Are you worried about bailiffs seizing your possessions?
If you’ve recently received a letter from ‘enforcement agents’ stating their intention to visit your home to collect a payment, you’re likely concerned about what this means for you and your family.
In fact, over 850,000 Brits say they’ve had a bad experience with bailiffs. After all, they’re within their rights to enter your property and seize possessions such as televisions and jewelry.
But no matter how desperate things feel – there is a way to stop bailiff action. Keep reading to find out how you can stop bailiffs gaining access to your property, and even prevent their visits altogether (including writing off your debts).
What is a bailiff?
A bailiff is somebody who has been given special powers by the courts, with the aim of collecting unpaid debts.
They’ll usually arrive at your home or business premises and if you don’t pay immediately, they’ll try to repossess household and business items, as well as vehicles. They’ll then look to sell these items at auction to use towards the money owed.
Note: the information in the rest of this article applies to England and Wales. Dealing with bailiffs in Scotland and the Scottish court service involves different laws and regulations.
Who do bailiffs work for?
A bailiff can either be a court official or work for one of several bailiff companies. They are often referred to as ‘enforcement agents’. In fact, all of the below terms refer to people commonly known as ‘the bailiffs’:
- county court bailiffs and family court bailiffs
- certificated enforcement agents
- high court bailiffs or enforcement officers
- civilian enforcement officers
Each of these work under slightly different criteria and may have different rights. Aside from collecting payment or reclaiming items, a bailiff may also pay you a visit for different reasons – including serving documents or court summons.
Will a bailiff come into my house?
The good news is that they can only visit you after they’ve sent out a ‘notice of enforcement’ letter, which should arrive 7 days before any visit.
If 7 days have not yet passed, we suggest that you contact IVA Advice for immediate bailiff help – you may well be able to stop their visits.
But if you take no action, yes, you should expect bailiffs to come to your house.
What Can Bailiffs Take From Me?
You might be concerned that your possessions are now at risk. It may ease your mind a little to understand the type of items that bailiffs can (and can’t) take…
Bailiffs can take items that are considered to be luxury, non-essential items, for example:
- games consoles
However, they can’t take items that you need for essential living, such as your:
- cooking items, such as cookers, microwaves, fridges or freezers
- work tools and equipment (with a value of £1350 or under)
- other people’s belongings (proof is usually required)
Can a bailiff take my car?
Yes, a bailiff will often try to take your car. However, this is only possible if the car is parked on your own property. If you are expecting a bailiff to attend your property, move your vehicle before they arrive to protect it from repossession.
Can a bailiff take items from my home which aren’t mine?
Bailiffs can’t take someone else’s belongings, such as your partner’s computer. But to stop a bailiff from taking such items, you’ll have to be able to prove that these goods do not belong to you.
Can a bailiff enter my home if I am not there?
If you’re not at home, Bailiffs can only enter your property through an unlocked door – unless it is related to a criminal debt.
There are also some other conditions that bailiffs must legally abide by. For example, they can’t enter your home:
- by force, for example by pushing past you (but see below)
- if only children under 16 are present
- If only vulnerable people (e.g. the elderly or those with disabilities) are present
- between 9 pm and 6 am
- through anything except the door (such as windows)
Can bailiffs force entry into my home?
It is possible, but it’s usually the last resort. However, a bailiff can force entry to your property to enforce court orders, which will likely incur charges (meaning your debt is increased).
This sometimes happens with council tax arrears bailiffs. You check out the linked article for more information on council tax debt, including answers to common questions like ‘can I pay the council instead of the bailiffs?‘
Usually, though, a bailiff’s first visit will see them enter your home and compile a list of your assets that they wish to place under their control – this is known as seizing.
How many times can a bailiff visit?
A bailiff should not visit your house more than 3 times to collect a debt.
1st visit: a note of your seizable assets is taken (a list of the items they wish to claim as repayment)
2nd visit: to collect the debt
3rd visit: a repeat visit if the debt cannot be collected
If you’re not at the property for any of these visits, the number could increase. After these visits, further legal action will be pursued.
Do bailiffs work on weekends?
Yes, most do work weekends.
