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Aug 30

Knock knock – what to do if the bailiffs are at your door

Reading Time: 5 mins

It’s the nightmare scenario no-one wants to experience: being paid a visit by the bailiff. To escape the negativity associated with their original title, bailiffs now call themselves ‘enforcement agents’.

But, whether they call themselves a bailiff or enforcement agent, the one thing that has remained unchanged is, if you find one on your doorstep, you can guarantee they are after the debt owed.

Having your possessions taken away to pay off that debt is hardly a nice situation for anyone to be in. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed, backed into a corner and bullied, so it’s vital to know your rights and understand what you can do to protect yourself.

 

Who calls in the bailiffs?

Knock knock - what to do if the bailiffs are at your door

Bailiffs, or enforcement agents, can be used to collect unpaid council tax, business rates, personal debts, parking charge notices (PCNs), congestion charges, child support, tax, VAT or magistrates’ court fines. However, they usually only come calling when other methods of procuring the payment owed have failed.

It’s important to note that bailiffs aren’t the same as debt collectors. Debt collectors come from private firms and don’t have the same powers to enter your property or seize goods. Instead, bailiffs are Crown officials.

Organisations or people you owe money to must first get permission from a County Court in order to seize your property. This used to be called a Warrant of Execution, but, since April 2014, this has been known as a Warrant of Control or Writ of Control.

Once this has been procured, before they pay you a visit, the organisation then has to send you a notice of enforcement. This can be by post, hand delivery, fax, email or even fixing it to the front of your property. This explains why they are coming, and outlines what you can do to avoid a visit.

Regardless of the method used, you should be allowed at least seven days’ notice. The only circumstance in which they are allowed to visit your property within those first seven days is if they have a special court order.

Ideally, you will use those seven days to clear the debt before it reaches the point where a visit from the bailiff is necessary. You can do this by contacting the organisation you owe money to and write the debt off or negotiate payment terms.

For example, a debt owed to the magistrate’s court can be paid off in installments if you don’t have enough cash in hand to pay the lump sum. You could therefore apply to the court to suspend any action taken by the bailiff as long as you’re making those payments and continue to make them.

In some instances, however, the only way to stop the bailiff from calling is to pay in full upfront, so make sure you understand the exact terms of the debt during the seven-day notice period.

 

Make sure the bailiff is made aware if…

  • You have mental health problems.
  • You are under the age of 18.
  • You are over the age of 65.
  • English isn’t your first language and you can’t speak/read English fluently.
  • Have children (especially if they are in the house at the time of the visit) or are pregnant.
  • Have had a recent bereavement or suddenly unemployed.
  • You’re disabled or seriously ill.

If any of the above points apply to you, the bailiff operates under varying guidelines and should make allowances. It’s therefore within your best interest to make them aware of your situation upon visitation.

 

What a bailiff can and can’t do

Knock knock - what to do if the bailiffs are at your door

  • A bailiff cannot force their way into your property. They can’t put their foot in the door or push their way past you without a warrant. You are perfectly within your rights to pursue legal action if they enter your property without the necessary paperwork to hand.
  • At no point are they allowed to exhibit violent or threatening behaviour. If you’re made to feel vulnerable, you are entitled to lodge a complaint, call the police or order them to leave your property.
  • A bailiff can access the property through unlocked doors. If you’re expecting a visit from the bailiff, make sure all of your doors and windows are locked. However, in some circumstances, bailiffs can secure permission to enter a property using ‘reasonable force’. This doesn’t mean they will be kicking down your front door. Usually, they will return to your property with a locksmith.
  • Bailiffs cannot enter a property where the only occupants are children or vulnerable adults.
  • Bailiffs recovering money owed to HMRC are allowed to break into the debtor’s property. Once again, however, the bailiff cannot use force to enter the property.
  • Creditors can punish mortgage defaulters by obtaining an eviction order from a County Court. Then, bailiffs are entitled to break into the defaulter’s house using reasonable force.
  • Bailiffs recovering unpaid magistrates’ court fines have the power to force entry without a warrant in all circumstances.
  • A bailiff cannot confiscate essentials. ‘Essentials’ includes things like clothes, most furniture, your phone, microwave, fridge and washing machine.
  • Bailiffs cannot take items needed for study or ‘tools of the trade’.
  • The bailiff cannot take anything that is rented or hired.

