What to do if the bailiffs are on your doorstep?

Written by Chelsea Potter on 27 September 2016

One of the biggest fears people have when they’re in debt is what happens if the bailiffs come? Bailiffs have been part of scaremongering myths for years so it’s easy to understand why people might assume bailiffs can just turn up at your door and take everything inside your home. This is certainly not the case, bailiffs have to follow a specific procedure including giving you advance warning that they are coming to your home.

When can a bailiff come to my home?

It is important to note that bailiffs differ from debt collectors. A debt collector can come to your home to query about your debt at any time but they have no rights – you don’t have to let them in and they also have no rights to take anything from your property. A bailiff however is someone employed by the courts to collect certain types of debt – this might include county court judgements (CCJ’s), parking fines, child maintenance arrears or tax arrears. In order for a bailiff to visit your home you must have received a final demand from your creditor and a 7 day notice that bailiffs will be visiting your property.

Do I have to let a bailiff in?

You don’t have to let a bailiff in but there are situations where if you refuse to let them in they are allowed to use force for entry. A bailiff can’t push past you to get in the property, nor can they break your windows but if they have been granted a right to force entry they are allowed to break a door lock or remove a lock on a gate. Bailiffs have restrictions on the hours they can access your property and they can only step inside the property through normal entrances – e.g they can’t climb through a window.

What do I do when they turn up on my doorstep?

Firstly check they are actually bailiffs and not debt collectors. You can ask for their ID and proof of authorisation. Remember you must have had notice of them coming. Don’t let them in, talk to them through the letterbox until you’ve established their rights.

If you do open the door, block the bailiff’s entrance and refuse to let them into your home. You could try and negotiate a payment arrangement or offer them some form of payment if you can afford to do so – always ask for a receipt however and make the payment outside of the house. If you can’t afford to pay ask them to leave and say you will contact your creditor to arrange payment, though you will still have to pay the bailiff’s charges.

If bailiffs do manage to enter your home, whether you let them in or they use their right to force they may take some of your belongings. Bailiffs can only take your belongings but you must prove the other items don’t belong to you. They can’t take anything you need like white goods or clothing nor can they take work equipment.

Can I prevent bailiffs coming?

Once you receive notice that bailiffs are attending your property it is advised you contact your creditor immediately and explain your situation. You must also contact the bailiff to let them know. Co-operate and come to an agreement, and that should prevent bailiffs visiting. You will need to keep to your arrangement however – if you can’t afford to make your agreed payment you should contact your creditor and explain.

If you are worried about bailiffs coming and struggling to manage your finances, we can help. PayPlan offer free debt advice on a wide range of debt solutions so if you are falling into arrears we can look at what options might be available to you.

Filed under Living in Debt

This article was checked and deemed to be correct as at the above publication date, but please be aware that some things may have changed between then and now. So please don't rely on any of this information as a statement of fact, especially if the article was published some time ago.

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