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Enforcement agents and bailiff advice

Making a complaint about a bailiff

There are codes of conduct about how bailiffs should treat you. If you feel you’ve been treated unfairly or illegally by a bailiff (also known as an enforcement agent), you make a complaint to the company that employs the agent and to the creditor they are collecting for.

If you’re not satisfied with their response to your complaint, you can escalate it to a governing body or ombudsman, depending on the type of debt being collected.

Complaints can also be followed up through the police and civil courts if you’re still unhappy with the response you’ve had. Learn more about dealing with bailiffs.

Do you understand the difference between bailiffs and debt collectors? The important thing to know is that a debt collector doesn’t have any special legal powers to collect a debt, whereas bailiffs do.

What types of complaints can I make about bailiffs?

There are rules bailiffs are supposed to follow. You should complain if the bailiff:

  • Broke the rules about entering your home: They’re supposed to write to you before visiting and can only enter your home peacefully and with your permission.
  • Took goods they’re not allowed to take: they’re supposed to leave you with basic household items. Find out more about what bailiffs can and can’t take
  • took goods that don’t belong to you: They’re supposed to take reasonable steps to check ownership
  • Harassed or threatened you: bailiffs are not allowed to use aggressive tactics. They will soon be forced to wear body cameras to record intimidating or threatening behaviour.

You should complain if the bailiff tried to mislead you, for example, by saying you’re at risk of being arrested, or they’re going to get a locksmith to break into your home.

You can also complain if the bailiff failed to provide you with enough information or didn’t offer you a reasonable chance to pay what you owe.

Can I complain about bailiffs’ fees?

The only way to make a complaint about bailiff fees is to apply to the court for a detailed assessment of their charges. You should take legal advice if this is a complaint you wish to pursue. Find out more about bailiffs’ rights and powers

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Rules for clients in challenging circumstances

Bailiffs should follow extra rules about their behaviour when visiting the homes of people with further challenges who are referred to as ‘vulnerable clients’. This includes people living with a serious illness or disability, pregnant women, people dealing with a ‘life shock’ (such as bereavement or redundancy), those with communication issues and older people.

You should always let your creditor and the bailiff company know immediately if you’re ‘vulnerable’ in any way and complain if the bailiff hasn’t acted appropriately.

These rules mean bailiffs are not allowed to:

  • Enter the property if only vulnerable adults or children under-16 are present
  • Take medical equipment or vehicles used by someone with a disability
  • Recover funds from a client who has been identified as vulnerable without giving them the opportunity to get assistance and advice

And bailiffs should:

  • Provide communications in large print, Braille and other languages, where required
  • Tell the creditor if the client has been identified as vulnerable

Bailiff complaints process

In all instances, send your complaint in writing and keep a copy. If posting your complaint, send it recorded delivery so you have a record of the date they received it.

  1. Send the complaint to the bailiff’s employer and a copy to the creditor they are collecting for
  2. If you’re unhappy with the response, escalate the complaint to a governing body, ombudsman or the court – see the list below
  3. We recommend you get legal advice before embarking on court action

If your complaint includes an allegation of criminal activity, you should contact the police. Get a crime number and include this information in your initial complaint to the bailiff company.

Escalating complaints about bailiffs

Here’s information about who to contact if you’re unhappy with the way your complaint has been dealt with.

Child Support Agency Arrears

  • CIVEA: Trade organisation representing civil enforcement agencies and certified professions operating in England and Wales.
  • The Independent Case Examiner: Reviews complaints about government organisations that deal with benefits, work and financial support.

Council tax and Rates arrears

  • Local Government Ombudsman: A free service looking individual complaints about councils.
  • Public Services Ombudsman for Wales: Independent investigation of complaints that local government bodies have broken their authority’s code of conduct.

County Court judgments (CCJs)

  • Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO): You can’t complain to the PHSO directly, you need to contact your local MP who will refer the complaint.
  • The creditor’s regulator or ombudsman.

High court writs

  • High Court Enforcement Officers Association: Formerly known as the Sheriffs Officers Association. Ensure members adhere to codes of conduct and regulation.regulator or ombudsman.
  • The creditor’s regulator or ombudsman.

HMRC debts

  • CIVEA: Trade organisation representing civil enforcement agencies and certified professions operating in England and Wales.
  • Adjudicators office: fair and unbiased referee looking into complaints about HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC), and the Valuation Office Agency (VOA), across the United Kingdom.

Magistrates court fines and penalties

  • CIVEA: Trade organisation representing civil enforcement agencies and certified professions operating in England and Wales.

Penalty charge notices (PCN)

  • Local Government Ombudsman: A free service looking individual complaints about councils.
  • Public Services Ombudsman for Wales: Independent investigation of complaints that local government bodies have broken their authority’s code of conduct.

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