The Bailiff Procedure
If you owe money to creditors or to council departments then bailiffs may be called in as a way of collecting debts. Bailiffs usually act under order of creditors or the courts and have the power to enforce debts, seize goods, and in some circumstances they have the power to arrest. The regulations regarding what bailiff’s rights can be confusing and will depend on the debt in question, but in all cases it is important that you know your rights.
The Bailiff Procedure
In almost all cases bailiffs will only act once a court order has been made for the recovery of the debt. You should receive notice that the bailiffs will be calling on you to enforce this action. If you do receive a letter then you should contact an advice agency to find out if the creditor in question can legally threaten you with bailiff action. Always act immediately; bailiffs charge fees and if you ignore visits by the bailiffs the fees will grow.
Which Debts Bailiffs Enforce
There are a number of different cases where bailiffs can be called in. Common debts where a bailiff will be used will include:
- Council Tax Arrears
- Rent Arrears
- Road Traffic Penalties
- Unpaid Income Tax
- Credit and loan debts
- Child Support Maintenance
The Bailiff’s Powers
A common way that a bailiff will enforce a debt is by the seizing and selling of goods. A bailiff has the right to enter your property and seize your goods for resale at an auction to cover the amount owed. Many people do not realise that bailiffs have no legal right to break into your property in order to seize goods; they must be allowed access.
However, bailiffs can enter your property by what is known as ‘peaceful entry’, which means gaining access by an open window, skylight, or unlocked door. Bailiffs are well aware of this limited right and will try various tactics such as visiting a number of times over a period of weeks. Bailiffs will seize property such as your car if they have been unable to gain entry. Bailiffs cannot call the police for assistance; they can only do this if they think that a breach of the peace may occur due to their visit.
Removal of Goods
Goods that can be seized by bailiffs will depend on the debt but the usual type of goods will include electrical goods such as televisions, CD players and microwaves. It will not usually include items such as clothing, beds and basic furniture. Bailiffs can usually only take goods that are owned by you, but if the property is jointly owned they can take the other owners goods.
Negotiating with Bailiffs
Bailiffs are very difficult to negotiate with, as negotiations should have been previously made with the creditor and they will assume these have been ignored. However, they may grant a ‘walking possession agreement’, which means they will take an inventory and grant a certain amount of time to repay the money before they take the goods away. Be aware there will usually be a daily fee added to this, you will not be able to remove the goods from your home, and the bailiffs can break in and take the goods if you do not repay within the agreed time.
Action to stop Bailiffs
There are ways that you can stop the bailiffs from enforcing their duties. As previously stated you can simply refuse entry but this will not be the end of the matter; in some cases refusal to pay debts can lead to further court action. You can apply to the courts for a postponement of up to 60 days to repay the debt so that seized goods cannot be removed.
You can also try to negotiate with your creditor and ask for a certain amount of time to repay back the sum owed in full. This does make financial sense as the goods seized may not be enough to cover the debt owed. If you feel that the bailiffs have acted improperly at any stage then you can threaten them with court action; if there have been errors made then they will not want to defend themselves in court.
Many people see the letter from the bailiffs as the end of the line when in reality there are still procedures that can be followed to avoid bailiff action. If you do receive a letter of intended bailiff action then act immediately and seek advice from a reputable debt advisor who will outline the options open to you.