcement notice must follow a certain format. Unfortunately, some enforcement notices can get lost. Therefore, it is so important to check to see if a bailiff is trying to collect one of the debts listed above.
Has an Officer Turned Up at Your Door Without Any Notice?
Bailiffs are required to give you notice before they can visit your home. If someone has shown up at your door without any warning, it is likely not a bailiff. Debt collectors don’t need to send you any notice before they come to your home. They can ask you to pay, however, they don’t have the power to take your belongings. They cannot even enter your home unless they have been invited in.
If a debt collector has come to your home posing as a bailiff, you should contact us for advice regarding how to proceed.
Options For Stopping Bailiff Action
If bailiff action has been started against you, you have several options. The option that is best for you would depend on your situation. If you don’t think that you owe the debt that the bailiff is hoping to collect, you still need to act quickly. You need to resolve the situation with both the creditor and the bailiff.
1. Offer Payment in Full To Your Creditor
If you can afford to make the payment in full, you should. If possible, ask a friend or family member to lend you the money to pay the debt. This is important because if the bailiff comes to your home, it will increase what you will owe a great deal. Even if the bailiff comes to your door, you can still pay the debt in full. If you do this, just make sure that you get a receipt for the amount that you paid to the creditor or the bailiff.
2. Negotiate Directly With The Creditor
It is a good idea to contact your creditor right after receiving the enforcement notice. Ask them if they can hold off on the bailiff action so that you can have some time to figure out how you are going to pay your debt. If necessary, you can contact us for advice about doing this. Asking for more time will give you more time to find the money to pay your debt before the situation gets out of control. After making that call, you should:
- Sit down and figure out your income and your expenses to get an idea of how much money you can put toward paying off your debt each month.
- Maximize your income. For example, rent out a room in your home or pick up a part-time job.
- As soon as you have come up with an amount, contact your creditor and make an offer. It could be a lump sum, monthly payments, or both. When you have made the agreement, be sure to stick to it. The creditor can reinstate the bailiff action at any time.
3. Apply to the Court to Suspend Bailiff Action
If the debt that the bailiff is trying to collect from you is under a county court or a high court judgment, you can offer to make the payments in instalments. You can also ask the court to put a hold on the bailiff action while you are making the payments. An application to offer repayment of the debt in instalments and to have the action suspended can be made using form N245 at Gov.UK. If you need assistance finding the form or filling it out, please call us.
4. Make an Offer to the Bailiff
The bailiff can accept a payment from you before or during their visit to your home. If you can show the bailiff how you intend to pay off the full amount of the debt, they might be willing to take a partial payment when they are at your home. It can be difficult to make this type of negotiation when the bailiff is at your home, therefore, you should take the necessary steps to keep the bailiff from coming to your home at all. If you do pay the bailiff while they are at your home, you should get proof of payment from the bailiff.
What Happens If the Bailiffs Visit?
After you have received your notice of enforcement, you can expect to see a bailiff at the door within 7 days or more. When the bailiff shows up at your home, they are only allowed to gain access in the normal ways of entry, such as:
- A door
- A gate
- A garage that is attached to the house
- The door to a car, caravan, boat, or any other vehicle if that vehicle is your home
- The entrance to a tent if that tent is your home
- A loading bay
This means that a bailiff is not allowed to gain entry to your home through:
- A window
- By climbing over a fence, wall, or another type of barrier
Do You Have To Let the Bailiffs In?
Unless the bailiff took control of your belongings during a previous visit, you are not required to let them in. If you refuse their entry, they could still get into the house without using force. This means through an unlocked door. In most cases, they will try. The bailiff can also ask the court for permission to gain access to your home using force. This permission is not easily granted. The only time it might be is if you owe certain types of debt, such as unpaid criminal fines from the magistrate’s court. Force might also be granted if you owe money to HM Revenue and Customs.
If you don’t have the money to repay your debt in full, you should not open the door for the bailiff. You should only communicate with them through the closed door.
When Can the Bailiff Force Entry?
In some cases, a bailiff will be allowed to force their way into your home or business. There are only certain types of debt where the court will allow the bailiff to force entry. If a bailiff does enter your home using force, they need to show you proof that they have permission from the courts to do so.
Taking Control of Goods
If the bailiff does enter your home or business, they will walk around your home to inspect what you own. They will look at your belongings and see if the second-hand value of the items would be enough to pay off your debt and the bailiff fees.
The bailiff is not allowed to take any items that are exempt from being taken. They must also discuss with you how you use the goods in question. This will ensure that they don’t take control of any exempt goods by mistake.
To take control of your belongings, the bailiff must follow certain procedures. This includes letting your know what is happening and how you can stop the action of the bailiff. If the bailiff is unable to find any goods that they can take control of, they would need to leave your home and explore other options for finding goods to cover your debt. This can include checking if you have a vehicle parked on a public highway or applying for a petition from the court to enter another property where they think that you may have stored your items of value.
