Bailiffs- what are my rights?
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Bailiffs- what are my rights?

Last Updated: Sunday 17th March, 2013

Dealing with bailiffs is a tricky business, and you are advised to consult a specialist advisor for further details of your rights and the law. Essentially, bailiffs may be called in if you owe a person or an organisation money, and have not made steps to repay it (for example, entering into a formal IVA process for problem debts.)

Bailiffs may be used to collect items in your house which can then be sold to clear your outstanding debt to the hiring creditor. Bailiffs can take non essential items only such as TV's, laptops, cars in unlocked sheds etc. They can't take essentials like bedding, fridges, basic furniture, clothes and tools used for your job.

For this to happen the creditor will have to first make a claim against you in a County Court - seeking a County Court Judgement, or CCJ, against you, formally stating that you are obliged to repay the debt. The creditor can at this stage ask the County Court to issue an additional warrant of execution, which allows the creditor to call in a bailiff to assist with debt recovery.

Bear in mind too, that the HM Revenue and Customers, and your Local Authority may also use bailiffs to collect outstanding debts if you owe tax or council tax.

To avoid a visit from the bailiffs, you need to take speedy action. If you've had a CCJ and Warrant of Execution made against you, then you can try to avert the bailiff's by filling in a form - N245 at the County Court, with a formal offer to repay the outstanding debt (eg: in installments) - but make sure it's an offer you are confident you can keep to, otherwise you will find yourself in further difficulties. If the creditor accepts the terms suggested in this offer, they will suspend the collections warrant as long as you stick to the agreed payment plan.

If however, your creditors don't accept the deal, then you should consider the following points:

  1. If bailiffs come to your home, you aren't obliged to let them in.
  2. Neither can they force their way into your house on a first visit, although be aware that they are allowed to enter through unlocked doors or open windows.
  3. Forced entry on the first visit is illegal - this would include them forcing their way in once you've opened the door, or putting their foot in it to prevent you shutting the door. Call the police if this applies - it's illegal.

There are exceptions however- bailiffs from the HMRC are legally allowed to break into your home if they have a court warrant. Bailiffs collecting unpaid court fees are also allowed to force their way in. In these situations you're advised to negotiate to pay all or some of the debt immediately to the bailiff so they can leave without seizing any items. Make sure you get a receipt however! Bear in mind too that bailiff fees and expenses for any extra visits will probably be added to your outstanding debts - ask for details of them and dispute them if they appear to be excessive. Always seek advice from an independent organisation.


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