A bailiff knocking at the door can be a worrying experience, causing sleepless nights and strain on relationships.
If you’ve fallen behind on your debt repayments or defaulted on debts, you may find that the company you owe threatens bailiff action.
In this guide we’ll explain what a bailiff is, what powers they have, when they can be called upon to collect debts and the difference between a bailiff and a debt collector.
What is a bailiff?
A bailiff can be both a court official and someone hired by a private firm. They are also known as enforcement agencies and any paperwork you receive from them will refer to them as such.
However, they are most commonly known as bailiffs.
They have the legal power to collect certain types of debt from you. They can ask you to pay back what you owe, if you don’t have the money they can take your belongings to sell and raise the money.
If you owe money, a bailiff may visit your home to see if you have anything of value to sell to use towards paying back your debt.
The bailiff will also add their own fee and charges for recovering money or goods from you, any money from the sale of your belongings will go towards these charges on top of the debt you owe.
These extra fees and charges can add up very quickly, so it is vital you take action as quickly as possible by talking to a trained debt adviser who will be able to talk you through all your options.
Bailiffs are usually only called in as a last resort when your creditors(s) have tried other means to attempt to get you to pay back the money that you owe.
In most circumstances you will receive a written warning from your creditor to inform you that they intend to use bailiff action to get back the money that you owe.
If you receive such notification you should speak to your creditor and seek financial advice from a trained adviser such as the team at M1 Debt Solutions.
A trained adviser may be able to help you to make an arrangement with your creditor and help you to avoid any bailiff action – so act quickly.
What debts do bailiffs collect?
A bailiff is only able to collect certain types of debt, they include:
- Parking fines
- County Court Judgments (CCJs)
- Council tax and business rates
- Magistrates’ court fines and compensation orders
- Child support
- High court judgements
- Income tax, national insurance and VAT
- Business rent
Nothing listed above should be treated lightly, they are serious matter that should never be ignored.
If you are struggling to keep up with your payments to any of them you should seek advice as quickly as possible from a free service such as Money Advice Service, or a respected company such as M1 Debt Solutions.
What is the difference between a enforcement officer and a debt collector?
Debt collection services are quite often used by creditors to retrieve money that you owe.
Debt collectors do not possess the same legal powers as a bailiff and it is illegal for them to pose as one in order to worry you into paying back your debt.
A real bailiff must go through a certain process in order to act and will have been given special authorisation to visit your property and retrieve the debt owed.
How do I tell the difference between a bailiff and a debt collector?
If you are unsure whether the person chasing you for money is a bailiff or a debt collector you can check for the following.
What type of debt are they chasing you for?
Nice and simple, if it doesn’t appear on the list above it is not a bailiff chasing you.
Have you received notification of enforcement?
If your creditor(s) has asked bailiffs to act, you must receive official notice of the impending action.
Bailiffs must act according to strict guidelines, meaning if you haven’t had clear notice of enforcement it is highly unlikely to be a bailiff.
What if the enforcement officer arrives at your property without notice?
A bailiff must give you advanced notice of their proposed visit to your property, if you haven’t had this notice then it’s probably not a bailiff.
A debt collector may pursue you for what you owe, however, they are not permitted to take your belongings.
If you have experienced difficulty with the behaviour of a debt collector chasing you for payment, you should complain to the original creditor and contact your local trading standards department.