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Can a Bailiff Enter My Property?

23 May 2019 - Posted by TalkAboutDebt

A common question asked by our readers is, can a bailiff enter my property? In most cases, a bailiff cannot force their way into someone’s house to take control of their goods, but there are some times where this is possible. There are also different powers available to different types of bailiffs or enforcement officers for different types of collections. So if you are wondering, can bailiffs enter my house, then this article will provide some useful guidance.

 

What powers do bailiffs have to enter my property?

 

Bailiff powers are dependent on the type of debt. If the debt is a magistrates court fine then bailiffs have the power to force entry and seize and remove goods. For any other debt bailiffs do not have the power to force entry, however, this is loosely defined and they could enter via an open window or unlocked door. It is therefore advisable to keep all windows and doors locked and shut. If somebody within the property lets the bailiff in they can then return in future and force entry to remove goods listed on a walking possession order, but only if it has been signed. This can take place without you being there if someone else lets them in so it is advisable to inform any other residents of the situation.

Please take a look at our article on the power of Marston Group bailiffs for more information.

 

Can bailiffs enter your house without permission or without any prior notice/letters?

 

Enforcement Agents (EA) or bailiffs have to follow strict procedures. They cannot visit your property to take control of goods without first providing written ‘notice of enforcement’ giving seven clear days’ warning. This notice can be sent by post or delivered by hand. EAs can only force entry to a property if they have entered peaceably on a previous occasion to take control of goods or if they are collecting for a Magistrates’ Court fine. If your gas or electricity supplier has a warrant from the court they could also forcibly fit a prepayment meter seven days after giving a notice of disconnection.

This depends on the type of enforcement agents who have been to the property, the type of debt, or fine, they are collecting and whether they have listed any of your items at your property.

If the debt on which the bailiffs are trying to collect is related to council tax arrears, or arrears on a loan they can only enter the property peaceably and with permission. Therefore you should keep your doors locked and only chat with them through the letterbox. If the bailiff has already been in the property and taken control of goods, then they are able to enter forcibly on their next visit. Therefore it is better not to let them into the property in the first place.

For debts such as court fines, bailiffs do have the power to use reasonable force to enter a property.

 

Can bailiffs enter your house when you are not there?

 

If you are not at home, then a bailiff may attempt to gain a ‘peaceable entry’ on their first visit. A peaceable entry means they can enter through a door, gate or an attached garage. They can not enter your home through a window, climbing over a wall/fence or climbing over a locked gate.  Once inside they will make a list of items they intend to take. Then at a later date, they can enter your house without permission and with force if necessary remove the items listed.

 

Can bailiffs enter my parent’s house?

 

A bailiff, for unsecured debts, cannot take someone else’s goods to cover your debts. If your parents advise the company that you do not live there and they continue to send letters, then they can make a complaint to them. If this is a recent event then it does not sound as if they are bailiffs. Bailiffs activity usually takes quite a while and it may be that they are collections agencies chasing for the money. The answer would still be the same and they can tell them you do not live there and write, call to make a complaint if they continue to turn up at her house.

If, however, you have been subject to criminal proceedings for obtaining goods by deception, or other offences, then legal advice may be required as bailiffs pursuing fines have additional enforcement options.

 

What happens if a bailiff enters my property?

 

If you do allow bailiffs access to your property they will seek payment for the debt, or an arrangement to pay the debt, if this is not possible then they will list goods that they will seek to remove to pay the debt. It may be that there is still time to come to an arrangement to pay and avoid the bailiff’s visit. If you are struggling to do this then it may be worth calling a free debt advice charity and see how best to proceed.

 

Can a bailiff force entry into my property?

Whether or not the enforcement agents (bailiffs) can force entry to a property depends on what type of debt they are collecting for. In rare cases, they will force entry for debts, such as magistrates court fines. You should speak to the lender and explain your situation. Failing that, you could try writing to them. If an enforcement agent does visit when you are home then you could explain things to them. It is important to know your rights and to know the rights of the bailiffs.

Here is an overview of the only debts that a bailiff can force to entry for:

  • Magistrates Court Fines,
  • HMRC related debts,
  • Debts where the bailiff has previously been in the property and obtained a signed controlled goods agreement.

For all other types of debts, the bailiff has to enter a property peaceably and with permission. This means that if they can’t get into the property they cannot take control of goods. Therefore be advised to keep your doors locked.

If bailiffs were to get into the property they would only be able to seize goods belonging to the debtor. However, the onus is on the debtor to be able to prove ownership. They would not be able to seize any goods that would be deemed essential to basic living needs such as a cooker, fridge and washing machine. They would also not be able to seize any goods belonging to a child.

Please note that if you are considered a vulnerable person (elderly or a single parent), it may be beneficial for you to ask the original creditor to take the debt back from the bailiffs.

On the other hand, if the bailiff/enforcement agent gains entry by consent and takes goods into control then this gives them the right to enter at a later stage, but only to remove the goods for sale, to take control of further goods or to check goods that they have already taken into control. Therefore they can only enter without permission if they have previously entered the premises peacefully and taken goods into control, for example by way of a controlled goods agreement.

