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What are the powers of bailiffs & debt collectors?

Bailiffs are individuals who are granted the legal right to recover possessions on behalf of a court, with the aim of selling those possessions to help settle a debt. Bailiffs may be employed directly by a court, for example County Court bailiffs, or they may work for a private company under a contract.

By contrast debt collectors are not bailiffs and it is illegal for any debt collector to act in a way so as to convince you that they have the same powers as a bailiff. Debt collectors work for private companies and are employed by creditors to recover money owed. Sometimes a debt collector will work for a company, but they may also have ‘bought’ the debt you owe, and therefore be your principle creditor.

What are the key differences between debt collectors and bailiffs?

Debt collectors

  • Are not allowed to take away personal property without your permission
  • Must give you advance notice if they wish to visit you at home
  • Can only visit to discuss the repayment of debt
  • Are not allowed to call you late at night

Bailiffs

  • Are representatives of a court and as such are allowed to charge you if they need to visit your home
  • Are not allowed to force entry into your property except in certain very limited circumstances and by order of a court
  • Are allowed to take possessions away without your permission, say by entering through an open door or window or by removing property left outside

What should I do if a bailiff visits my home?

When a bailiff visits your home it will usually be because you have failed to pay a debt such as a Council Tax bill, fine or in response to a court order. Bailiffs are usually a last resort and will only visit after a letter or reminder has been sent to your home.

Before you deal with a bailiff you should ask them to display their ID, and to provide a written proof of the debt they believe you owe.

It is worth nothing that you do not have to let a bailiff in to your home, and they should not push past you if you do open your door. It is also worth knowing that if you do not let a bailiff in they are entitled to charge you more money for another visit, and may remove possessions from outside your house such as your car in order to pay your debt.

If you pay a bailiff be sure to get a receipt. If you cannot pay and allow a bailiff to take possessions from your home then you should know that they are not allowed to take items you need for day-to-day living such as clothes, cooker, fridge and work tools.

Can a bailiff force entry into my home?

Generally speaking, bailiffs are not allowed to force entry into your home and should make every effort to enter your property with your agreement. If your door is unlocked or a window is open then a bailiff is entitled to enter your home.

Bailiffs are allowed to force entry into your home in very limited circumstances, such as when you have unpaid criminal fines, you owe Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs income tax, or you owe Stamp Duty. 

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