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Bailiff and enforcement agents advice

i England and Wales only

What if I get a threatening letter from a bailiff about my debts?

Bailiffs in England & Wales are also called ‘enforcement agents’. 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.

alert iconBailiffs do not need to enter your home to take control of goods. Find out more about your rights.

Find out here what bailiffs can and cannot do. And what bailiffs can take when they visit.

If you are worried about bailiffs, get in touch with us for free debt help.

Know Your Rights: Bailiffs and Entry

Can bailiffs force entry? Do I have to let them in?

  • No forced entry. Bailiffs cannot force their way in. They can only enter peacefully through your front or back door
  • Your permission matters. Your space, your rules. Bailiffs cannot step in without your nod of approval
  • Learn more. Curious about bailiff rights and powers? We have all the info you need

If you are considered vulnerable, you can ask that the people you owe stop enforcement action.

You can use our sample letter to do this.

”megaphoneBe wary of bailiff scams

Scammers are now posing as bailiffs and phoning people experiencing debt to take their money. If someone who claims to be a bailiff calls you, remember that real bailiffs will never:

  • Telephone you to ask for your bank details
  • Telephone you to ask you to make a bank transfer using your sort code and account number

If anyone claiming to be a county court bailiff, an High Court Enforcement Officer (HCEO) or Civil Enforcement Agent (CEA) calls asking for this information, you should not make any payments and not provide your bank details.

If you have been affected by this scam you can report it to Action Fraud online or call 0300 123 2040.

What is the difference between a bailiff and a debt collector?

A debt collector does not have any special legal powers to collect a debt. A bailiff does.

Read our guide to bailiffs and debt collectors to find out more.

Can bailiffs force entry? Do I have to let them in?

A bailiff should enter your home 'peaceably' through a front or back door.

This means without your permission, they cannot:

  • Use force
  • Enter your home

When they can force entry, they should give you chance to let them in first.

Find out more about bailiff rights and powers.

When can bailiffs visit?

Bailiffs can visit:

  • Between 6am and 9pm
  • Any day of the week

In some cases, they can get a court warrant that gives them extra rights.

They should avoid religious or cultural festivals. But, they may attend at these times if they claim they need to.

You can make a complaint to a bailiff if they visit you when they are not meant to.

Where can bailiffs visit you?

Bailiffs tend to visit your home. But they can visit any place you live or run a business.

They should not visit your workplace unless you are self-employed. Need help dealing with bailiffs?

Can a bailiff refuse a payment plan?

Share your budget to clearly show what you can and cannot afford to pay.

  • They should pass your offer on to the creditor but
  • They may refuse if they do not think your offer is reasonable

If this happens, you should:

  • Continue paying anyway
  • Contact your creditor directly
    • Show them your budget
    • Explain what you can afford
    • See if they will accept your offer

What debts do bailiffs collect?

Bailiffs can collect:

They can not collect Consumer Credit Act regulated debts. These include:

  • Payday loans
  • Credit cards
  • Overdrafts


  • You have a County Court Judgment (CCJ) for a debt, and
    • You ignored the CCJ or
    • You did not pay the amount the court ordered
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Do the police help bailiffs collect debts?

The police can sometimes help a bailiff do their job.

This is only allowed if:

  • The bailiff is enforcing a High Court writ of control
  • The bailiff applied to the court for a warrant to force entry, and the court agreed the police can attend

The police may attend with a bailiff to make sure there is no disturbance.

They must not side with or help the bailiff.

You could be arrested after a bailiff has listed your goods if you:

  • Hide goods
  • Remove goods
  • Deliberately damage goods
  • Stop bailiffs from taking goods

You or the bailiff can be arrested if:

  • Either of you act in a threatening manner
  • Either of you become aggressive

You cannot be arrested for refusing entry to a bailiff. This is only if they have not already been in and made a list of goods.

Bailiff evictions and house repossession

Bailiffs are often involved in repossessions.

An eviction notice tells anyone living in the property to leave.

At eviction, bailiffs:

  •  Act on behalf of the court
  • Make sure the property returns to the lender

In some cases the landlord can instruct High Court enforcement officers to carry out the eviction.

  • They must give notice of eviction
  • Except when evicting trespassers

Can bailiffs contact me when I'm on an IVA?

Contact your IVA supervisor if:

  •  A bailiff contacts you
  • You get a letter about a County Court judgment (CCJ)

Find out more about being contacted by creditors on an IVA.

Will they be like the bailiffs I have seen on TV?

Dealing with bailiffs is stressful. But TV can make it look worse than it is.

  • Bailiffs have a legal right to break into property for:
    • Business debts
    • Repossession of homes or vehicles
  • For most types of debt, they have no right to break in

In real life, bailiffs spend a lot of their time:

  • Knocking on doors
  • Making payment arrangements

How do I complain about a bailiff?

This depends on the type of debt.

Read our guide to bailiff complaints

We can help with bailiffs

Contact from bailiffs may mean you need debt help.

Take two minutes to answer a few simple questions so we can understand the best way to help you.