 

Can a bailiff enter my property if there is a vulnerable person alone?

 

There are rules concerning vulnerability, which state that enforcement agents or bailiffs cannot take control of goods if the only person present on the premises is a vulnerable person (i.e. mental illness or single parents).

The National Standards for Enforcement Agents (NSEA) state that bailiffs should consider whether enforcement action is appropriate for ‘vulnerable people’. Most bailiffs will avoid such action due to the inappropriate nature of doing so. If you are looking after a vulnerable person and a bailiff attempts to seize goods/execute a warrant, quote the NSEA and remind them of the standards they are bound to in dealing with a vulnerable person.

If the person in debt is a vulnerable person, a debt adviser will be able to help them negotiate a lower payment and make the situation less stressful for them. Many debt advice charities and organisations are available to help people in your circumstances and they do it for free.

 

What to do if bailiffs come to your house for someone else?

 

A bailiff cannot take your belongings to settle somebody else’s debt. Notify the bailiff that the person concerned no longer lives at the address. You are not obliged to provide any proof that the person no longer lives in your property or the previous tenant’s forwarding address, but showing the bailiff something to that effect should mean they can see no reason to return to the address.

 

Can a bailiff enter my house for someone’s debt, if the house is in my name?

 

If the person in debt lives in your house, then a bailiff could visit your property to recover their debt.

It’s important to be aware, however, that bailiffs have different rights depending on the type of debt they are enforcing. For certain types of debts, such as criminal fines, a bailiff can force entry to residential property (even if not owned by the debtor). For other debts (including Council Tax arrears) bailiffs cannot force entry and you would be advised to keep your doors locked and not to let any bailiffs who visit into your house. If a bailiff did enter your property the onus would be on you to prove that the items were yours and not the other persons, and the bailiff could take control of the goods before this proof was provided. You would then have to submit a written claim to the bailiff.

 

Can a high court bailiff force entry and seize goods?

 

A High Court Officer (HCO) cannot force entry into a property for this debt, although they can still visit. It is important not to let them into your property and you should be advised to keep your doors locked. It is only once an HCO has gained entry into your property that they can seize goods and use reasonable force to re-enter the property should they need to.

You could simply start making affordable monthly payments to the HCO, as this would show a willingness to pay.

 

Can a bailiff enter my home for a debt owed by an Ltd company?

 

A director of a limited company is not liable for the company’s debts unless: They have personally guaranteed the debts themselves, they have acted fraudulently and the company has been liquidated or they have continued to trade even though the company is insolvent (can’t pay its bills) and the company has been liquidated as a result of insolvency.

A bailiff can come to your home to collect goods, but only goods which are the property of the company. If you do not have any goods which belong to the company and you are not liable personally for the debt then the bailiff cannot take your goods.

 

What time can bailiffs visit your home?

 

Bailiffs can come to your door only between the times 6 am to 9 pm. Remember, you do not need to open your door to them. You should also keep it locked, as if it is opened they may try and gain entry by just walking in.

You should also ask them to hand any paperwork they have to you through the letterbox, so you can see it and also ask them to provide identification.
There are some types of debts for which bailiffs can open up shut and lockfast places, such as tax debts owed to HMRC, but they don’t just break down your door, they must bring a locksmith or joiner with them to gain entry.

 

Can bailiffs damage property to gain access to my property?

 

A bailiff is not allowed to cause damage to your property when attending somebody’s residence, you may well wish to raise a complaint with the company the bailiff works for. However, regardless of this, if the debt is still owed then the bailiff will return and it would be a good idea to speak to a debt adviser before then if you are not in a position to repay the debt.

 

What happens if I refuse bailiff access to my property?

 

The bailiff will return at a later date and request entry again, they will request payment and will continue to do so until the debt is paid, or they may return your details to the company that they are collecting on behalf of.

The bailiff will continue to add charges to the total debt on each occasion they visit and these charges can be very different depending on the type of debt being collected. The actions that a bailiff can take can also depend on the type of debt that they are collecting for (fines, council tax, unpaid business rated) and bailiffs can clamp vehicles outside of a property and remove goods from business premises.

It would be a good idea to discuss this in greater detail, with a debt adviser to establish your options when dealing with this debt and the types of enforcement actions that different types of bailiffs are able to use.

 

Can I refuse entry to a bailiff for outstanding parking ticket fine?

 

Parking tickets and parking fines will very often have different approaches to recover the debt. Some parking tickets are for offences and some are invoices from councils, some end up in county court judgment and some in the magistrate’s court.

 

Will I go to prison if I don’t let a bailiff enter my house?

 

It is possible to be sent to prison for non-payment of council tax. But only when all other remedies have been exhausted and the debtor still refuses to pay. Try to contact the council to arrange a payment plan. They may refer you to the debt collection agency directly to make payment. Do not let the bailiff in, they will be able to deal with you over the phone. If it goes to court, a judge will be able to set up a payment plan by court order. But it will be better to try and make arrangements yourself. Go back to Citizens Advise who can help you set up a payment plan.

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