A bailiff may visit your home if you don’t pay a debt for something like council tax, a fine, or child maintenance.

If you have been contacted by a bailiff, you can prevent them visiting by paying them what you owe, or by arranging with them to pay in instalments.

Bailiffs will generally be happy to accept an arrangement to pay, provided that it’s realistic, and that you can afford to pay it.

If we’ve already worked out a budget for you, you can use this to demonstrate to the bailiffs what you can afford to pay. If you haven’t already completed a budget you’ll need to detail your income, outgoings, and work out what’s left over and what you can afford to offer them (see our offers to creditors page for more information).

You can also send the offer, and your budget, to whoever you owe the money to. This may help you to get the offer accepted.

If you let the bailiff in, they can take some of your belongings which will be sold to repay your debt.
This includes items like:

  • TVs
  • Games Consoles
  • DVD players or stereos
  • Jewellery

They can't take:

  • Items which are essential such as your beds, bedding, washing machine or cooker
  • Items which belong to someone else – including things that belong to your children – however they can take items which you own jointly with someone else
  • A Motability vehicle
  • Things that you need for work
  • Things that you’re paying for on finance

If a bailiff visits your property, you must ask them for identification such as a badge, ID card or enforcement agent certificate

You should also:

  • Ask which company they're from
  • Get telephone contact number
  • Ask for a detailed breakdown of the amount owed

All bailiffs must have a certificate unless they’re exempt or they’re with someone who does have a certificate.

You should do this before paying them anything or letting them into your home.

Bailiffs can’t enter the property:

  • by forcing their way in – unless the debt is for an unpaid criminal fine, income tax or stamp duty, and even then, only as a last resort
  • if there is no one over the age of 16 present
  • between 9pm and 6am
  • through anything except the door

If you haven’t paid the bailiff and you don’t let them in, they can still take things from outside of your house, like your car. It’s therefore advisable to park your car in a locked garage, or away from your property if you’re expecting a visit from a bailiff.

Debt solution and bailiffs

Some solutions protect you against further from your creditors, including bailiff action. They are sometimes called ‘formal’ solutions because the creditors, as well as you, are bound by them:

  • Bankruptcy
  • Individual Voluntary Arrangement
  • Debt Relief Order
  • Sequestration (including Minimal Asset Process)
  • Protected Trust Deed
  • Debt Arrangement Scheme

If you’re in one of these solutions, and the debt which the bailiff is collecting is included, they can’t send bailiffs out to your property.

There are, however, some important things to consider.

  • The protection only starts from the point that you enter the solution, e.g. the date that the bankruptcy order is made or after the IVA is agreed.
  • The protection only covers debts included in your solution. Any debts which can’t be included, such as court fines or child maintenance, can be pursued by the creditor who is within their rights to appoint bailiffs to collect the debt.
  • If the bailiff already has a controlled goods agreement and you fail to make payment, they can take the property listed on it, even after you’ve entered a formal debt solution.

Debt Collector or Bailiff?

You may find that, if you have fallen behind with your repayments to a debt, that you are contacted by another firm who have been asked to collect the debt. Your creditors are entitled to do this.

Debt collectors can:

  • Contact you by telephone or letter
  • Visit your home, provided they have given you prior notice
  • Set up a repayment plan with you

They can't:

  • Visit your home without notice or if you ask them not to
  • Enter your property without permission
  • Take any goods from your house
  • Contact you if you have appointed a third party (such as Angel Advance) to act on your behalf
  • Pressurise you to sell property or borrow money to pay the debt
  • Ask you to pay more than you can afford to

Debt collectors will often agree to freeze interest and charges to accounts where they can see that a person is in financial difficulties and has sought debt advice. If you appoint a third-party representative, they will usually direct all contact through them rather than contacting you.