 

What you can do

Knock knock - what to do if the bailiffs are at your door

If you haven’t been able to tackle the issue during the notice period, then you need to know what you can do when the bailiffs arrive.

The most important thing to remember is, unless they have a warrant or proof, you don’t have to let them in.

  • You need to take action. This means either contacting the organisation you owe money to, talking to the bailiffs through the letterbox or a window, or leaving the property to talk to them face to face.
  • Disputing the debt. You might think the organisation has made a mistake, or the money owed isn’t the correct sum. In these instances it’s essential you do not let them in to seize items, as this may count against you in the dispute.
  • Reach an agreement with them as to how they will be paid. Bailiffs have a bad reputation, but it’s important not to act aggressively or unreasonably when speaking with them.
  • Be polite and agreeable so you can effectively reach an agreement that suits both parties.
  • If you are physically threatened by a bailiff, report the incident to the police immediately.

 

Help getting out of debt

Are you struggling to pay off those debts? Would you like a debt-busting-buddy?

Well, we’d love to come round and give you a hand but there aren’t enough of us to go round!

Instead, we have put together a FREE set of helpful emails you can sign-up for that will give you hints, tips and encouragement to free yourself of the debt burden.

Just sign-up here now and turbo-charge your debt freedom day!

  • Join Our Debt Email List

 

Find out more here…

For more advice on how to resist bailiffs, check out Citizens Advice at www.adviceguide.org.uk.

WHAT DO YOU THINK?

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anon1234
anon1234
10 years ago

i had a bailiff knocking on my door twice left 2 letters but they are for some 1 who use to live at this house they owe like 1500 pound to british gas but the tennent has not lived in this house for a fair few months so why are they still thinking tht guy lives here i just ignored the bailiffs shud i tell them or ignore them full stop?

chris glover
chris glover
10 years ago

Hi my partner received a letter saying she owes the electric company money because we didn’t cancel electric when we moved out. but we were told to leave the electric in our old landlords name so is it his debt or ours. The debt recovery has given us 10 days to pay other wise legal proceedings will be taken against us but then say we have 14 days to pay a one off discounted payment what can we do?

Thanks,

Chris Glover.

SysReboot
SysReboot
10 years ago
Reply to  chris glover

you are responsible for the debt up to the day you physically handed the keys over to the property. If you can prove to the electric company that you ceased to be the tenant/owner of that property on a specific date, they can & will adjust their billing to take that into consideration, some try to persuade you otherwise.

lindsey
lindsey
10 years ago

Hi i owe 1899.00 to a loan company called provident. I havnt made payment to them in 5yrs. Due to other debts. Iv now had letters of wescott demanding payment. Im noout of work due. to ill health. Where do i stand with them as there now due to do a home visit!! Iv dealt with these before over my c/t bill and there not very nice to bargin with. What happens or where do i stand??

SysReboot
SysReboot
10 years ago
Reply to  lindsey

as far as i’m aware, if you have had no contact with them at all in 6years or more, then the debt becomes unenforceable. however, if you respond to any letters or speak to them on the phone, then the date is reset to that point. you should also ask them for a copy of the original CCA (consumer credit agreement), if they can’t provide a CCA, the debt is unenforceable.

zee
zee
10 years ago

Me and my EX partner started having problems mid 2011 and he finally moved out at the end of the same year, clearing out the flat as he left. We use to share a car between us…but on the day he left…i was using the car so it was not available for him to drive away in. We tried sorting out the bills and what was owed on rent and council tax etc…but to no avail, i couldn’t locate his whereabouts. He had changed his number, gave me a false address, and left his job. As i couldn’t get hold… Read more »

