I’ve had a letter or a bailiff calling at my home
A bailiff is an official of the Court. A representative of a debt collection agency is not a bailiff. The role of a bailiff is to secure goods which can be sold to recoup money for unpaid debts.
What action can I take?
If you have received a notice of a bailiff visit or had one calling at your home, be sure to not allow them into your house (unless you are happy for them to take your possessions to sell at auction). Once they have been able to enter your home for the first time, they are permitted to enter on following visits. Also make sure that all windows and doors are locked, as they will be legally allowed to gain entry via open windows and unlocked doors.
Most bailiffs have no more power to come into your home uninvited than the man who lives across the road. The only time a bailiff could have the right to use ‘reasonable force’ to get in to your home would be if they are collecting unpaid criminal fines. Bailiffs collecting all other debts can only come in if they can do so without using force. This is called “gaining peaceful entry” and includes:
- being invited in by a responsible adult;
- climbing through a window that is open;
- jumping over a fence to get to your back door; or
- opening an unlocked door to come in.
Unlawful entry would include:
- being asked in by a child;
- breaking windows, doors or locks; or
- pushing past people to get inside.
Even if bailiffs do manage to get in, they must leave if you ask them to. If they do not, they are breaking the law. If this happens, get advice. A bailiff is also allowed to seize a car parked in the street, as long as they are certain it belongs to you.
If you think bailiffs will be coming, ask an advice agency to give you a letter you can show the bailiffs so they know you are getting expert advice. The letter may say that the agency has advised you not to let the bailiffs in. You might feel safer passing the letter to the bailiffs through the mailbox, rather than opening the door. If you are not in, or pretend you aren’t, they may keep coming back until you open up – or the creditor may take other action to make you pay.#
What can I do if a bailiff has managed to get into my house legally?
If bailiffs get in legally – if you let them in or they came in through an open window or door- they will usually make a list of your belongings and then ask you to sign a payment agreement, called a ‘Walking Possession Agreement’. This lets you keep your belongings as long as you stick to the agreement. If you do not stick to your payment arrangement, the bailiff can return, force entry into your home, and take the items on the list.
They cannot take your basic household goods (such as your washing machine or fridge, clothing, or bedding) or things you use to make a living (such as tools, or a computer). They can’t take things that belong to someone else but can normally take things you own jointly with someone else. The proceeds of the sale of jointly owned goods have to be divided between the owners, so only half can go to pay your debt.
If they got in illegally – if they forced their way in or were let in by a child, do not sign a Walking Possession Agreement or let them take your possessions. Explain to them that you know your rights, that they have broken the law and respectfully ask them to leave. Do not be intimidated by them. If necessary, call the police. When they’ve gone make a complaint, or consider legal action.
How can McAlister & Co help if I have received a letter or had a bailiff calling at my home?
If you’ve been contacted or visited by a bailiff from the court, it is still not too late to enter into a debt solution such as an IVA, DMP, bankruptcy or DRO, so get in touch and see what action can still be taken to improve the situation.
We would be able to contact a bailiff on your behalf, advise them that you are seeking professional advice and request that they cease action until a solution has been discussed.
Remember: A bailiff can only be appointed by the Court, not by a debt collection agency or a creditor directly. A representative of a debt collection agency is NOT a bailiff.