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Bailiffs, also known as enforcement agents, work on behalf of the courts to collect debt. The last paragraph gives a summary of a bailiff's powers, they have the power to take your possessions in order to sell them and give money to your creditor if you have failed to maintain payments previously.

Whereas debt collectors work on behalf of a creditor or debt collection agency and do not have the same powers as bailiffs so in order to make sure they are legitimate you should ask to see their identity. This could be through seeing proof such as an ID card/badge, a contact telephone number, the company they work for or a detailed breakdown of the debts owed. The key difference is that a debt collector cannot take any of your possessions, but a bailiff can. They can only ask you to make a payment.  If you are suspicious that the person is acting as a debt collector but no ID is produced, this person could be committing fraud and you should contact the company they say they work for.

When property is being seized, it is your responsibility to prove if any property does not belong to you. If you are able to make repayments in cash, you may come to an agreement with the bailiff to make either monthly/weekly payments. If more than £1500 is owed, a percentage of this will be used as an additional payment when necessary each time a visit is needed.

High Court Enforcement Officers - responsible for enforcing High Court orders, will attend your premises at the first opportunity to give you a chance to pay off the debts.
Civilian Enforcement Officers - enforce certain magistrates' and crown court orders and can execute warrants of arrest. They can arrest without notice or give you time to pay the debt.
Certified enforcement agents - hold a certificate granted by the County Court. They can enforce debt from criminal fines, council tax home domestic rates, road traffic, child support etc.

There are rules that set out what a bailiff can and cannot do, please see the list below:

  • Must give an enforcement notice of at least 7 days' prior to visiting the home
  • Can only enter home by usual means of entry (for example through door, not window)
  • Cannot enter homes where only children (under 16 years) are present
  • Cannot normally call outside the hours of 6am-9pm
  • Cannot enter homes by force (unless unpaid fines from magistrates' courts or with a court order)
  • Cannot be used by landlords to seize property as rent arrears, without going to court
  • Cannot take household items that are considered to satisfy basic domestic needs such as; cookers/washing machine/fridge/clothing/bedding
  • Cannot sell goods retrieved from debtor, unless 7 days have passed since removal
  • Bailiffs are now to be responsible for proving to the court that a warrant must be issued in order to access premises that they believe has goods belonging to the debtor.

In some circumstances they may get permission to use reasonable force as entry, this means they can forcibly open a door/ cut a padlock, it does not mean that they can physically force their way past you or climb over walls/through windows to gain access.

For any further queries you can speak to your local Citizens Advice. You will find the link in the related information section, along with other helpful websites.

You should not ignore the debts; they will not go away. It is better to try and negotiate with the creditors.


If you are in debt the most important thing is to not ignore it- the problem won't just go away. However, there are several organisations that can assist you in managing and reducing your debts. We have set out a few examples below:

Citizens Advice give free, confidential, impartial and independent advice to help you solve problems, including debt problems.

National Debtline provides free confidential advice to people with debt problems. On their website, you will find guides, budget tools and sample letters to help you get started.

Payplan is UK's largest provider of free debt solutions. They offer free debt advice and solutions, such as debt management plans. When you contact Payplan, an adviser will look at your financial situation and help you decide the best option to sort out your debts. If a repayment option is appropriate, they can help you approach your creditors with a repayment plan and distribute repayments on your behalf until the debts are repaid.

StepChange Debt Charity is a registered charity offering free, confidential advice and support to anyone who is worried about debt. Their website contains a debt remedy tool which uses a series of questions about your income and expenditure to provide a remedy tailored to your personal circumstances.

You can find a link to these websites in Related Information and they will be able to offer further support and assistance in resolving the problem.

Contact your local police force

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