Bailiff Information

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Bailiffs appearing on your doorstep to recover a debt can be a scary and daunting experience. Knowing your rights will go a long way to help you deal with the situation. Remember, bailiffs have limited powers and MUST adhere to the laws that govern them.

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If you are in debt it is possible that you will be contacted by a debt enforcement officer, or as they are more commonly known as, a bailiff. We explain below what you need to know if you receive a call from a bailiff.

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row 0=””][vc_column 0=””][vc_column_text 0=””]What is a bailiff?


A bailiff is an individual who is legally authorised to recover an outstanding debt. Bailiffs will contact you directly to ask for payment of the debt.


They cannot legally enter your home unless you invite them in or they have a warrant to do so.


If they gain entry to your home they may seize your belongings to raise the money to pay the debt if you can’t afford to pay it.


When do bailiffs visit your home?


You should not get an unexpected visit from the bailiffs.


Bailiffs need to provide you with at least 7 days’ notice of their first visit. You should have also received a final demand, which will have warned you of court action or the use of bailiffs. These should both come in the post.


Bailiffs DO NOT collect debts, such as payday loans, credit cards or overdrafts unless the creditor has taken you to court and got a County Court Judgment (CCJ) and you have failed to pay it.


If bailiffs visit you and you haven’t received any prior warning you should politely inform them of this fact and ask them to contact their advisors.


What debts do bailiffs collect?


Council Tax Arrears

Parking Fine

Court Fine

County Court Judgement (CCJ) (can be suspended by court)

Family Court Judgement (FCJ)

High Court Judgement

Magistrates’ Court Fine

Child Support


Compensation Order

Income Tax, National Insurance and VAT

Business Rent


What bailiffs can and cannot do


If your doors are locked, a bailiff cannot legally enter your home unless you invite them in. However, they can gain entry to your property if they find an unlocked back door, garage or shed, so keep them locked if you’re expecting a call.


In extreme circumstances a bailiff may receive permission from the court to use reasonable force, although it is quite rare for this to happen. Reasonable force allows a bailiff to force a door or gate open, cut through a padlock and chain or break down a vehicle barrier.


Bailiffs CAN:


Stay in the house for as long as they require once they have gained entry.

Seize control of your belongings (they list them and you cannot then dispose of them yourself) and return at a later date to take them away (with a valid Notice of Intention to Re-enter). The notice of intention must give you at least two days clear notice and be signed by the bailiff.

Enter your house through a connecting door if they have acquired entry through an unlocked garage or building.

Force entry into your home if they have a warrant to do so. This is very unusual and only usually for unpaid VAT, TAX and unpaid criminal charges. The warrant would need to be signed by an actual Judge.

Enter the main entrance to your block of flats by peaceful means (not forceful) if the door to your flat is locked they must then have your permission to enter (if they don’t have a reasonable force warrant).

Enter your property if they’ve been invited by a house or flat mate over the age of 16.


Bailiffs CANNOT:


Enter your house between 9pm and 6am

Climb over any walls, fences or in through any windows

Enter premises where only a child (under 16) or a vulnerable person (this may include: single parent/elderly/disabled/seriously ill) is present

Force their way past you if you answer the door to them


What bailiffs can and cannot seize


Bailiffs CAN seize:


Luxury items such as TVs, cars, bikes and games consoles

Jointly owned items in the home or flat

Goods which were bought with personal loans

Any cash, cheques, bonds, stocks, shares, and pawn tickets that belong to you

Vehicle owned by you and kept at your home, business or public highway


Bailiffs CANNOT seize:


Someone else’s belongings

Items you need for work or study such as tools, books or computer equipment up to the value of £1,350 (business rate debt is not covered by this clause)

Things you need for basic domestic needs (clothes/cooker/fridge/furniture/work tools, etc.)

Anything that belongs to a child

Goods currently being paid for on hire purchase

Goods which also act as your home such as a houseboat, static caravan, campervan or tent

A vehicle which is used for police, fire or ambulance work

A vehicle parked on private land that is not your home or business


What is a walking possession agreement?


Walking possession agreements are now called controlled goods agreements. Bailiffs can take goods immediately if you grant peaceful entry into your home, but usually they will not, as long as you make an agreement with the bailiff to repay the debt in instalments.


The controlled goods agreement allows a bailiff to take control of your goods by making a list of what can be taken. Provided your payments are paid as agreed and on time, the goods will be left in your possession whilst the debt is being repaid.


Be aware that any missed or late payment will break the agreement, so it is vital that you only agree to pay what you can afford and when you can afford it. Also be aware that any vehicle you own, if parked on your own drive or the public highway, may be seized without peaceful entry having been granted.


What can bailiffs charge?


If you get letters informing you of a coming visit you should contact your creditor to try to organise payment of the debt to avoid further costs. If you allow bailiffs to be summoned to you, you must pay the following additional fees:


Fixed fees (if you owe less than £1,500):


£75 when the case is sent to bailiffs

£235 if their letter is ignored and they have to visit you

£110 if they have to take your goods and sell them at an auction

Additional action fees (storing goods/using locksmith)


If you owe more than £1,500 you have to pay a percentage of your debt each time the bailiffs visit your home.


How to deal with a bailiff visit


If you are aware of an impending visit you may wish to make sure you let everyone in the house know to avoid any confusion. You may also find it comforting to have a member of your family or a friend with you when the bailiffs come.


If you cannot afford to pay your debt you do not legally have to co-operate with bailiffs but this may cause problems, such as court action further down the line, so it is well worth co-operating.


If you don’t let them in they may try to seize your belongings from outside of your house, such as your car or motorbike. They may also return for a second time to try again.


If the bailiff cannot get payment, get into your house or seize any goods from outside your house they may refer your debt back to your creditor. Your creditor may then take court action, make you bankrupt, or in extreme cases, file for imprisonment.


Complaining about bailiffs


You can complain about a bailiff if they:


Threaten or harass you

Gained entry forcefully or illegally

Failed to show the correct documents

Try to charge you incorrect fees

Seized the wrong goods


You may be able to get a refund of fees or your goods returned if a bailiff has broken the rules, so make sure you keep a detailed record of the times and dates of any incidents that occur.


In most cases the bailiff who will visit you will be employed by a private firm, even if the debt you have is a government or council debt. If you wish to complain you must go to the company the bailiff works for or the people you owe money to.


Bailiffs and your debts


Having knowledge about what bailiffs can and cannot do can make all the difference when dealing with them. It can change a stressful situation into a straightforward and clear resolution. However, it is important to seek advice.


Finding out as much information as possible will help, but seeking advice for your own individual circumstances could be the turning point to a debt free future.


If you want to discuss your situation, unsure about how to deal with bailiffs or want to talk about your debts, please fill in our contact form and one of our advisors will call you back, alternatively you can email us direct at