Enforcement Agents (Bailiffs) Factsheet

If you haven’t paid a debt you might be sent a letter from bailiffs (also called enforcement agents) saying they will visit your home to collect payment.  Don’t ignore the letter – this is called a ‘notice of enforcement’.  If you ignore it the bailiffs can visit your home after 7 days.  As well as collecting payment for the debt they can charge you fees so you could end up owing more money.
 

Stopping a Bailiff visit

There are things you can do to stop them coming if you act quickly.

  • Check the notice of enforcement is valid – you should make sure your notice of enforcement includes the right information.  If it doesn’t you should contact the bailiffs to stop them from coming until a new notice is sent.
 
For your notice to be valid it must:
  • Show your correct name and address
  • Show what debt you owe and state the correct amount
  • Explain that you have 7 days’ notice before the bailiffs can visit
  • Come from a registered bailiff not a debt collector – you can check on the Bailiffs register on the Justice website https://certificatedbailiffs.justice.gov.uk/
  • Be sent to you by letter – either post, email, by being fixed to your front door if you don’t have a letterbox or by being given to you
  • Be written in a certain legal style – see example of a notice of enforcement https://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2014/421/schedule/made
 
  • After sending you the notice of enforcement the bailiffs have to wait 7 full days before they can visit you.  This doesn’t include the day you get the notice, the day of the visit or Sundays and bank holidays
  • Your notice of enforcement won’t be valid if it comes from a debt collector.  They don’t have the same powers as bailiffs – they can’t come to your home to collect a debt.  You can send them away if they do
  

Even if you send the debt collector away, if you owe the debt you will still need to make arrangements to deal with it.  If you ignore it, the problem will only get worse.

 

  • Check if you owe the debt – you won’t owe the debt if:
    • It belongs to someone else – for example, if your name is similar to the person who owes the debt
    • You’ve already paid all the debt

 

If you don’t owe the debt bailiffs can’t come to your home or take action against you as long as you can prove you don’t owe the debt.  Collect as much evidence as you can to show you’re not responsible for the debt.  Send this to the bailiffs with a letter explaining that you don’t owe the money.  You can find their address on the notice of enforcement.
 

  • You might be able to challenge your debt even if you owe it.  This won’t be the best option if you just want to quickly stop the bailiffs from visiting you – it can take a long time.If you can afford to pay your debt it’s best to call the bailiffs straight away to pay.  This will stop them from visiting and you will be able to avoid paying extra fees.  You can find their number on the notice of enforcement.  Ask the bailiffs to send you a receipt when you pay – it is important to get this in case you need to prove you’ve paid at a later date.

 

If you can’t afford to pay your whole debt or anything at all you can try to negotiate with the bailiffs to pay a smaller amount or get the debt written off.
 

  • If different bailiffs are collecting debt, you might be able to stop some of the bailiffs from coming to your home.  The bailiff who started collecting a debt from you first should get paid first.  If other bailiffs come to your home and take your property or money, it would still be used to pay the first bailiff.  This means the other bailiffs wouldn’t get paid.

 

You should contact the bailiffs who started collecting their debt after the first bailiff and tell them:

  • You have more than 1 debt
  • Another bailiff started collecting their debt from you first
  • Any property or money they take from you will be used to pay the bailiff who started collecting their debt firstThe bailiff might agree to stop collecting the debt if they think they won’t get paid.  If this happens, your creditor will have to collect the debt in a different way

 

Preparing for a bailiff visit

If you haven’t been able to pay your debt or set up a payment arrangement and the bailiffs are coming to your home, you don’t have to let them in.  Bailiffs visiting your home can be a stressful experience but you have rights and you shouldn’t be bullied. 

Bailiffs are only allowed to try to come into your home between 6am and 9pm.  You shouldn’t let a bailiff into your home.  It is always best to try to sort our your debt by keeping them outside and speaking through the door or over the phone.

