Know Your Rights
If you are having financial problems and concerned about being threatened with action from a bailiff, you may have received a letter from a bailiffs office and worried about what the next steps will be, you can get bailiff advice from solicitors online at Expert Answers.
You can get advice about your rights and confidential and independent bailiff advice and what they can do.
A Bailiff is someone who has been instructed:
- By a creditor to enforce financial debt or a fine.
- To carry out an eviction.
- Repossession of goods under hire purchase or conditional sale agreement.
A bailiff has the power to take possessions in order to sell them and pay back creditors you owe money to. Courts will only send bailiffs if you fail to keep up payments on a County Court Judgement (CCJ).
Types of Bailiff?
Bailiffs work on behalf of courts to collect or enforce. There are four types of bailiff who act differently according to the type of debt being collected:
- County Court bailiff: Employed directly County Courts to collect outstanding CCJs and follow the guidelines set by the Lord Chancellor’s Department.
- Sheriff or High Court Enforcement Officers: Contracted by the High Court and cover geographical county areas. Working out of local Sheriff’s Office Generally only deal with County Court Judgment of more than £600 (including costs).
Magistrates Court bailiff: They work for the Magistrates Court and are responsible to the clerk of the court. They mainly deal with money owed in criminal offences.Private Bailiffs: are often self-employed, employed by a private firm.They will:
- Collect Council Tax arrears
- Unpaid parking fines for local authorities
- Money owed to Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC),
- But might be employed by any creditor to collect the debt.
Following application to County Court bailiffs will be granted a certificate. Bailiffs must satisfy the court that they are:
- ‘fit and proper person’ to hold a certificate and have enough knowledge of the law of distress,
- Lodge bond or deposit for £10,000 with the courts or have an equivalent insurance indemnity for the same amount.
Bailiffs can seize goods from your home for failing to pay creditors and where a CCJ has been obtained, to enforce arrest warrants. They can also be used to repossess your home.
Before they can act bailiffs receive instructions in the form of a warrant which details how much is owed.
They can seize goods in respect of:
- Child support arrears
- VAT and tax debts
- Council Tax arrears
- County or High Court debts
- National insurance Contributions
Bailiffs do not have the power to enter your home or business and cannot enter your home between 9pm and 6am. They cannot force entry into a property on an initial visit: they can only use “peaceable means”.
They can gain access through a:
- Attached garage
- Loading bay
They cannot however get into your home through:
- A window
- Climbing wall or fence
- Any locked gates or barriers
- Removing floor boards
A Bailiff Gains Entry – Now What?
Once a bailiff has gained entry to your house (peaceful entry), they can search your home. They cannot take items on their first visit, but will compile a list of what they are going to take and sell, called seizing.
Once inside they have the right to enter all rooms and force entry to any locked parts of the property.
They can return at a later date and force entry to your permission, to remove and impound previously listed items.
They can only seize goods to cover the debt and their fees, Premises must be left safe after they have seized goods.
When Can Bailiffs Force Entry?
This is dependent on the type of debt and whether a previous visit has been made. If the visit is to collect unpaid CCJ they cannot force entry on their first visit. There are certain occasions where bailiffs can force entry, for example:
- Collection of unpaid fines:
- They have entered the premises peacefully before
- County Court bailiffs entering a commercial property: (requires court permission)
- Collecting income tax or VAT:(court permission required and only if previous peaceful entry has failed)
- Following goods:
A Bailiff Calling at Your House?
Bailiffs can call at your house:
- At a reasonable time to seize goods,
- Must give at least 7 days’ notice of their first visit.
When a bailiff calls at your house, you do not have to let them in if they have never previously gained entry. However, they can enter through any open doors or windows as long as they enter using ‘peaceable’ means.
An experienced bailiff is more likely to try to open your door, rather than knock, if it is unlocked they can enter, this is a peaceable means of entry.
What are your Bailiffs Rights?
Non co-operation with a bailiff is not a custodial offence. You have the right to refuse entry and you should seek legal advice as soon as possible.
Bailiffs cannot threaten you illegally or force entry to your home (unless this falls in their duty because of the type of debt or is their second visit) they cannot use offensive language.
