Nicholas’ fight with a debt collection agency hit a new turn when he received a letter from his creditors, threatening to send someone out to his house to collect my good and assets.
Not only was shocked, but he was frightened by the thought of his kids having to see most of their stuff being taken away. He didn’t really know how to react, whether to call the police or run away?
Its only when the creditors started brandishing court orders to his home, did he really understand bailiffs and what they could do, but by then, it was already too late.
A bailiff is someone who has the legal power to recover debts on behalf of creditors.
They can do this by asking you to pay what you owe, or by seizing some of your assets to sell, in order to pay off your debts. They can be instructed by courts, or appointed by a private firm. Creditors normally turn to bailiffs only when they have tried all other recovery options.
Bailiffs are responsible for collecting unpaid debts in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland. If you live in Scotland, Sheriff Officers will carry out this function.
A bailiff (‘enforcement agent’) may visit your home if you do not pay your debts – such as Council Tax bills, parking fines, court fines, and county court or family court judgments.
- 1 What Debts do They Collect?
- 2 Difference between Bailiffs and Debt Collectors
- 3 Dealing with Bailiff’s
- 4 What Can Bailiffs Take?
- 5 They Cannot Take:
What Debts do They Collect?
Bailiffs can’t collect Consumer Credit Act-regulated debts like payday loans, credit cards or overdrafts unless:
- The creditor has taken you to court and obtained a County Court judgment (CCJ)
- You ignored the CCJ or didn’t pay the amount the court ordered
As well as unpaid CCJs, bailiffs collect several other types of debt, including:
- Council tax arrears
- Child maintenance arrears
- Criminal Fines
- Parking penalties issued by a local authority
- Tax and National Insurance arrears if you’re self-employ
Different Kinds of Bailiff Agents
Its highly imperative that people should know that a bailiff may visit you for some other reason. For example, to serve court documents or give notices and summons.
There are different kinds of bailiffs, known as:
- ‘certificated enforcement agents’
- ‘high court enforcement officers’
- ‘county court and family court bailiffs’
- ‘civilian enforcement officers’
Difference between Bailiffs and Debt Collectors
It is very critical that people differentiate the main difference between bailiffs and debt collectors. Debt collectors do not have the same power as bailiff officers or sheriff officers in Scotland.
They are only supposed to visit your home, request payment, and negotiate on how your pay arrangements should be put up. They are, however, not allowed to seize any of your assets, or force entry into your home, under any circumstances.
It’s also worthwhile to note that no debt collector could claim to be at the same time, a bailiff advice officer, and doing so, warrants a visit by the men in blue.
Yes, bailiffs’ do have more responsibilities than debt collectors, this however does not give them the free fall to do whatever they wish, instead they are required some strict set of rules set to them.
As of 2007, the powers which bailiffs possess have been brought under tighter control. This means they can no longer enter properties when only children under the age of 16 are at home, enter by any means other than a door, seize essential items, or carry out their visits in the middle of the night.
In addition, bailiffs are now banned from using physical force against the people they visit. They are also required to undergo mandatory training before they begin to work.
When Bailiffs visit, They Must:
- Identify themselves
- Declare the purpose of their visit and for whom they are acting
- Ask your permission to enter
When bailiffs visit, they must not:
- Enter your home without permission
- Force entry – unless collecting a criminal fine, tax, or to remove goods following the breach of a Controlled Goods Agreement
- Force entry on their first visit
- Force entry without the correct warrant (Usually a Magistrates Court Warrant)
- Enter your home if the only person at home is aged 16 or under
- Enter your home if the only person at home is disabled
- Enter through any means other than the door
- Visit your property between the hours of 9 pm and 6 am, or on public holidays
Bailiff Identification Documents May Include:
- Proof of their identities, such as a badge, ID card or enforcement agent certificate
- Which company they are acting on behalf
- Their cell number or their company’s contact details
- A clearly show a breakdown of what is owned by your lenders
Identification shouldn’t be a one-time concern, and legally you are, covered even if you ask for the second day, an agent’s verification papers.
Also, you do not need to let them in, a smart move is usually to ask them to put it through the letterbox or just show their documentation through the window.
All bailiffs must have a certificate unless they are exempt or they are with someone who does have a certificate.
It’s illegal and considered fraud for anyone, claiming to be a bailiff agent on false pretense.
To check a bailiff’s identity, find out what kind of bailiff they are from their proof of identity and then:
- Check the register of certificated bailiffs if they say they’re a certificated enforcement agent (contact the county court business center if you have a question)
- Check the list if they say they’re a high court enforcement officer
- Contact the court that sent them if they say they’re a county court bailiff, family court bailiff or a civilian enforcement officer
Can the Police get involved with Bailiffs?
