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Bailiff Powers

Bailiff Powers and Your Rights

This section explains bailiff powers and your rights when bailiffs visit your home. Check how UK law protects you and your property if an enforcement officer knocks on your door.

YOUR RIGHTS BAILIFFS: What to do if a bailiff comes to your door? Failing to pay certain debts can result in a home visit from a bailiff or enforcement agent.

It happens most often when people ignore letters sent to them saying 'bailiffs will get used'.

UK courts often use bailiffs. They get sent to collect Council Tax arrears, parking fines, and various other court fines.

County court or family court judgments also get the same type of bailiff debt collection.

Important Information iconYou can get arrested for failing to pay criminal debts (e.g. fines and penalty notices).

Bailiff powers and your rights extend to several other reasons for a visit to your home. Typical examples include serving court documents or giving out notices and court summons.

There are four different types of bailiffs in the United Kingdom, known as:

Note: As a general rule, bailiffs must provide you with at least 7 days' advance notice of their first visit. Refer to the sheriff officer powers when they visit your home or business if you are in Scotland.

Paying a Debt Before Bailiffs Visit

There is a way to stop a bailiff visiting your home to collect a debt. Paying the money that's owed will stop the process. You may need to seek advice about how to pay off a debt.

Contact the person or company you owe money to without delay. They may be able to help you find a solution to paying off the debt before the bailiffs arrive.

How to Deal with Bailiffs

In most cases, the law does not force you to open your door to a bailiff or to let them come inside your property. Bailiff powers do not allow them to enter a home:

Important Information iconException: Bailiffs can force their way into a home to collect unpaid Income Tax, criminal fines, or Stamp Duty. But, this can only take place as a last resort.

Bailiff Powers and Your Rights in the United KingdomThere are some consequences of not letting a bailiff in your home or not agreeing to pay them. In situations such as these, bailiffs can:

What happens if you let a bailiff inside your home but do not pay the debt? In this case bailiffs have the power to take some of your personal belongings. They can then sell the items to pay off your debts and cover their fees.

How to Check the Identity of a Bailiff

You should always check the identity of a bailiff before letting them inside your home. Before they take any of your things, or you make a payment, ask them to show you:

You should always ask for proof of a bailiff's identity. You can also ask them for their authorisation even on repeat visits. Get them to put the proof through your letterbox or ask them to show it at your window.

As a rule, all bailiffs must carry their certificate with them. Some exceptions apply for those who are exempt. The same exception applies for bailiffs accompanying another who has their certificate.

Important Information iconClaiming to be a bailiff if you are not is committing fraud in the United Kingdom. In some cases, you can contact the court that sent them to check.

How to Pay a Bailiff: Your Rights

  1. The law allows you to pay the money to the bailiff on the doorstep. Thus, there is no requirement to let them inside your home.
  2. After paying the bailiff always get a receipt to prove you made the payment.
  3. If you can only make a part payment, ask the bailiff for options of how you could repay the balance.

Note: You can make an offer to pay what you can afford. That could be in weekly or monthly installments. But, the bailiff can choose to refuse your offer of paying by installments.

What Can Bailiffs Take and Not Take?

Bailiffs can only take belongings from your home if you let them inside. But, if you do let a bailiff in, they can take some of your personal items to sell off. As a rule, they can take 'luxury items' (e.g. a games console, golf clubs, or a television).

But, bailiffs cannot take:

Note: You will need to prove that the goods belong to someone else if they are not your goods. Even so, you can make a complaint about a bailiff's conduct if you feel they broke the rules.

What Fees Can Bailiffs Charge?

Bailiffs charge various fees when they act against people with debt. The amount charged varies with each of the three stages in any given situation. But, some bailiffs also charge Value Added Tax on top of their bill (e.g. high court enforcement officers).

Free Advice about Bailiff Powers and Your Rights

Some organisations offer free help and advice for people dealing with bailiffs. They include the National Debtline and the Money Advice Service.

Bailiff Powers When They Visit Your Home in the United Kingdom