You can complain about a bailiff’s behaviour either to the creditor or to the organisation that sent them.
Bailiffs are only entitled to seize your goods with the appropriate written authority; e.g, a warrant issued by a court or a creditor.
There is no need for them to show written proof of the courts order, but you should ask them for it if you intend on paying them or let them in.
If you intend to pay the bailiff, or allowing them to to take your things, ensure you see:
- Proof of identity
- Paperwork covering breakdown of their charges
What can a bailiff take?
Bailiffs can take anything that has a resalable value from a domestic or commercial place.
Bailiffs can only take items that belong to the person that owes the money, including jointly owned property. When these goods are sold, they must pay the joint owner their share of the sale.
What can’t a bailiff take?
Bailiffs cannot take from a home:
- household equipment
- fixtures and fittings
- goods required to meet basic domestic needs.
- They cannot seize
- vehicles or
- equipment necessary for personal use in employment,
- equipment necessary for business or vocation.
A bailiff acting for
- Poll Tax,
- Council Tax,
- VAT and Income Tax
may be able to do so.
They cannot take goods belonging to anyone other than the name on the warrant. Ensure you have receipts handy as the onus is on you to prove that the goods belong to.
They cannot take items belonging to:
- family members, provided they are not jointly owed,
- Items belonging to children.
Goods subject to hire purchase or rental agreement cannot be seized.
Dealing With Bailiffs!
If you receive a visit from a bailiff, you need to know what to do when dealing with bailiffs, it can be a very stressful time it is therefore wise to know what you can do it also helps to know what the bailiffs rights are. If the bailiffs have turned up out of the blue, you can be shocked by their appearance. This often leads to people not knowing how to react or what their rights are with respect to what bailiffs can do in their property.
It is worthwhile familiarising yourself with the various rights that a bailiff has and what rights you have. When anyone turns up at your property and you do not know them, you should always ask for some form of identification. This is good common sense and it may save you from trouble or difficulty. However, if you receive a visit from someone claiming to be a bailiff, you have the right to ask for a number of times.
You should always begin by asking for proof of their identity. After this, you should ask to see the original court order that states that you owe money. This is important and there is a chain of events that have to have taken place for bailiffs to be in a position to enter your property you should not be afraid to exert your rights dealing with bailiffs.
You should then be asking to see the authorisation that a bailiff has to take property away from you. If they are unable to present this, they are not permitted to take property from you and you can prevent them from doing so. In all instances, it is important to follow these procedures because it may help you make a complaint or defend a case at a later date. You should also ask to see proof that the bailiffs hold a certified bailiff certificate.
All of these steps should be undertaken before you allow a bailiff access to your home. If you are not satisfied with any of the answers you receive or they are unable to provide documentation that satisfies you, you can refuse the bailiff entry to your home. Bailiffs need an adult to let them in your home. One of the things to bear in mind about letting bailiffs into your home is that you do not have to do so unless they have been in your property before. You should bear in mind that the basic rule with respect to bailiffs is that they are not allowed to enter your property unless you let them in or another adult lets them in.
You should be aware though that if a bailiff gains entry to your property without breaking in, this is permissible and is deemed as peaceful entry. Examples of this form of entry would be if they were to enter through a door that was unlocked or a window that was lying open.
What Can Bailiffs Take?
With respect to taking goods, there are a number of things that bailiffs are entitled to take time to familiarise yourself ‘with what can bailiffs take’. Firstly, any goods that they take must belong to you or at least be jointly owned by you. There are also certain cases where cash or cheques can be taken by the bailiff.
You should be aware that there are certain things which bailiffs are not permitted to take. A bailiff is not allowed to take any property which belongs to a child and they are not allowed to take an item which is currently being paid for on hire purchase or on a conditional sale. If you believe that a bailiff has acted inappropriately, you have the right to make a complaint against them.
Reporting a bailiff to the police should be your first step and it is also possible to take bailiffs to court if you believe that their actions are unmerited or excessive. When bailiffs come to your home, it can be a stressful time but it is important to remember that you have rights when dealing with bailiffs. Knowing these rights can help you to stay in control of the situation.
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