Having the bailiffs at your door is a stressful experience, especially if you don’t know your rights. The rules around bailiff powers are complex and it’s vital you know what bailiffs can and cannot do, so you aren’t treated unfairly or unlawfully.
Here are our top tips if a bailiff has been in contact.
Don’t panic. You may still have time to deal with your debts before the bailiff comes to your house, as long as you act quickly.
Don’t ignore the situation. Citizens Advice helps thousands of people deal with bailiff issues every year, if you are struggling to pay or are worried, contact your local bureau or get advice from www.citizensadvice.org.uk.
You can tell the bailiff and the creditor if you are taking advice, and ask for breathing space to get advice. It is worth letting them know, even though they don't have to agree to give you more time.
It is important that you know what the bailiffs you are dealing with are allowed to do. An adviser can explain this to you. If you are vulnerable ie if it would be unreasonable to expect you to be able to deal with a problem yourself (which might include anyone who is elderly, pregnant, a single parent with young children in the house, disabled, seriously ill, recently bereaved, unemployed or has difficulty understanding written and spoken English) there are strict rules on what actions they can take.
If they haven’t been inside your home before, most bailiffs, including those enforcing council tax, can only get in if you let them.
Some bailiffs (such as those collecting unpaid fines issued by magistrates' courts or the Crown Court or for income tax, VAT or national insurance) may be allowed to force their way into your home, although they will hardly ever do this.
If a bailiff is able to enter your home through an open door or window, this is viewed as you letting them in, so make sure you keep doors and windows shut and locked at all times.
The bailiffs will usually charge you fees for coming to your property and your debt could just get bigger if you ignore them. If you let the bailiff in or they gain access to your goods, they can charge fees for this and more fees if they remove items.
An adviser can help you to check what the bailiff is allowed to take and the bailiff's fees. The fee system is different depending on the type of debt and bailiffs don't always explain what the fees are or charge the correct amount.