What can bailiffs do?
Bailiffs can only visit you after they’ve sent you a letter to let you know they’ll be coming. This letter is called a notice of enforcement and should be received seven clear days before the visit. Allowing for weekends, this means you should have a minimum 9-10 days’ to either pay the debt in full or come to an arrangement to repay the debt in instalments. If you don’t do this, the bailiff will visit.
A bailiff can only enter your house through a door and in a peaceful way with your permission. They’ve got to let you know who they are and why they’re there. Bailiffs can’t use force to enter your home or break down your doors. They can’t push past you to get in either, or enter the home if there’s only a child under the age of 16 there.
Once they’re in the property, they can begin making a list of goods which they could later remove to sell at auction.
For most types of debts, bailiffs can’t force their way in to your home and in most cases we recommend that you don’t let them in.
However, if a bailiff is collecting a criminal fine they can use force to enter your home. This will only be done as a last resort and this power is very rarely used – bailiffs only forced entry on a first visit four times in the whole country between April 2014 and December 2015.
Bailiffs from HM Revenue & Customs can also use force when collecting some tax debts, but they need a court’s permission and again, this is very rarely used.
Bailiffs collecting debts at business premises have wider powers to force entry, so if you’re self-employed and own a shop or workshop, they may be able to break in.
If there’s a bailiff at your door you can lock the door and talk to them through the letterbox or an upstairs window if you’d prefer.
If a bailiff comes into your home they’ll usually make a list of anything of value you have that could be sold to pay off the debts. You can find out what bailiffs can take from your home here. They don’t normally take the items straight away, and will give you the chance to make payments towards the debt in what’s called a ‘controlled goods agreement’.
If you don’t make the payments agreed, the bailiffs can return to take the goods they’ve listed. These will then be sold to raise money to pay towards the debt. It’s important to mention that if a bailiff has already been into your home and made a list of goods they can use force to enter on their next visit.
What can debt collectors do?
Debt collectors don’t have any special powers that can help them to collect a debt.
You might find that they contact you through phone calls and letters however in some cases they may visit your home too.
If a debt collector shows up at your house you don’t have to open the door to them or let them in. If you ask them to leave, they have to go, and they can’t take anything from your home either.
If you talk to the debt collector, they need to show you ID if you ask. They may ask you to make payments to the debt there and then however you don’t have to do this. You can do this over the phone with your creditor directly if you’d prefer, so you have control over the amount you can offer to pay.
If you do make a cash payment to a debt collector, make sure you get a receipt and keep hold of it.