We’ve probably all seen TV shows where bailiffs turn up at someone’s house, either to evict them or seize their possessions to repay their debts. Programmes like these often make for difficult viewing, but they are particularly distressing if you are in a similar situation yourself.

Creditors, including landlords, credit or store card providers and mobile phone companies, can take action when you have failed to pay what you owe, despite repeated attempts to contact you. If the debt is substantial, they may use a collection agency as a way of recovering at least some of their money.

People often don’t realise that a debt collector is not the same as a bailiff and even though their job looks similar, they do not have the same rights – which includes going into a property.

One of the most important differences is that bailiffs work on behalf of a court and can enter your home, either ‘peaceably’ or by force if they have a court order or you refuse to co-operate, while debt collectors can’t.

In fact, debt collectors have no more rights than your creditors, so they are allowed to send letters and even visit your home, but you don’t have to speak to them nor open the door if you don’t want to.

Having said that, never be tempted to ignore letters or calls from a collection agency. If you do not communicate with them, or take steps to start paying off your debts, the company could apply for a County Court Judgement (CCJ) against you. Fail to pay a CCJ and eventually the court will send bailiffs to your home, recovering what is owed through the sale of your possessions.

Both debt collectors and bailiffs are regulated by strict rules and are not allowed to use excessive force. Don’t be afraid to ask for their ID and find out whether they are registered with the Financial Conduct Authority.

You can help to avoid debt collectors and bailiffs visiting your home by tackling your debts before they get too much. PayPlan will liaise with your creditors if a Debt Management Plan (DMP) or Individual Voluntary Arrangement (IVA) is a debt solution for you and your circumstances. We will also advise on other debt solutions if you are eligible and can assist you with the process.

To discuss your options with one of advisers, in confidence, click here or call 0808 278 3229.