Law enforcement agencies have limited role in the bailiff’s activities. They are only called in under rare circumstances and conditions such as:
- The bailiff is enforcing a High Court writ of control
- The agent is in possession of a court warrant, for force entry and has asked successfully requested and granted for police help during this period.
These are the only accepted terms for the police to be involved with the bailiff’s agent, contrary to this, the police would be breaking the law. Depending on the circumstances and environment, the police may tag along with the agent, to ensure there’s no disturbances from members of the public.
Immediately a bailiff has taken possession of your assets and made a list of them, then they are his henceforth.
Your also not allowed to act in any aggressive, or intimidating manner to the bailiff. This also applies to the bailiff, if he uses any on you. The whole process should be as less violent, and civilized as possible. You can also be arrested if you ‘obstruct’ a bailiff, for example by physically stopping them from removing goods.
You can’t be arrested for refusing entry to a bailiff if they have not already been in and made a list of goods.
Dealing with Bailiff’s
If the bailiffs are already in your property for the first time, then they are a few recommendations, these recommendations include:
- Don’t grant them access – enquire for their verification papers, first and their company’s verification.
- Protect your belongings. Enforcement officers have the right to remove goods they have access to. If you know a bailiff is coming, be considerate of this in terms of anything kept outdoors, i.e. vehicles.
- Don’t sign anything.
- Call any debt management companies or non-for-profits for advise and enquiries on your options
What Happens when Bailiffs gain Peaceful Entry?
If you peacefully grant access entry to your property, you have to note that their rights change drastically. Once they are in your property, they are required and allowed by law, to have access to all rooms in your house, document your assets and note what is going to be taken away.
Once inside your property, a bailiff will need to enquire from you, to clearly state which items you possess, and ones that don’t belong to you. If somehow he doubts your assessments of some of the assets, he may require to be presented with ownership documents such as receipts or invoices. If you can’t present these, or you’re not in possession of the ownership documents, he may decide to seize the assets.
One of the advantages of peaceful entry is that the bailiff won’t take any your items or seize your assets. Whoever, since you have already granted then first entry, then they are permitted to return to your property in order to sell it, with its assets.
Therefore, its highly advisable that you fully understand the implications of your actions, your rights and what the bailiff can or can’t do before giving them access to your property and asset.
When bailiffs document your assets, this is part of a Controlled Goods Agreement. This is an agreement made between you and your creditor, that should you fail to keep up with an agreed-upon repayment schedule, they are entitled to send a bailiff to seize the goods listed.
What Can Bailiffs Take?
Majority of bailiff try first to establish a controlled Goods agreement, instead of seizing your assets immediately they gain entry in your house.
Bailiffs can take luxury items such as:
- Gaming consoles
Bailiffs cannot take necessities such as:
- White goods such as fridges, freezers or washing machines
- Work/study tools and equipment with a combined value of less than £1,350
- Pets or service animals
- Fixtures and fittings
- Children’s toys
They Cannot Take:
- Essential things that you may need to live daily, such as clothes, kitchen utensils and equipment’s for food preparation
- Work or tradesman tools, which are necessary for a trades job. He should also not take them, if their combined worth, is less than £1,350
- Things owned by anyone else apart from you, e.g. Your wife/husbands house computer
Proof of ownership such as receipts will have to be produced, to prove a commodity does not belong to you
Can a Bailiff take my Car?
Cars are something of a special case, and can only be seized by bailiffs under certain circumstances. It should be noted that even if a bailiff is not granted entry to your home. They will still be able to clamp or seize your car if it is parked at your home, business, or on a public road.
If you think your car is in danger from bailiffs, you can move it elsewhere, or keep it in a locked garage to prevent them from taking it when you are not home. Bailiffs cannot seize or clamp your car if:
- You hold a blue disability badge
- The car is on finance
- The car is essential for your job, and worth no more than £1,350
- The vehicle is your main home (a camper van or houseboat, for instance)
Under any other circumstances, bailiffs can take your car and sell it to pay off your debts.
Will they be like the bailiffs I’ve seen on TV?
Documentaries about bailiffs often focus on business debts or repossessions of homes or vehicles. This is because they have a legal right to break into property in these cases. For most types of debt, they don’t have a right to break in.
The reality is that bailiffs spend a lot of their time knocking on doors and making payment arrangements. This doesn’t make very interesting TV. Viewers are more likely to be interested in emotional or confrontational situations, even though these are not as common in reality.