Bailiffs: An Introduction
Receiving a letter from a bailiff demanding payment can be quite a daunting prospect.
The letters usually state that further action will be taken if payment is not received, but most people do not understand what this means or what it involves.
We often have no idea what our rights are or what we can do to resolve the issue before it escalates. Our years of experience mean NDH Financial is able to provide our clients with bailiff help.
What is a bailiff?
Bailiffs, also known as enforcement agents, have the legal power to collect any outstanding debt you might have accrued. The type of debt they collect includes county court judgements, council tax arrears, parking fines and child maintenance arrears.
Bailiffs are either self-employed, instructed by a private company, or work for the council.
Bailiff’s rights: What bailiffs can and cannot take
There are rules bailiffs need to uphold when it comes to collecting your items or property. So it is worth noting down what they can and cannot take should they appear at your door.
To put it simply, bailiffs are able to take your belongings if they are collecting a debt you are legally required to pay. The items they collect must be yours or items you co-own with someone else, such as vehicles or jewellery.
The goods they select must be things they have access to and can physically touch. This means they are unable to take items they can see through a window or from a distance. As a general rule, they will aim for vehicles, electrical goods, jewellery and furniture, but they are at liberty to take anything that can be sold at auction.
They are unable to take things that belong to other people, pets (including guide dogs), tools, motability vehicles or a car that displays a disability blue badge, and any necessary equipment you need in order to do your job or study up to the value of £1,350, such as a car or laptop.
Bailiffs are also unable to take items that are permanent fixtures in the home; this includes things such as bathroom units or parts of the house that would cause damage to the property if they were removed.
They also have to leave you with enough to make sure your domestic needs are met. This includes things such as:
- A table with chairs for all the family to sit on
- Electrical equipment such as cookers and microwaves
- A fridge
- Access to a phone - either a landline or mobile phone
- Medicine and medical equipment required to look after an elderly person or child
- Items you have purchased on finance
When will a bailiff turn up at your door?
In most cases, a bailiff will only turn up at your door after court action has been issued. The court order will be sent to you courtesy of the magistrate's court, high court or county court, depending on the level and type of debt that is involved.
The only time this does not apply is if your debt lies with HM Revenue and Customs, who do not need a court order to issue a bailiff to arrive at your door.
However, a bailiff will only arrive at your property if you have ignored court letters or failed to establish a payment plan.
What you can do when a bailiff visits
New rules mean that if a bailiff visits your property you do not have to let them in.
Keep the curtains or blinds closed so they are unable to see items through your windows. This is to prevent them from listing any items they see. IF they do list what they can see from outside your property, it is your prerogative whether you sign the controlled goods agreement.
A controlled goods agreement is a regulated contract established between the bailiff and debtee, which allows you to keep using your goods with the understanding the debt will be repaid in line with an agreed payment schedule. If you would like to find out more about this payment schedule, enquire now and a member of our team will be on hand to discuss this with you.
According to government advice, bailiffs are unable to force their way into your home - you need to invite them in. The only time they are permitted to force their way into your property is if they are collecting the following debt:
- Unpaid criminal fines
- Income Tax
- Stamp Duty
They are not allowed inside if there are children (under 16) or vulnerable people present at the time of the visit.
Vulnerable people include those with disabilities and the elderly. The time of their visit is also important. They are not allowed to visit your property between the hours of 9.30 pm and 6.00 am.
They have the power to take items located outside of your home that belong to you, such as your car.
It is worth taking down the bailiff's information. Make sure to check their identity. You can ask them to post their ID through the letterbox. They should also have a certificate on them to confirm the reason for their visit.
Once you have determined the debt they have come to collect, if you do not have the money to hand, you can advise them you will contact the head office and discuss payment options with them.
You do not need to pay the bailiff there and then!
In saying this, they will come back to collect the debt if it isn't paid, which is why we advise you to contact us and discuss your situation with one of our experts so you can formulate your next steps.