Shottaz
Shottaz
10 years ago
Reply to  zee

Hi Zee, Dont worry about notin! if you have registered the vehicle in your name and you have a tenancy agreement then NO BAILIFF can touch you. As long as the debt was not in joint names (Yours & his) i mean. If they ever come around then DO NOT open the door and when the bailiff leaves a note with the debtn written on it, just phone the main landline number of the bailiffs company and tell them the same. Once this is done this debt will not come back to your house unless your ex comes back to… Read more »

Louise
Louise
10 years ago

Hi I have been visited by bailffs for a fine I received for a driving offence in january. There was initially a mix up with the courts which meant they sent me two fines for one offence, I rang them to ask which one I was to pay, I was told they would look into it, I admit I should of rang them a week later to confirm but when I get in from work they are already closed. I decided to await the letter, which surprisingly came 2 weeks later at the same time as a letter from swift… Read more »

Eddie Dilsworth
Eddie Dilsworth
10 years ago
Reply to  Louise

Hello Louise,

This site will help you, They deal with this all the time.

getoutofdebtfree.org/

And it’s all free!

Regards

Eddie

carly
carly
10 years ago

Hi I have received a 24 hour full payment letter from baliffs for my old council tax bill at a prevvious address. I contacted this comapny last week and a girl told me they had nothing on there systems for debt? But then clearly there is? What can I do as I’m willing to pay the debt just can’t pay it all in full and baliffs can be hard work?

Jasmine
Admin
Jasmine
10 years ago
Reply to  carly

Hello Carly. I was concerned about this and asked the CCCS what they thought about the situation. This is what they say: “While it’s important that they come to an agreement to pay the debt, it seems strange that the council couldn’t find the records. If they called the bailiff company it could be worth calling the council instead to make sure that it’s a legitimate letter. They should be able to confirm the amount outstanding and who they should contact to make an arrangement to pay. Once they get through to the right department they can make them aware… Read more »

Clare
Clare
10 years ago

Hi, Wondering if someone can help me with some advice? My partner and myself entered an IVA in August 2011. Included in the IVA was the whole of the years worth of council tax. We then moved property in the November, unbeknown to us that we would then become liable to council tax payments for the new property. When it became apparent by letter stating court action i called the IVA company and told them and was called back later on being told i have nothing to worry about and that the matter has now been sorted and that no… Read more »

UMIT
UMIT
10 years ago

I owe business rate from Council I tried make a payment monthly but they sent to baliff they are asking me now
around £300 more money which I owed and also they want to me pay them cash straight away unfournetly I dont have any money to pay straight i offered them monthly but they didnt accepted what shall I do I have got little baby 11 months and my wife getting a lot of stress nearly heart attacked.
could you adviced me what shall we do ?

Jasmine
Admin
Jasmine
10 years ago
Reply to  UMIT

The first thing you should do is go to the Citizens Advice Bureau (www.citizensadvice.org.uk) and get them to negotiate for you. They can contact your local Council and help you sort out the situation with them.

ceri
ceri
10 years ago

Hi I have recently stopped claiming as I started a new job, it didn’t work out as I was only recieveing 34pound a week (got the wage slips) I have an outstanding fine with courts for none tv licence reaching bk to 2008 but wasn’t living anywhere at the time my mum was renting for us both, I moved out may 5th 2009 before my daughter was born I had a knock on the door the other day from the bayliff telling me I had too pay in full I have 2 younge kids n right before xmas it isn’t… Read more »

anonim
anonim
10 years ago

We are 1 couple ,living in tenancy . Whit us 1 lives 1 older guy and he has problem with tax man-not payed on time his tax rtns and receided letters from to pay. Thi older guy which is not related to us on any form,has spoken with the debt colectors once and he told us he started to call the INRev. to pay his taxes and that everything is sorted. He lied to us ,previously and now he did it again,as TODAY he gor an other letter from debt collectors. This Guy, and aked whay he got the letter,why… Read more »

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