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Bailiffs & enforcement agents. Expert advice.

Bailiffs in England & Wales are now known as ‘enforcement agents’, however the general public still call them bailiffs.

They have the legal power to remove and sell your goods to pay a debt. In most cases, they can only get involved after your creditor has taken you to court.

In this section we highlight what bailiffs can and can’t do and what bailiffs can take when they visit. We'll also talk about bailiffs' fees and your rights when dealing with bailiffs. On this page we highlight some of the important questions we get asked about bailiffs.

What debts do bailiffs collect?

Bailiffs can’t collect Consumer Credit Act regulated debts like payday loans, credit cards or overdrafts unless:

  1. The creditor has taken you to court and obtained a CCJ, and
  2. You ignored the CCJ or didn’t pay the amount the court ordered

Bailiffs do collect several other types of debt, including:

  • Unpaid County Court judgments (CCJs)
  • Council tax or child maintenance arrears
  • Unpaid criminal fines
  • Parking penalties issued by a local authority
  • Tax and National Insurance arrears if you’re self-employed

How do I stop bailiffs?

For most types of debt, the only way to stop a bailiff taking your goods is to make an agreement with them to pay off the debt, usually in instalments.

In most cases, this will be a controlled goods agreement (PDF) where the bailiff lists some of your goods, but instead of taking them allows you to keep them while you make payments.

In two cases, there’s a court process to stop the bailiffs coming and get an affordable payment in place:

  • County Court judgment (CCJ) – you can fill in an N245 form which asks the Court to suspend the bailiff warrant and set a payment instalment. This costs £50, but if you’re on a low income, you can also fill in form EX160 to get this fee reduced or cancelled
  • High Court writ – if a High Court enforcement officer is involved, you can apply to the Court for a ‘stay of execution’. This can be complicated, so call us for advice if you need to do this

If you consider yourself to be vulnerable – for example you have a mental or physical health problem which makes it hard for you to deal with your debts – you should tell the creditor and the bailiff. The creditor may agree to withdraw the warrant and call off the bailiff activity, although though this isn’t guaranteed.

Bailiffs are a clear sign that you need debt help

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Or call our expert debt advisors 0800 138 1111

8am to 8pm Monday to Friday, 8am to 4pm Saturday.

Can the police get involved with bailiffs?

The police can only help a bailiff do their job in very limited circumstances.

This is allowed if:

  • The bailiff is enforcing a High Court writ of control
  • The bailiff has applied to the court for a warrant to force entry and the court has agreed that the police can help with this

The police can’t help the bailiff in any other circumstances.

The police may attend in some cases to make sure there’s no disturbance. They have to remain impartial and they can’t help the bailiff.

Once a bailiff has made a list of your goods and taken them into control, you can also be arrested if you hide, remove or deliberately damage any of these goods.

If you act in a threatening or aggressive manner, you could be arrested. The bailiff could also be arrested if they act like this. You can also be arrested if you ‘obstruct’ a bailiff, for example by physically stopping them from removing goods.

You can’t be arrested for refusing entry to a bailiff if they’ve not already been in and made a list of goods.

Will they be like the bailiffs I’ve seen on TV?

Documentaries about bailiffs often focus on business debts or repossessions of homes or vehicles. This is because they have a legal right to break into property in these cases. For most types of debt, they don’t have a right to break in.

The reality is that bailiffs spend a lot of their time knocking on doors and making payment arrangements, but this wouldn’t make very interesting TV. Viewers are more likely to be interested in emotional or confrontational situations, even though these are not as common in reality.

Of course dealing with bailiffs will never be a pleasant experience, but the situations depicted in TV soaps and documentaries often make it look a lot worse.

We can help with bailiffs

A letter or visit from a bailiff is sign that you need free and impartial debt help. We can give expert budgeting advice to help deal with the bailiff debt and manage your situation.

To build a budget and get a personal action plan to deal with your debts now, use our Debt Remedy advice tool. It’s free to use, confidential and only takes 20 minutes to complete.

Or if you’d prefer to speak to us, call our Helpline on 0800 138 1111 (free from all landlines and mobiles). We’re open from Monday to Friday 8am to 8pm, and Saturday from 8am to 4pm.

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