What Is A Bailiff?
In the UK bailiffs are officially known as ‘enforcement agents’, however, being British, we’re stuck in our ways and still call them bailiffs. Bailiffs have the legal power to list, remove and sell your goods in order to repay outstanding debts.
Before you get a visit from a bailiff they must send you a letter informing you of their visit, this is called a notice of enforcement and gives you seven days’ notice before they come to your home.
The bailiff will try and gain entry to your home look for goods which they can sell if you don’t repay your debts. They will usually leave you with a controlled goods agreement which is a list of these items. You can hide your goods from bailiffs only before they make a list of goods, if you you hide anything after they have listed them, then you are committing a criminal offence.
What Can (And Can’t) Bailiffs Do?
- Explain who they are – providing ID if asked
- Explain why they are there
- Enter only with your permission and without force
In most situations a bailiff can not force entry into your home and they will try to enter peacefully through the front or back door.
Despite the prevailing myth, bailiffs cannot enter your home through an open window, or breakdown doors, or use a locksmith. They cannot push their way past you or even stop you closing the door on them. Also, they cannot enter your home if there are only children (under 16) inside , and they cannot lie about who they are or why they are calling.
What Can Bailiffs Take?
Bailiffs can’t simply come into your home and take whatever they want, there are rules they must follow. In order to add goods to the controlled goods agreement they must be able to touch them (as a basic rule), which means they cannot simply look through the window and see what you have inside.
There is a limit to what bailiffs can take and they must leave you with basic items. These include:
- Cooker or microwave
- A telephone (either landline or mobile)
- Beds and bedding for everyone in the home
- A dining table and chairs to seat everyone in the home
- Appliances to heat and light your home
- Medical equipment
So, if you have an oven AND a microwave, they could take one or the other, and the same with phones. However, there are some items that bailiffs cannot take at all:
- Things owned by someone else (make sure you mention this on the controlled goods agreement)
- Equipment that is essential for your job or studies (up to a total value of £1,350)
- Goods on HP (as these aren’t yours)
- Fitted fixtures, such as cupboards and wardrobes
If you have a motor vehicle try and park as far away from your home as possible, these are the easiest targets for bailiffs to find and list. Again, if you ‘hide’ the car after the bailiff has listed it, you could be committing a criminal offence, so take care.
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How To Deal With Bailiffs
The golden rule when dealing with bailiffs is – don’t let them into your house.
Once a bailiff has entered your home, they can return at any point (similar to vampires in that respect), and they can make a list of the goods in your home. If you are expecting a visit from bailiffs, keep your doors locked at all times and ensure that everyone in the house knows not to answer the door to people they don’t know. It’s a good idea to keep your door on the chain (get one if you haven’t already) just in case someone does accidentally opens the door to a bailiff.
If a bailiff comes to your door, speak to them through the letterbox (or chained door) and make sure you ask to see their ID. The bailiff can show you these through the letterbox or the window, don’t open the door! They may threaten you with the police at this point, but you can’t be arrested for refusing them entry if they have not previously been into your premises.
Never get angry or aggressive with a bailiff, it will only make things worse. Plus, you’re a reasonable person and, no matter how they may sometimes act, bailiffs are only people doing their job.