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Bailiffs – Your rights explained

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Getting a visit from a bailiff can be an incredibly stressful and difficult situation, even if you’re aware that it’s a possibility for you to receive a visit from a bailiff, it doesn’t make it any easier when you’re actually faced with the reality.

For many of our clients, the thought of a bailiff visiting their home or work premises is excruciating, especially where this may impact your family or employees.  We can support you with this as part of our service and our actions have helped many clients in this situation. 

While in many cases, the bailiffs have the right to come into your home or business premises and take what is owed, it’s also important to be aware of your own rights as well, and you should know what they are and aren’t allowed to do.

What are bailiffs?

A bailiff is someone appointed by either a creditor or the court to retrieve debts on behalf of the aforementioned. Depending on the type of debt that you owe and the severity of the situation, they may have the right to enter your home or business premises to retrieve the debts in the form of monetary payment, or by taking goods from your home or business in substitute of financial payment.

Before letting a bailiff into your home or premises, it’s important to know the difference between the two types of bailiffs; a High Court Enforcement Officer and a debt collector. While both these enforcement agents are considered to be bailiffs, they have to follow different rules when it comes to obtaining any debts that you owe.

What is the difference between a debt collector and a High Court Enforcement Officer?

A High Court Enforcement Officer (HCEO) is appointed by the court and has special authorisation to collect debts such as CCJs, court fees, unpaid council tax, National Insurance, VAT and PAYE.

A debt collector, on the other hand, is someone who is usually employed by a private company and unlike a High Court Enforcement Officer, they have no legal authority or special powers that allows them to collect debt or seize goods from your home without your consent.  Debt Collectors may portray themselves as Enforcement Officers.

While both enforcement agents have slightly different rules they have to follow and varying levels of authority when it comes to retrieving debt, they must both be fully certified with a Bailiff General Certificate from the court or from a private employer which provides them with the power to attempt to collect debt owed to creditors.

What are bailiffs allowed to do?

Depending on whether they’re a HCEO or a debt collector, bailiffs have different rules that they must follow when trying to obtain debt.

Some High Court Enforcement Officers have the right to force entry into your business premises if they believe that there are assets and debts belonging to the creditor inside. They cannot, however, force entry into your home unless they have previously gained access to your residence in a lawful manner. Otherwise, HCEOs can enter your home via an unlocked door or window or if you explicitly invite them inside.

Before the High Court Enforcement Officer attempts to gain entry, you have the right to ask who the creditor is and a breakdown of the full debt that you supposedly owe.

Regular debt collectors have no jurisdiction when it comes to entering your home, so even if they demand to be let inside and be paid, they have no right to demand this over you without sufficient proof and documented evidence provided by the court. You also have the right to tell them to leave if they’re only a debt collector and not an official bailiff or High Court Enforcement Officer.

You can check the bailiff’s identity and authority by:

  • Checking the certificated bailiffs’ register
  • Contacting the court that sent them to your home
  • Checking the directory

If they’re allowed to force entry:

There are several instances where bailiffs have the right to force entry into your home, including:

  • If they are collecting tax that you owe to HM Revenue and Customs.
  • If you were given a fine for not paying your TV licence, for example, they have the right to enter your home and collect unpaid magistrates court fines.

Forced entry, however, doesn’t mean that they have the right to break your door down or smash a window, they are only permitted to use “reasonable force”. They also need to show you proof of who they are and what you owe and they must also provide you with a warrant or a ‘writ’ which is a formal written document from the court detailing your debts.

If they’re not allowed to forced entry:

If a bailiff is collecting almost any other type of debt, they do not have the authority to use forced entry to gain access to your home and obtain the debt. For example, if they are collecting any of the following, they have no jurisdiction of gaining entry to your home:

  • Credit card debts.
  • Unpaid parking tickets.
  • Council tax arrears.
  • Mobile phone company debts.

In these circumstances, you have the right to keep them outside your home and you can even continue talking to them through a closed door; you don’t have to open any doors or windows to communicate with them.

You also have the right to ask for a fully detailed breakdown of any and all debts that you owe and who the creditor is. You can then ask them to pass any necessary documents through your letterbox or underneath your door.

In some cases, the bailiff might demand that you have to let them inside your home or pay the debt that you owe there and then, but you don’t. You have the right to agree to pay the debt and say that you’ll contact someone at their head office.

Summary – your rights against bailiffs

  • Bailiffs are either High Court Enforcement Officers or debt collectors; you should know the difference between the two before you let them into your home or business.
  • They are only allowed to attempt to come into your home or business and collect debt between 6am and 9pm.
  • Keep your doors and windows locked – bailiffs have the authority to enter a home or business with unlocked doors.
  • Always ask to see their credentials such as ID badge or their Bailiff General Certificate.

How can we help you?

For your peace of mind, we change the registered address of your business to the registered address of Future Strategy.

We will let bailiffs know that you intend to cease trading.  This can be a time-consuming, potentially awkward, and complicated process, so we compose and send these letters on your behalf.

We also manage persistent bailiffs by writing to them at each communication and making them aware that your business registered address is the registered address of Future Strategy.

We will provide you with copies of the above documents as well as offer our advice to you throughout the process.

We can talk you through all of your options and find you the right solution

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