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How to Cope When Baliffs Arrive

By: Garry Crystal - Updated: 7 Aug 2012 | comments*Discuss
Bailiffs Rights Creditors Inland Revenue

There are a number of myths surrounding bailiffs and their powers and rights. There is no doubt that a visit from bailiffs can be distressing but there are ways to cope with this situation.

What Exactly Do Bailiffs Do?

Bailiffs are authorised to collect debts on behalf of creditors. Bailiffs can work for government authorities or they may be private bailiffs working for debt collection agencies. The rights and powers assigned to bailiffs will differ according to whether they are magistrate court appointed or private. Bailiffs have limited powers unless they have been appointed to collect debts owed to the Inland Revenue. There are a number of laws that bailiffs must adhere to, and breaking these laws can be a criminal offence.

Bailiffs and the Right to Enter Property

Many people are under the impression that bailiffs can simply force entry into a debtor’s home and seize their goods. This is a common misconception, and unless the bailiff has been appointed by the Inland Revenue they have absolutely no rights to enter a property. Bailiffs can enter if given access to the property, known as peaceful entry. But if a bailiff sees an open window or open door they are entitled to enter the property. Bailiffs cannot force their way into a home; they cannot push past a debtor standing at the doorway.

What to Do If a Bailiff Appears

It is entirely up to the debtor as to whether or not they let the bailiffs into the property. Unless the bailiff works for the Inland Revenue the debtor is under no obligation to let them in. The bailiff may try to use tactics designed to harass and embarrass the debtor such as shouting through the letterbox. But even if the bailiff is accompanied by the police the debtor does not have to allow them entry into their home. The police will only accompany the bailiff to ensure a breach of the peace does not occur.

If Bailiffs Do Enter the Property

If a bailiff does manage to gain peaceful entry into a property or the debtor allows them to enter then the seizing of goods may occur. Once the bailiff has entered they do have the right to search the entire property for sellable goods. These goods will then be sold at public auction to help pay the debts. The bailiff will have to give a verbal notification of the goods that they are considering seizing and selling. They will usually do this as well by touching the goods to further notify the debtor.

Should I Allow the Bailiffs In?

Whether or not to allow a bailiff into the home is entirely up to the debtor. The debtor will originally have been given advanced warning by letter that a bailiff will call. Most people are under the impression they must let the bailiff in but this is simply untrue. Bailiffs will not give up easily and may return many times to try and enter. The main plus to not allowing a bailiff into the home is that if they cannot enter they cannot seize the debtor’s goods. If the bailiffs cannot enter they will eventually have no choice but to return the warrant to the court.

What Goods Can’t Be Seized By a Bailiff?

If a bailiff does enter the debtor’s property there are a number of goods that they have no right to seize. Also remember that it is not against the law to remove goods from the home to ensure the bailiff cannot seize them. Goods that the bailiffs cannot seize will include:

  • Tools or vehicles used for the debtor’s employment purposes cannot be taken unless the bailiff is magistrate court appointed
  • Goods that have been purchased using rental agreements
  • Goods that are still under hire purchase agreements
  • Bailiffs cannot take goods necessary for basic domestic needs such as fridges, blankets and cookers
  • Bailiffs appointed by magistrates cannot take items such as jewellery, washing machines, stereos and microwaves
If the debtor does refuse entry to the bailiffs this will provide time to find a solution to the problem. This can mean making new payment arrangements with creditors or applying to the courts to suspend the warrant. Suspension of the warrant will mean new payment arrangement will have to be made. If the warrant is suspended there will be court fees to pay but the bailiffs will not return unless the payment schedule is broken.

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