Bailiffs & Enforcement Agents/Officers

New rules for bailiffs now in force

On 6th April 2014 the rules about how bailiffs must behave and the fees they can charge changed.

The information on this page has been updated accordingly.

If you are struggling to meet or are falling behind with payments to creditors and getting into debt you need to take early steps to deal with these issues. Failure to deal with your creditors and debts could eventually result in bailiffs being instructed to act against you. Bailiff action, which could include home visits, can be a stressful and upsetting experience. Bailiff action can result in extra charges and fees. The bottom line is not to ignore the situation.

What is a bailiff?

A bailiff can either be a court official or employed by a private firm. They are also called Enforcement Agents and any paperwork you receive from a bailiff will use this term. A bailiff is someone who has the legal power to collect certain debts. Bailiffs may exercise their legal powers by asking you to pay what you owe or by taking your goods with the intention of selling them to raise money towards your debts and their charges / fees.

Bailiff fees and charges

You may incur fees and charges as a result of bailiffs being instructed to collect debts from you. Bailiffs are allowed to charge a fee for each stage of action they take against you. There are three separate stages of action, these are compliance, enforcement and sale. You can check that any charges are correct and challenge them if you think they are wrong.

Stopping bailiff action liability and payment negotiation

If bailiff action has started you will need to address the situation and check you are liable for the debt. You may need to make an arrangement to pay what you owe. Bailiffs and your creditors may be prepared to take part in reasonable negotiation. You may need to apply to the court to suspend a warrant to avoid your goods being taken.

What can the bailiffs take?

They can take non-essential items such as televisions and possessions outside your home or in unlocked garages or sheds (e.g. cars and garden items).

Bailiffs should not take essentials such as clothing, bedding, fridges, cookers, most furniture and the 'tools of your trade' (e.g. a computer you use for work).

County Court Judgments (CCJs)

If a creditor has obtained a County Court Judgment against you and you do not make and maintain payments as ordered your creditor may take enforcement action. To do this your creditor would have to obtain another court order. One of the enforcement options being to send bailiffs to your home to take your goods. You may be able to stop or suspend bailiff action by applying to the court.

Council Tax

If you are in arrears with your council tax or business rates and a Liability Order has been obtained through the Magistrates Court this gives the Local Authority concerned numerous enforcement options one of which is to involve bailiffs to recover any monies owed to them.

Magistrates Court Fines

If you have been fined for a criminal offence the court can send private bailiffs if any agreed payments are not kept up and will usually try to recover the fine as a lump sum. They have the power to gain initial entry to your home by force (though they should only do this as a last resort).

Mortgage and Rent Arrears (eviction)

If you fall behind with your mortgage or rent payments and your lender / landlord has obtained an eviction warrant the bailiffs will attend on the given time and date to evict you and secure the property. To make an application to stop or suspend an eviction warrant you will need to complete an N244 form outlining your proposals and reasons and take this to the relevant court within the specified time limits (eviction date). You should then be given a hearing to state your case.

How to complain about a bailiff

If you wish to make a complaint about a bailiff you should first complain to the bailiff firm by following their complaints procedure. This should be done in writing.

If the bailiff firm does not respond to you positively, you may have the option of taking your complaint further by referring the complaint to the relevant bailiff trade association. You could also complain to an ombudsman service if your creditor is a local council or the HMRC.

Information links and fact sheets on bailiffs / enforcement officers

Bailiff / Enforcement Officer Services

A selection of bailiff company websites (information & insight)

Online Forums

Forums can be useful for asking questions and also seeing that other people are going through the same things as you.

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