The word ‘bailiffs’ conjures up images of imposing, scary individuals arriving unexpectedly at your home, intent on taking away everything you hold dear. However, the reality is often very different and a bailiff visit should never come as a surprise.
It is important to remember that law-abiding bailiffs and debt collection agencies are fulfilling a legal duty on behalf of creditors and they are guided strictly on how to do so.
The prospect of dealing with bailiffs can be daunting, and we would therefore like to offer you an insight into what you can expect if a bailiff comes knocking.
So, what is a bailiff, exactly?
A bailiff is an individual who has been legally authorised to visit your property in order to recover outstanding debt.
When they can visit, they cannot set foot inside your home unless they have a warrant to do so, or if you invite them in. Once in your property, they may seize items belonging to you in order to raise the money required to pay the debt.
What debts to bailiffs collect?
Bailiffs are not consigned to one type of debt collection. Therefore, there is a wide range of creditors on whose behalf they will be operating.
They may include debts relating to:
- Parking fines
- Court fines
- Council tax
- County Court Judgements (CCJs)
- Child Support
- Income tax
- National Insurance
So, a bailiff is now in my home. What can and can’t they do?
- Use reasonable force to gain entry if instructed by the Court
- Remain in your house for as long as required
- Gain control of and seize certain belongings
- Gain entry via an unlocked door or garage, if they have a warrant to do so
- Enter your property between 9PM and 6AM
- Enter your property via windows or by climbing over obstructions such as fences or walls
- Force their way past you once you have answered the door
How will I know when a bailiff is on his/her way?
As we have established, you should never be subjected to a surprise bailiff visit. They have a legal obligation to provide at least seven days’ notice of their intention to visit. If that hasn’t happened, it is likely the bailiff isn’t legitimate and should therefore not be trusted. Report such instances immediately to the police.
What can and can’t bailiffs take from me?
Bailiffs can take the following types of possessions:
- Cash, cheques and bonds
- Goods bought with personal loans
However, they can’t take the following:
- Items belonging to someone else
- Anything belonging to an infant
- Items which you need domestically (such as fridges, clothes, etc)
- Anything bought on a hire purchase scheme
- Vehicles parked on private land which is not your home or business
Do bailiffs charge?
Yes. It is therefore advisable to contact your creditor(s) once you know a bailiff has been summoned to see if you can organise payment of the debt. That avoids the need for a bailiff and reduces your costs.
However, if a bailiff is required and you owe less than £1,500, you’ll need to pay the following:
- Your case is sent to the bailiffs: £75
- If their letter to you has been ignored and they have to visit: £235
- If they have to take your goods to sell at auction: £110
For debts larger than £1,500, you’ll have to pay a percentage of the debt each time the bailiff visits.
Final thoughts on bailiffs
Remember: you should never be surprised by a bailiff visit. If you are, you have either missed the communication informing you of their impending arrival or they have not been legally authorised to conduct the visit.
If a bailiff visit is inevitable, ensure you inform everyone living in the house of the fact. That removes confusion and the potential for conflict on the day, but having someone with you will also be of comfort when the bailiff visits.
Always cooperate with bailiffs.