If the bailiff took away any of your goods, you will receive a notice of sale. It will explain when and how your items are going to be sold. It will also tell you how to stop the sale by paying back your debt in full.
Sale Of Your Belongings
When your belongings have been taken away, the bailiff will decide to sell them. The bailiff is required to give you notice of the sale 7 days before it occurs. If your belongings sell, the proceeds will go toward your debt and toward the bailiff’s fees. If our belongings don’t sell, they will be considered abandoned goods and you can get them back. If this happens, the bailiff must give you a notice of abandonment along with instructions letting you know how to get your belongings back. If your things don’t sell, your debt will not have gone away. Your creditor will look at other options to get the money that you owe.
We have put together information that is vital in helping you if a situation ever comes up where you need to protect your home and your property.
Handling A Visit From A Bailiff — FAQs
Q: What Debts Will Result In a Visit From a Bailiff?
A bailiff is a person who has been appointed by the court to seize your goods so that they can be sold to raise the funds necessary to settle your outstanding debt. If you owe council tax, rent, income tax, child support, unpaid fine, unpaid parking fines, or if you have received a County Court Judgment (CCJ), you could end up getting an unfortunate visit from a bailiff.
One of the changes that were made in 2014 states that landlords are no longer allowed to use bailiffs to take over the property for residential rent debts. The only way that a bailiff can do this is if there has been a court hearing first.
Q: What Legal Documentation Should a Bailiff Have?
Before a bailiff can enter your home and seize your property, they will need to have a court order in hand. This is what they will have in most cases, however, it all depends on the type of debt you owe and the rules that go along with it. For example, HM Revenue and Customs can send a bailiff to your home without a court order if your debt is overdue taxes.
Q: When Do Bailiffs Have the Right of Entry?
In most cases, a bailiff is not allowed to enter your home without your permission, the only way that they can is a peaceful entry. This means that if you left your door unlocked or one of your windows are unlocked, this means that the bailiff can gain access to your home this way. There is one exception to this rule. If a bailiff is working for the Magistrates’ Court and a person owes unpaid criminal fines, they can use reasonable force to gain access to the home.
The 2014 changes state that bailiffs are no longer allowed to enter homes at night. They are also not allowed to enter a home if only children are present. An adult must be at the door. They are also banned from having any type of physical contact with the person in debt. There were also new regulations put into place to prevent the aggressive or intimidating behaviour from bailiffs. These changes were a result of a debt collection consultation by the Ministry of Justice in 2013. These changes are part of a larger group of reforms that affected the Tribunals, Courts & Enforcement Act 2007.
As part of the reform, bailiffs must let the court know how they plan to gain access to the property. They must also state how much force will be used and what goods they are hoping to possess. All this information needs to be given before a warrant will be granted. Finally, the bailiff must give explicit details regarding how they plan to secure the residence after they leave.
Q: What Property Can and Cannot Be Taken By Bailiffs?
Bailiffs are not allowed to take possession of any belongings without giving 7 days’ notice first unless they were given specific permission by the courts to take the property sooner. Bailiffs are not allowed to take any basic furniture including bedding. They also cannot take clothing or household goods.
The 2014 changes strictly forbid bailiffs to take any household items that are essential, such as a washing machine. Non-essential household items that are considered luxury items can be taken. Some examples of these items include home entertainment systems, TVs, and DVD players. The items that are taken by the bailiff would be sold at auction to raise money to pay the outstanding debt as well as the bailiff fees. The 2014 changes have created new rules restricting when the bailiff can sell the items that they possess.
The funds that will be raised at auction are going to be much lower than what the items are worth when they are new. Because of this, the bailiff will take items that appear to be worth much more that what you owe.
Unless you owe a joint debt, the bailiff is not allowed to take any goods from the home that belong to another person. There are, however, a few exceptions to this rule. If the debt owed is related to overdue rent payments, the bailiff can remove any goods that are in the property that the person owes rent for.
Q: What is a Walking Possession Order?
If the bailiff can gain access to your home, they might ask you to sign a Walking Possession Order. This order is a list of goods that the bailiff intends to seize from you home if you don’t repay your debt in a specific period. After you sign the document, you would not be allowed to remove these times from your home until the debt is paid. You would also be charged an additional fee for each day that the debt remains outstanding.
It is important to remember that bailiffs can charge you for their services each time they visit your property. This feel would be added onto the total amount that you owe. Before the changes in 2014, bailiffs could determine their own fee. Since 2014, set fee scales were introduced.
The changes in 2014 require that bailiffs undergo training and they need to be certified. Part of their training includes being able to recognize a vulnerable person so that they can get these people the assistance that they need.
When To Seek Advice?
The rules regarding bailiffs can vary depending on the type of debt. Therefore it is important to seek the advice from a professional debt adviser if you receive correspondence from a bailiff.