What if I have broken my controlled goods agreement?
In the instance where you have broken your controlled goods agreement, the bailiffs will have the right to re-enter the property, this time using reasonable force (ie, with the help of a locksmith).
They will usually provide you with a notice to re-enter - giving you two days' notice before coming to the property. Again you do not have to let them in right away.
Check the documents they have provided. If any of the information is incorrect, you have the right to complain to the head office and delay the bailiff's visit. If the information is all correct, there is still time to resolve the issue.
Explain to the bailiffs why the agreement was broken and request more time to make the payment. This is where you need to act fast and get an Individual Voluntary Arrangement (“IVA”), Debt Relief Order (“DRO”) or Bankruptcy petition in place to prevent further action being taken. Alternatively, you can apply to the Debt Respite Scheme, more commonly known at the Breathing Space Scheme, to stop the bailiff taking any further action for 60 days, however, you cannot apply for one if you have applied for one in the last 12 months.
Can bailiffs enter your home?
Bailiffs are only able to visit your home between the hours of 6:00 am and 9:30 pm. They can only enter your home in a peaceful manner; by that we mean they cannot barge through the door. You have the right to refuse them entry and discuss the matter through the door.
If you are vulnerable, there are extra precautions bailiffs need to take into consideration. You are classed as vulnerable if:
- You are deemed disabled
- You are seriously ill
- You suffer from mental health problems
- You have children under the age of 16
- You’re pregnant
- You are under 18
- You are over 65
- English is not your first language
- You have suffered from stressful or emotional circumstances, such as a recent bereavement
If you fit any of the above, make the bailiffs aware you are in a vulnerable position and explain how it impacts you. Ask them to cancel any future visits because of the strain it could add to your vulnerable state.
If you prefer, you can call them or write to the head office whose address should be on the letter they sent to you ahead of their visit.
Can bailiffs force entry?
In most cases, bailiffs are unable to force entry into your home. The only time they are able to force entry onto your premises is if the debt they are collecting includes criminal fines, Income Tax, or Stamp Duty.
On this occasion, the only time you are able to refuse them entry is if there is a child or vulnerable person at the property.
If they are planning a forced entry, they will need to provide you with a warrant from the court. When you receive the warrant, confirm the date and signature on the document and ensure all your personal details are correct.
They are not allowed to forcefully break down your door. Instead, they will require the help of a locksmith to unlock the door. In this instance, you should have enough time to make an offer to rectify the debt you owe. Contact a member of our team right away and we will be able to discuss debt relief options with you.
If they are not collecting the above types of debt, you are within your rights to refuse entry and discuss the matter at hand through the door. When having this discussion with them, ask them the following questions:
- What debt are they collecting?
- What is the name of the creditor?
- Do they have any documents with them? If they do, check them thoroughly to ensure the information is all correct.
Can I be contacted by bailiffs when I'm on an IVA?
Once your Individual Voluntary Arrangement has been approved, it can take a few weeks for the creditors to update their systems. As a result, you may find some bailiffs attempting to contact you during this time. In this instance, all you need to do is make them aware you have an IVA approved which you are paying back.
Give them the name of your IVA provider who will be able to deal with them going forward.
If you are looking to secure an Individual Voluntary Arrangement, our dedicated team here at NDH Financial are on hand to guide you through the process. Apply here and a member of our team will assist you.
Worried about bailiffs?
Dealing with bailiffs can be a stressful experience but it can be avoided. If you have debts and are worried about a bailiff appearing at your door, NDH Financial can help. Our expert licensed insolvency practitioners specialise in helping individuals find debt solutions and have helped thousands of people become debt-free.
Do You Have Any More Questions?
Our IVA Learning Hub Can Help
We know you might have questions and that’s fine.
We can answer most of those on our call.
But we’ve also built our learning hub so that you can learn more about an IVA and see if one is right for you.
Click below to check it out.