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Dealing with the Bailiffs

What exactly is a bailiff and what does he or she do? You’d be surprised how many people actually ask this question. Bailiffs do different things in different countries, but in the United Kingdom, these are the people who are authorised by a creditor to come to your place of residence or employment with the intent to collect money on a particular debt you may owe. Bailiffs could represent the county courts, private creditors, or other interested parties that are looking to collect on county court judgements, magistrates court fines, unpaid child support, unpaid council taxes, and outstanding rent. Each different type of bailiff has the authority to collect different types of debt.

Bailiffs are legally authorised to carry out their duties to collect payment on debts, and many creditors prefer to use ‘certificated’ bailiffs for this job. ‘Certificated’ means that the bailiff has provided the local court references that deem them ‘fit and proper persons’, and anyone can be a bailiff with the right training and certification. Bailiffs who collect things such as arrears in rent and penalties for road traffic violations are required by law to be certificated. In order for a bailiff to come to your door to collect on a debt, they must have a warrant under a country court judgement, a distress warrant or liability order from the magistrates court, or work as ‘counsellors’, ‘collectors’, or ‘advisors’. This last type of bailiff has no authority to enter your home or seize your goods.

If a bailiff comes to your door and you are unsure who they are, you can ask them to show you their identification. You should get advance notice of when they will be visiting. Most bailiffs - not all - visit you during reasonable hours between 8am and 8pm. There is also a misconception that a bailiff can force their way into your home. The only time this happens - and it is on a very rare occasion - is if the bailiff is from the Collector of Taxes (Inland Revenue) who comes bearing a warrant to force entry. All other bailiffs have a right to peaceful entry only, meaning through an open door or window and over fences and gates.

You have rights even if a creditor is attempting to collect a debt using a bailiff. You do not have to invite a bailiff into your home even if you answer the door. If all of your other doors and windows are locked, they still cannot gain peaceful entry. They may attempt to trick you into letting them into your home, but you do not have to allow them in at all. You cannot be put in jail or arrested for refusing a bailiff entry into your home, and you cannot be put into jail for not paying your debts unless they happen to be non-payment of council tax, child maintenance or magistrate court fees if you willfully refuse to pay. If a bailiff gains entry into your home, they have the right to begin seizing property that belongs to the person named on the warrant to pay the debt.

You will get anywhere from seven to fourteen days advanced notice that a bailiff will visit your home. If you know a bailiff will be visiting, ensure that all of your windows and doors are locked at all time so they cannot gain entry to your home, and then contact the issuing warrant authorities about getting the warrant back from the bailiff and some type of repayment terms set.
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