Sometimes in unfortunate circumstances, a debt is taken through the Court, and a Court Bailiff is appointed to collect the debt.
Some Debt Collection Agencies may threaten you in sending someone to your home to collect the debt, however, unless they are a Court Bailiff, they have no powers to seize goods, or demand payment.
Types of Bailiffs
In the UK, there are 4 types of bailiffs:
County Court Bailiffs – employed by County Courts for matters such as County Court Judgment Enforcement. They are able to seize goods and sell it at auction, and can also take possession of property and serve Court documents.
Certified Bailiffs – these bailiffs act on behalf of local authorities and can seize and sell goods. They are instructed in cases of rent arrears, road traffic, council tax and non-domestic rates. They are ‘not’ able to enforce debts made under County Court or High Court Orders.
Non-certified Bailiffs – these can recover money owed for many different debts, but not those which are requested by the local authority, or for rent arrears. They are ‘not’ able to enforce County Court or High Court Orders for the debt.
Enforcement Officers – they deal with High Court Orders, or those transferred from the County Court to the High Court.
What can a Bailiff do?
Bailiffs can be instructed via a Court Warrant, to demand payment from you or to seize goods from your home if you fail to pay, and this will be enforced through a Court Judgment (CCJ) and Warrant.
A Bailiff cannot force to entry into a domestic property on their ‘first visit.’ They can however gain entry through ‘peaceable means,’ such as through an unlocked door or window, ‘without’ causing damage to person or property. They CANNOT force their way into your home by pushing past you at your doorway, and you DO NOT have to let them in.
If the Bailiff is let into your home, or enters through an unlocked window or door, the law states that they are entitled to seize goods which are owned by the debtor, or owned by the debtor and another person. In order to seize goods, a bailiff will either state verbally, attach a mark, or touch the goods they are going to seize. A bailiff whilst in a property; is entitled to break door locks or cupboards in order to seize goods, and if you intervene and attempt to remove them at this stage, you could be held for ‘assault’.
If goods are owned half by you and half by someone else, the bailiff company will need to pay the other person the 50% share of the money, when the goods are sold.
Remember the bailiff will seize a variety of goods, as these only sell at public auction for around 10% of the actual price. So for instance, if you owe £500 of debt, the bailiff will try and seize as many items with an original worth of £5,000, to obtain the £500 at auction.
What should I do if a Bailiff attends my property?
You should always ask a Bailiff for a proof of identity, their warrant card / Warrant of Execution (if applicable), and a detailed breakdown of charges. If they cannot provide you any of these, then you should turn them away until they do so (remember, a Bailiff can never force entry), unless they are bailiffs from HMRC, to which they may obtain a Warrant to force entry.
Bailiffs collecting for rent must also show you their Certificate from the County Court, and bailiffs collecting for council tax, must in all circumstances; show you authorisation from the local authority concerned. If they fail to do this, they too should be turned away.
From 1998, local authorities must issue you with a Notice of Proposed Bailiff Action in regard to council tax debts, (14 days before this is due to commence). County Court bailiffs should issue a Warning Notice 7 days before they are due to arrive, so you can be given a chance to make payment within those 7 days.
Can a bailiff attend at anytime?
The National Standards of Enforcement Agents states that a bailiff can attend your home, but should not do so on Sundays, Good Friday, or Christmas Day. Bailiffs should also take heed of Religious Festivals and should be aware and observant of cultural matters; they should therefore ‘not’ attend on those days.
Enforcement should only be carried out from 9.00am – 6.00pm (trading hours).
What should a Bailiff NOT take?
Can a Bailiff Enforce any Agreements with you?
Most of the time, Bailiffs who have gained entry to your property and have seized goods, will request that you sign a ‘Walking Possession Agreement.’ This means that you sign-off a list of goods for them to remove and sell at a future date, however; you are still able to look after and use the goods until the bailiff is ready to remove them.
If you do sign this type of Agreement, the Bailiff will normally charge additional fees on top, and request that you pay the full debt within 5 days, or make an arrangement to repay the debt before they return to remove the goods, 5 days later.
Can I suspend Bailiff action?
If the Debt Company has applied to the Court for Bailiff intervention against you, you can still apply to the County or High Court to have Bailiff action suspended. Obviously, this entails a fee to the Court before action is suspended, and you will need to outline an offer of payment as well.
If the Bailiff is instructed to act by the Court because you currently have a CCJ against you, you will need to fill out and send Form N245 to the County Court, to apply to suspend the Court Warrant enforcing Bailiff action, and you will also be required to make an offer of payment within the Application. This will also entail a fee.
If your Application is to be made to the High Court to suspend a High Court Warrant, you will need to apply for a ‘Stay of Execution‘, and you will need to write these words on the Form (N244): “I am requesting that the execution be stayed on condition that the Judgment debt be paid by instalments of £…… per…….’” You must also send a letter alongside the Stay, which you can find here.
Alongside the Application (N244), you should also attach a ‘statement of your financial circumstances’, also referred to as an Affidavit of Means (a sworn statement), and you will need to sign and date this statement. The Affidavit of Means should written in a certain form, and you should accompany a letter with your Stay of Execution Application.
Complaints against Bailiffs
If the Bailiff has breached their terms of entry, have seized the wrong goods, or someone else’s goods; you should firstly complain to the Bailiff Company. You should also write to the creditor to make them aware of the issue, and on all accounts, you should once again try and offer them a payment arrangement.
If all else fails in your complaint, you should then take you complaint to the Enforcement Services Association, who will investigate, and offer compensation if they believe a Bailff has acted unreasonably.