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Dealing with Bailiffs

15 February 2019 - Posted by TalkAboutDebt

Bailiffs are mostly used by the courts to recover debts and enforce court orders and warrants. For example, failure to repay a County Court Judgment or CCJ may result in Bailiffs being used. They can also be used to repossess your home. This article explains the different types of bailiffs and what to do when dealing with bailiffs.


Are there different types of bailiffs?


Yes, there are different types of bailiffs. The four main types of bailiffs include:

  • Certified or Private Bailiffs
  • County Court Bailiffs
  • Fines Officers or Civilian Enforcement Officers
  • High Court Enforcement Officer


Certified Bailiffs have been granted a certificate by a County Court Judge. They are not officers of the court or employed by the courts. Certified bailiffs are representatives of the court. They must hold a certificate with them at all times. They must also have the necessary knowledge to be a bailiff. However, there is no formal regulatory structure in place.


Only a Certified Bailiff can collect debts from: Council Tax and Business Rates, Parking and Congestion Charges, the Child Support Agency (CSA), Inland Revenue and Customs and Excise (VAT), and Magistrates Court Fines.


County Court Bailiffs are Civil Servants and are therefore accountable to the courts for their actions.


Fine Officers are employed and managed by the courts. They are used to execute a wide range of warrants including the non-payment of fines and other sums that the courts have ordered you to pay.


High Court Enforcement Officers are appointed by the High Court. They are also known as Private Sector Bailiffs.


When do bailiffs get bought in?


Firstly, the company chasing for money would need to apply to the court and prove you owed the money and get a judgement against you. You will have the chance at this stage to put your side across in court and show that you do not owe the money. If they were able to prove the debt and the court agreed, you would need to make an arrangement to pay the amount owed. If you fail to pay, then bailiffs will seize your goods up to the value of the debt you owe.


Can bailiffs stop me from leaving the country?


It is unlikely that you would be stopped from leaving the country unless there was a warrant for your arrest.


Can a bailiff chase a child for debt?


If you take all of the paperwork to your local Citizens Advice or a solicitor, they may be able to help you pick through and see how this has happened. In the case that the bailiffs have administered the paperwork incorrectly, then you must contest the current action being taken by the bailiffs. If the name is wrong on the court order and they are seeking to recover a debt from a child using bailiffs.


For example, if you have incurred a parking ticket and they have administered the paperwork incorrectly then you could contest the current action being taken by the bailiffs if the name is wrong on the court order and they are seeking to recover a debt from a child using bailiffs. This may only give a temporary stay of enforcement as they may simply start the action again with the correct details, as you say that you received a parking ticket, then you will still need to pay the original parking ticket.


Please note, any credit agreements set up with under 18’s are unenforceable.


Can bailiffs force entry?


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.


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 take my belongings for someone else’s debt?


Bailiffs must only take controls of items that owned and partly owned by the person on the order. The onus is on you to prove ownership of items. They will attend the last known address that you lived at. If they do attend your property for someone who no longer lives there then you can advise them that they do not live in your home and you do not have to allow them access (You can even talk to them through the letterbox).

If you receive a letter, It is natural to assume that a letter through your door is for you. Some people read the front of an envelope before opening, others simply pick them up and open them, so you will not have committed fraud by opening the letter. You could return the letter and let them know the situation. If the person in question does not live at the property and does not have their belongings at the property then you can let them know. You must re-seal the envelope and return it to the sender, stating this person no longer lives here.

If they do not deal with the debt and the only address they have on record is yours then it will be the address they continue to use. If they seek enforcement of the debt then it is the address that the enforcement officers will come to. Ensuring that they are aware that the person in question is not at your property could stop this from happening in the future.

Please note, bailiffs cannot seize goods that are on hire purchase or required for basic domestic living needs. For more information on the type of belongings bailiffs can take, please read our article on belongings taken by bailiffs.


Can a bailiff take my work vehicle?


A bailiff can seize a vehicle to sell and pay off the outstanding debt they are collecting. Bailiffs have no interest in vehicles that are owned by someone else, they are only able to take control of your goods. If their understanding is that it is your vehicle they will take reasonable steps to prevent the property being removed. Should you provide proof that someone else is the owner of the vehicle then they will have no interest in it. This should not prevent the vehicle from being used.

If you need assistance dealing with the debt the bailiffs are collecting then contacting a free debt adviser may help but the other person may need to take legal advice, instead of debt advice, if they wanted to take action against the bailiffs for preventing them from the use of their vehicle. A handwritten note could be used as “evidence” but I would expect that it would not be regarded to the contrary without some method of dating and witnessing. If you are unable to provide proof of ownership then you may need to dispute the bailiff’s actions.

Please note, if a finance company provided the hire purchase for your vehicle then they are in fact the owner’s of the vehicle and you would not be able to pass ownership. The V5 document provides proof of the keeper of the vehicle. This is generally (but not always), the owner of the vehicle. The “owner” generally means the person by whom the vehicle is “kept”. It is presumed to be the person in whose name the vehicle is registered unless evidence is provided to the contrary.

So a registered keeper of a vehicle may not be the owner of the vehicle. It may still be owned by a finance company and ownership will not change until the last payment to the agreement is made.


Can bailiffs find my new address?


A person can be traced in many different ways. No one can answer in detail about how long it will take to trace you when you move to a new address. A person’s details will appear in many different places. For example when you page tax, benefits, national insurance records, credit reference agency files, council tax and voting registers. Please note that changing your name will not alter the ability for you to be traced. But you can find information about changing your name on the Gov Website.

If you have bailiffs trying to collect a debt then you should speak to a debt advisor. You may also want to take legal advice to go through the details of the bailiff’s attendance as soon as possible.


What happens if you don’t pay your phone contract?


A bailiff can be used to recover a debt where the debt is subject to a County Court Judgment (CCJ) and the CCJ has not been dealt with. The phone company could then ask the court for enforcement of the judgment. This could be requesting bailiffs to recover the debt. If you do not have a CCJ then bailiffs action will not be possible at this stage.

If this is your only debt and you can now afford to make a payment. Then you need to work out the realistic amount that you can afford to pay. Then start sending that amount to them. They may ask for a higher monthly payment or say that the payment is not acceptable and demand all of the money in full. However, it is only ever possible to pay the amount of money each month that really exists. And you should continue to send the payment each month.


Changes in circumstances


If you move address, it is important that you contact the enforcement agents and update them of your new address. And that you come to an arrangement to deal with your debt. If you fail to pay your debt you could be sent to prison.


Need more help?

For more information on how to deal with bailiffs, please see our post on how to deal with bailiffs. You can find more information about bailiffs and your rights on the Citizens Advice website.  If you continue to have problems you might want to consider getting advice from an organisation such as the CAB.

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