Make sure your doors are locked and your windows are closed – bailiffs are allowed to come through unlocked doors.  If you have a porch with a lockable door you should lock this too.  Depending on the kind of debt you owe, the bailiff will sometimes have the right to force entry by asking a locksmith to open your door if you won’t let them in.  It’s very unlikely they will do this – you should still have the chance to pay without them coming in.

Call 999 if you are being physically threatened by a bailiff – don’t let them into your home.

The first thing to do when a bailiff arrives is to ask for proof of who they are and why they are visiting.  If they say they are a ‘debt collector’ tell them to leave.  They don’t have the same powers as bailiffs and they have to go if you ask them to.  If they say they are a bailiff or enforcement agent, ask them to show you a badge, ID card, or ‘enforcement agent certificate’.  All registered bailiffs have to carry proof of who they are.  They will also need to tell you which company they are from and give you a telephone contact number for the head office.

Tell them to pass the documents through your letterbox or show you at a window.  Their proof of identity will show their name and what kind of bailiff they are.  If they say they are a certificated enforcement agent then you can check here or if they say they are a high court enforcement officer check here.  If they say they are a county court bailiff, family court bailiff or a civilian enforcement officer then contact the court that sent them.

Tell them to leave if they can’t prove who they are.
 

Can a bailiff force entry?

The bailiff could have the right to force entry to your home or business if they are collecting:

  • Unpaid magistrates court fines, for example, if you were given a fine for not paying your TV licence
  • Tax debts for HM Revenue and Customs, for example, if you owe income tax.  They will need to show you proof of what you owe and a ‘warrant’ or a document called a ‘writ’ from the court.  Check any documents are signed and in date and have your correct name and address.

They aren’t allowed to break down your door – they have to use ‘reasonable force’.  This means they will have to come back with a locksmith who will unlock the door. 
 
If you let the bailiff into your home

If you decide to let them in and you can’t afford to pay what you owe straight away you will normally have to make a ‘controlled goods agreement’.  This means you will agree to a repayment plan and pay some bailiff fees.  If you don’t make an agreement the bailiffs could remove your things to sell and pay off your debt.
 

If you break a ‘controlled goods agreement’

You might get a letter called a ‘notice of intention to re-enter’ if you’ve broken a ‘controlled goods agreement’.  This means the bailiff has the right to enter your home using ‘reasonable force’.  They will use a locksmith to unlock your door – they are not allowed to break it down.

They can take things you own or that you own jointly with someone else – for example, electrical items, jewellery, or a vehicle. 

Bailiffs can’t take:

  • Things that belong to other people – this includes things that belong to your children
  • Pets or guide dogs
  • Vehicles, tools, or computer equipment you need for your job or for study, up to a total value of £1,350
  • A Motability vehicle or a vehicle displaying a valid Blue Badge
  • Things you need to live, for example
    • A table and enough chairs for everyone living in your home
    • Beds and bedding for everyone living in your home
    • A cooker or microwave and a fridge
    • A washing machine
    • A phone or mobile phone
    • Any medicine or medical equipment and anything you need to care for a child or older person 
 
How to make payments

Try to make an offer of payment that you can afford and start making the payments as soon as possible.  Try to make payments automatically by using a debit card.  Make the payment even if the bailiff has said it is not enough.  Always get a receipt if you make a cash payment to a bailiff. Don’t expect a bailiff to accept an offer based on a financial statement.

If the bailiff won’t accept the payment offer:

  • See if they will give you time to try and find the full amount owing
  • See if you can speak to the creditor who the bailiff is acting for to see if they will talk to you and agree to call off the bailiff
  • Talk to the creditor about the instructions they have given the bailiff for collecting the debt
  • If the bailiff is collecting on a breached County Court Judgement (CCJ) go back to court to have the regular amount reduced. The form which you will need to submit to the court is N245. If you are unable to afford the court fees you will need to complete an EX160. There are criteria listed on the page that you will need to meet to qualify for this support.

Keep calm and do not be intimidated! Getting angry or fighting with a bailiff will make the situation worse.

 
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