In fact, this is usually a preferable time. That’s because enforcement agents are aware that many debtors are usually at their property, and not at work.
That said, visits will not take place on a Sunday, or if a Saturday falls on a Bank Holiday (such as Christmas Day).
Can bailiffs enter my parents home?
If they have a court order (warrant) to enter the property, then they can enter your parents’ house. But this would only happen when the address of the credit account was registered to your parents’ address when the debt was taken out.
How to stop bailiffs
The prospect of a bailiff entering your house to seize your belonging is of course, highly concerning.
In fact, it is normal for debt collection to cause stress and anxiety in most people. But you’re not alone, and we suggest that you contact us for free debt advice at this stage. You can get in touch immediately for bailiff help, bailiff advice, or to find out more about your bailiff rights.
However, if a bailiff does arrive, this is how to handle the situation appropriately…
Identify a bailiff
When somebody arrives at your house, you should ask them to show appropriate identification to prove who they are. There are 3 important pieces of information we suggest you look for if a bailiff arrives:
- ID badge or certificate from their enforcement agency (all bailiffs should have a certificate)
- a telephone number from their company – you can ring and check
- a detailed and written breakdown of the money that they claim you owe
If they can’t prove who they are, tell them to leave and don’t communicate with them further. If they don’t leave, you should call the police.
However, even if a bailiff does prove their identity – unless you can immediately pay your debts, we strongly advise that you do not let them into your home.
Can a bailiff refuse a payment plan?
The most effective way to stop visits is by paying your outstanding debts. If you can, great! Pay as soon as possible and make sure to get a receipt for your payment.
Of course, it’s rarely that easy.
Even if you’re able to make partial repayment, this may not be accepted. And although you may feel you truly can make arrangements to pay, creditors will often not accept anything other than full repayment, or repossession.
In fact, a bailiff can legally refuse a payment plan if they are instructed to collect the amount in full only. This is because they’re acting as agents for the creditor, so it’s not in their powers to accept payment plans which do not suit the original lender.
Bailiff only want full payment? Now what?
If a bailiff only wants full payment for a debt that is owed, you will either need to clear the payment in full or enter into a formal arrangement which includes the full amount of the total debt (inclusive of charges).
In other words, if you don’t have the money to pay to stop bailiffs, you’ll need to have an active debt proposal (such as an IVA or bankruptcy).
We Can Help – How to Beat the Bailiffs!
To recap – once a notice of enforcement has been issued you’ve got 7 days to start preventative measures. After this time, bailiffs can legally visit your home/business at any time in the 12 months that follow.
If you’ve received this kind of communication, or have already been visited, then taking swift action is important.
So what can you do?
Don’t think you can simply avoid paying. While an offer to pay can sometimes help, if you can’t make a full payment or agree to an informal plan for repayment, the next stage is to explore formal repayment plans.
While this may sound daunting, it would not only stop future enforcement visits, but also result in you getting a large portion of your debt written off, in the long-term.
One popular way to do this is via an Individual Voluntary Arrangement (IVA).
What is an IVA?
An IVA is a formal debt help solution that helps you to repay your debt through a legal agreement made with your creditors (those you owe money to).
With an IVA, you’ll agree to make a low monthly payment for 5 years (60 months). In return, at the end of the 5 years, your creditors will agree to write off all remaining balances.
Leaving you completely debt-free. Plus when you enter an IVA – all visits will stop.
Benefits of an IVA include:
- becoming completely debt-free
- getting your debt written off
- your creditors will not be allowed to contact you
- one low payment
- protection of your house and car
- no stigma of bankruptcy
- keeping your pension
- all debt interest and charges will stop
Sound good? Then get started immediately…
Get Started for FREE – IVA Calculator
Worried about debt that’s been passed onto bailiffs? If you can’t repay what you owe, it may be time to seek formal help with your finances.
Use our free IVA calculator and after answering a few simple questions, we’ll guide you towards getting your finances on the upswing, and help make bailiff visits a thing of the past.
Get started today to stop bailiffs from visiting your home.
Here is a recent and up-to-date list of high court bailiffs that have approved IVA proposals: