Bailiffs (also known as Enforcement Officers)
(for action which began after 6 April 2014 - does not include evictions)
Why is a bailiff coming?
If you owe money, one of the ways your creditors might try to get their money back is by using bailiffs. Bailiffs are used to take your goods away and sell them to raise money to pay your creditors.
A creditor (the person or company to whom money is owing) must send you a warning letter before sending bailiffs. Contact your creditor to see if you can make an arrangement to pay your debt in instalments. If you ignore the letter, the bailiffs may be given permission to come to your home. If you receive a Notice of Enforcement, it means a bailiff is definitely coming but this gives you at least seven days' notice. If you can pay the money you owe, contact your creditor, pay the debt then the bailiff won't come. Fees will be added to your debt if you ignore the notice and the bailiff calls.
Do you have to let the bailiff in?
You don't have to let the bailiff in - no matter what they tell you.
If you want to keep a bailiff out:
- Don't open the door to a bailiff
- If you don't know who's at the door, ask who it is before you open it
- Tell everyone in the house not to open the door unless it's someone they know
- If you want to speak to the bailiff, go outside or talk through an open window
- Ask the bailiff to leave and say you will contact the creditor directly
The bailiff can't:
- Come into your home if only children or vulnerable people are there
- Visit you between 9pm and 6am
- Get in through any way except the door
- Push past you or jam their foot in the door
- In a small number of situations bailiffs might be allowed to force their way in for unpaid criminal fines, stamp duty or income tax, but only as a last resort.
What can bailiffs take?
If you let a bailiff into your home, they may take some of your belongings to sell.
Bailiffs can take:
- Luxury items, such as a TV or games console
- Vehicles, such as cars and motorbikes but only from your premises, driveway or the street
- Things you own jointly with someone else
- Jewellery and antiques
Bailiffs can't take:
- Things you need, such as your clothes, cooker, furniture and work equipment
- Items that aren't yours, such as your partner's computer
- Anything belonging to a child, such as toys
Can you negotiate with the bailiffs?
Yes. If you can successfully agree a payment plan with the bailiff, it will mean you don't need to lose your belongings and will pay less in fees. Offer only what you can afford to pay in weekly or monthly payments. If you give the bailiff any money, get a receipt for the payment.
If the bailiff agrees to your offer, you'll probably have to sign a controlled goods agreement. This is a list of the items they'll take away and sell if you don't keep up with the agreed payments. You mustn't sell or give away any of the items on the list while you're making the payments.
Problems negotiating with bailiffs
It can be difficult to get hold of the bailiffs and even if you do, they may not be interested in making a payment arrangement with you. If you're having problems negotiating with a bailiff, contact your creditor. They may agree to call the bailiffs off if you come to a payment arrangement directly, although you'll still be responsible for paying the bailiffs' fees for the action they've taken so far.