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Dealing with Bailiffs

What can I do if I receive a notice to say a bailiff is coming to my house?

If you think that bailiffs may call at your house, be aware that you do not have to let them in. However, if you leave any doors or windows open they have the right to enter through them. Once they have gained entry they may also force entry to any other parts of the premises. However, if you do refuse to let them in then they will be sure to return at some other time and the problem will not go away. In the long term you need to seek help from one of the agencies listed below.

What can I do if I receive a notice to say a bailiff is coming to my house?

If you have received notification to say a bailiff is going to call at your house, you may be able to negotiate with them or the lender (creditor).

You may also be able to make an application to the court to suspend the bailiff's action. Your local CAB or an advice agency will be able to advise you on how this can be done. If you cannot suspend the bailiff's action, it may not be too late to make an offer to the bailiff to repay the debt over a period of time.

If you cannot afford to make the bailiff an offer, your local CAB may be able to help by negotiating with the bailiff on your behalf. When you seek advice make sure you have all the necessary papers left by the bailiff.

If you know a bailiff is going to call, try to have a witness there and make sure you note down everything the bailiff says or any of the powers they claim to have.

Read on for a fuller and deeper insight on bailiffs.

A visit from a bailiff can be a frightening and stressful experience. This page explains what a bailiff can and cannot do when they call at your home.

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How do I deal with a bailiff at my door?

The bailiff can call at your house at any reasonable time to seize goods, but you do not have to let them in.
The bailiff cannot enter your house by force, but they can legally enter your property through open windows or unlocked doors, so make sure all your doors and windows are locked or closed!

Once the bailiff has been inside your house by entering peacefully, they can call again at a later date and enter your house without your permission, forcefully, to remove your goods.

When seizing goods the bailiff must leave the premises safe.
When in your house the bailiff has the right of access to all rooms and can force their way into other parts of the property.

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Which goods can a bailiff take?

There are some exceptions to what the bailiff can take from your home:-

A bailiff acting on a County Court Judgment cannot seize clothing, bedding, furniture, household equipment or other goods necessary to meet basic domestic needs.

Generally, no bailiff can seize tools, books, vehicles or other equipment necessary for personal use in employment or business. However, a bailiff acting for Poll Tax, Council Tax, VAT and Tax may be able to do so.

No bailiff can seize goods belonging to anyone other than the person named on the distress warrant.

A bailiff cannot seize goods subject to a hire purchase or rental agreement (goods on credit sale can be seized because they belong to the person).

Goods you own jointly with someone else can be taken.

The bailiff may take the goods away immediately, but what will usually happen is that the bailiff and the debtor will come to an agreement known as a "walking possession agreement". This means that the debtor has agreed to pay the bailiff a maximum of 45pence plus VAT per day for the continued use of the goods. This is not permanent and will only give the debtor a few days to try and re-negotiate with the court. If a bailiff has gained entry and the debtor does not want the goods to be removed immediately, this agreement has to be signed.

Goods seized by the bailiff must be put into auction to be sold, the bailiff is under a legal obligation to obtain the best price possible. As the goods are second-hand, the value of the goods are only a fraction of what their new value was. A bailiff will often identify many more goods than you might expect.

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Your rights

You cannot be sent to prision for not co-operating with a bailiff. You do not have to let them into your house. You should seek advice as soon as possible.

A bailiff must not threaten you illegally, force entry to your home or use offensive language. If you are concerned about a bailiff's behaviour, you can complain either to the creditor or to the court that sent them.

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Types of bailiff

A bailiff is someone who is instructed:-
by a creditor to enforce a money debt or a fine
by a landlord to carry out an eviction
by a creditor to repossess goods under hire purchase or a conditional sale agreement
to enforce an injunction

A bailiff has legal authority to carry out these actions. A bailiff can enter your home and take away possessions which, when sold off, will go towards repaying the money owed.

There are three different kinds of bailiffs: County Court bailiffs, Sheriff's Officers and private bailiffs.

County Court bailiffs are directly employed by the County Court and must follow guidelines laid down by the Lord Chancellor's Department.

Sheriff's Officers are contracted by the High Court and work in geographical county areas. They work out of the local Sheriff's Office under the control of an Under- Sheriff who is usually responsible for that area. If a creditor has a CCJ of more than £600 they can transfer the judgement up to the High Court for enforcement.

Private bailiffs are self-employed, employed by a private firm, or employed as bailiffs by another organisation (e.g Local Authority, Inland Revenue).

Certificated bailiffs are granted a certificate following an application to a County Court. Certification is only necessary to empower a bailiff to levy distress for rent arrears and council tax arrears and to enforce road traffic debts, although some local authorities will insist on this for all bailiff work.

To be granted a certificate a bailiff must:-
1) Satisfy the court that s/he is a 'fit and proper person' to hold a certificate and possesses sufficiant knowledge of the law of distress; and
2) Lodge in court a bond or deposit for £10,000 or have an insurance indemnity for this amount. A new security must be provided if the old security runs out or is reduced.

For more information on bailiffs contact your local CAB -
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