There are strict rules governing what Bailiffs can and can't do. Here are answers some commonly asked questions.
Bailiffs are regulated in the UK and must operate within UK Law. There are different types of bailiffs:
- Certificated Enforcement Agents
- High Court Enforcement Officers
- County Court and Family Court Bailiffs
- Civilian Enforcement Officers
If a bailiff visits your home you can and should check their identity to ensure they are who they say they are.
You can do this in a number of ways. First, ask to see proof of their identity, either an ID, badge or enforcement agent certificate. Ask them which bailiff company they are from and contact the bailiff company to confirm the identity of the bailiff.
You can and should also ask for a confirmation of what debts they are trying to collect and the exact detail of those. You are able to ask a bailiff for their identity even if they have visited your property before.
You can also contact the County Court Business Centre to find out if the bailiff that has visited you has a valid certificate. You can also contact the court that sent the bailiff to confirm identity.
Do I have to let the bailiff into my home?
Unless the bailiff is trying to collect unpaid criminal fines, income tax or stamp duty they are not allowed to force entry into your home.
If you do open the door to a bailiff, they are not allowed to push past you to gain entry into your home. They are also not allowed to enter your home if there are only vulnerable people or under 16 year-olds present.
Bailiffs must not visit you or try to enter your home between the hours of 9pm and 6am. Bailiffs are also not allowed to enter your home through anything other than the door.
What will happen if I don't speak to or let the bailiff in?
Bailiffs charge fees for visiting your home but they are only allowed to charge you once for each step of the bailiff process. As a rule you should not be charged any more in bailiff fees if the bailiff has to visit your home more than once because you refused them entry, however, they may be able to charge you expenses. See more on Bailiff Fees.
The bailiff may start to take control of your belongings that are not inside your home. These could include a car or garden furniture for example.
Can bailiffs take my belongings?
If you let the bailiff into your home they can take your belongings. There are certain protected items. Your belongings will be sold to raise money to pay back the debt you owe. See more on taking possession and bailiff fees.
What rules must the bailiff follow when seizing my goods?
Once the bailiff has entered your home and decided what goods they want to take into their control the bailiff must give you an inventory. The inventory is a list of all the goods the bailiff wants to take away.
The bailiff must discuss with you each item and agree with you that the items are non-essential. If you feel the goods are essential for your basic domestic needs you must say so and agree with the bailiff that it is an exempt good. For more information on what bailiffs can and can't take, visit the protected items page.
Once you have agreed with inventory with the bailiff these items are now controlled goods. This means they are under the control of the bailiff. Once this has happened you are not allowed to remove the items from where they are stored, sell them or pass ownership of the goods onto anyone else.
The bailiff must give you a notice which explains this. This notice is called 'Notice after entry or taking control of goods'.
It is still possible to get control of your goods back if you pay the debt and the bailiffs fees or arrange a payment agreement or enter into a controlled goods agreement with the bailiff.
A controlled goods agreement is where you agree not to sell, give away or remove the controlled goods while you make payments to cover the bailiff's fees and the debt you owe. If you dishonour the agreement at any point the bailiff can return to your home to remove the belongings in order to sell them. They can use force to enter your home at this point if necessary.
What if all the goods in my home are exempt?
This is to say there are no luxury items in your home and all of your belongings are needed for your basic domestic needs.
If all the belongings in your home are exempted protected items the bailiff cannot take any of them. If the bailiff has reason to believe you may be hiding un-protected belongings elsewhere, perhaps at a friend or relative's house they are allowed to apply for a court order to search those properties. The court will only grant permission if they have strong reason to suspect your belongings are stored elsewhere.
If the bailiff has reason to believe you may have bought luxury items into your home since the bailiff's first visit, the bailiff may return to your property. They must give you two days' notice to do this.
If the bailiff really can't find anything that is unprotected that they can take away from you they will have to refer the case back to your creditor.