Will bailiffs give up? Here’s what you need to know!

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  • Will bailiffs give up? Here’s what you need to know!
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Overview:

Bailiffs typically do not “give up” on recovering a debt, as their role is to enforce court orders and collect outstanding debts on behalf of creditors. However, there are specific circumstances and limitations under which bailiffs might cease their actions.

This article will explore bailiff action in more detail, including the rules they must follow when they visit you and if they will give up.

If you’re dealing with bailiffs, you may be wondering if there will come a point where they give up and stop chasing you for payment of the debt.

However, while there may be a way to temporarily stop bailiffs from visiting you, it can be difficult to avoid enforcement action altogether and they will likely keep chasing you as long as the debt remains unpaid.

What is a bailiff?

Before delving into whether a bailiff will ever give up, it’s important to understand what a bailiff is and what they can and can’t do.

Put simply, a bailiff (officially known as an enforcement agent) is an officer of the law who has the power to collect debts, serve court documents, seize goods, and carry out evictions.

There are different types of bailiffs – all with different powers and duties – and the bailiff you are visited by depends on the type and severity of the debt. Most bailiffs carry out orders as requested by the court but are employed by private companies, local authorities, or landlords.

When a bailiff visits you, they will ask you to repay the debt in full or in weekly or monthly payments by signing a ‘controlled goods agreement’, which is where they agree to let you keep your belongings in exchange for making monthly payments towards the debt.

What type of bailiff will visit me?

There are several different types of bailiffs that operate in the UK. We’ve outlined each type in more detail below:

County Court bailiff

County Court bailiffs are bailiffs who represent the local County Court. Their main responsibility is to enforce County Court Judgments (CCJs) but they also collect a range of debts, including rent arrears, council tax arrears, unpaid child maintenance, and parking fines.

High Court enforcement officer

High Court enforcement officers are bailiffs who enforce Writs of Control on behalf of the High Court. They are authorised to seize goods and repossess property but can also recover unpaid CCJs of over £5,000 that have been transferred up to the High Court from the County Court.

Certificated enforcement agent

Certificated enforcement agents are not officers of the court but are certified by the court. To become certificated, they must make an application to the County Court and their application will be reviewed by a judge. Once approved, their name is added to a national register and is valid for two years.

There are other types of bailiffs, such as a family court bailiff and a civilian enforcement officer, but they are less common.

Is a bailiff the same as a debt collector?

Both bailiffs and debt collectors can chase you for payment of a debt, but they are not the same and have very different legal powers.

For example, while bailiffs have the legal power to enter your home and seize goods, debt collectors have no more legal power than your creditors and can only ask you to repay the debt.

Furthermore, a bailiff will typically be hired to collect debts of legal importance like tax debts owed to HMRC, council tax, and County Court Judgments (CCJs) while a debt collection agency is usually reserved for small debts like personal loans and credit cards.

What rules must bailiffs follow?

Despite their reputation, there are certain rules bailiffs must follow when visiting you to collect a debt. We’ve outlined the main rules they should stick to below:

They must have your permission to enter your home

When a bailiff visits you for the first time, they can only enter with your permission and you are not legally obliged to let them inside.

However, a bailiff can enter through a door, garage, or gate that has been left unlocked so you must ensure all entranceways are closed and secured.

Furthermore, a bailiff can force entry into your home if they are there to collect certain debts, like unpaid criminal fines, if the court has granted them a warrant to do so, or if they are there to seize goods after you have broken a controlled goods agreement.

They can’t take essential items

There are rules surrounding what bailiffs can and can’t take when they visit you to seize goods.

Most importantly, they can’t remove anything that you need to maintain a basic standard of living, such as white goods, furniture, or clothing.

They will usually start by looking for any vehicles parked in your driveway or any high-value items in your home, such as computers, game consoles, or jewellery.

They can only visit between certain hours

The only time a bailiff can visit you is between the hours of 6am and 9pm.

They may visit outside of these hours in certain circumstances, but only if they have a warrant from the court or are visiting a business with operating hours that fall outside of these hours.

They must also give you at least seven clear days’ notice before they visit you by sending a ‘notice of enforcement’. This is to give you enough time to get everything in order.

They can’t enter if nobody is home

Crucially, bailiffs can only enter your home if someone at the property gives them authorisation to enter. However, this person must be an adult (over the age of 16) and can’t be classed as vulnerable.

Before you leave, you must ensure all windows and doors are firmly locked and instruct anyone staying in the property not to let bailiffs in while you’re not there.

Even if you leave a key in a lock to a window or door, all a bailiff would need to do is turn the key to gain entry into your home.

How many times can bailiffs visit?

Unfortunately, there is no limit to the amount of times a bailiff can visit you and they will usually keep returning to try and collect payment of the debt – especially if they know you have assets that they can sell to recover the money owed.

They will try to come to a mutual agreement with you on their first visit and if this isn’t possible, they will simply return at a later date. They may also try to contact you in other ways if they have your contact details, such as over the phone or by post.

What happens if I refuse to let a bailiff in?

While you are not legally required to let a bailiff into your home, cooperating with them on their first visit can prevent them from taking further action against you which can incur further fees. The sooner you respond to the bailiff, the sooner you can resolve the situation and deal with your debt.

Even if you have no money or assets to contribute towards the debt, bailiffs may be willing to come to an agreement with you if you show that you’re willing to work with them, not against them.

Remember, if you owe certain debts or enforcement agents have gained peaceful entry on a previous visit, they have the right to force entry or hire a locksmith to help them gain access.

Furthermore, despite what it may seem like, the aim of enforcement action is never to seize and sell your possessions and, in reality, only a small number of cases end up with your belongings being sold at auction.

Will bailiffs give up?

As previously mentioned, you don’t have to let a bailiff into your home and can speak to them through a door or window if you prefer. However, while this may deter them temporarily, it’s only a short-term solution and they will continue to return as long as your creditor instructs them to.

Put simply, the only way to get rid of bailiffs is to find a way to deal with your debt, either by agreeing to a payment plan or by entering into a debt solution like an Individual Voluntary Arrangement (IVA).

If you’ve been contacted by bailiffs and need help suggesting a suitable payment plan or suffer from mental health problems, seek expert debt advice before responding.

Can bailiffs visit my home for someone else’s debt?

Dealing with bailiffs is stressful – especially when you’re being chased for a debt that isn’t yours to pay.

However, before you report a bailiff for chasing you for a debt that’s not yours, you must be confident that you don’t owe any of the money listed. To do this, check if you have any joint credit agreements, if you’ve ever agreed to be a guarantor for someone else’s loan, or if you’ve ever missed payments.

This can be done by requesting a free copy of your credit file from any of the main credit reference agencies and scouring your credit report for any evidence of debt – no matter how small. This should show you a complete list of your financial history from the past six years, including any unpaid debts, missed payments, defaults, or court orders.

If you can provide solid evidence that clearly shows the debt isn’t yours, the contact should stop and you shouldn’t hear anything else from the bailiff or creditor.

Conclusion

If you’ve been visited by a bailiff or enforcement agent, you’re probably wondering if they will ever give up and stop pursuing you for payment of the debt.

However, because there is no limit to the number of times a bailiff can visit, there is no telling when – or if – they will give up and hand your debt back to your creditor to deal with.

The key to dealing with bailiffs effectively is to be open and honest from the beginning and try to put something towards the debt if you can. This will show that you’re willing to del with your debt once and for all.

If you have questions about bailiffs, don’t hesitate to reach out to a debt charity or your local Citizens Advice for help and support. They will be able to provide guidance tailored to your individual circumstances and advise you on your next steps.

Key Takeaways

There are various types of bailiffs, each with their own powers and duties
A bailiff can visit you as many times as they like to collect payment of a debt or seize your belongings
Ignoring a bailiff will only prolong enforcement action and you could face extra fees
You don't have to let a bailiff into your home but doing so can help you resolve the problem sooner
Bailiffs will continue to visit you as long as your creditor instructs them to but they will stop if you can prove the debt isn't yours
Maxine McCreadie

Maxine McCreadie

Author/Debt Expert

Maxine McCreadie, prominent personal finance writer featured in Vogue and Yahoo News, delivers practical guidance, simplifying money management and championing financial literacy.

How we reviewed this article:

HISTORY

Our debt experts continually monitor the personal finance and debt industry, and we update our articles when new information becomes available.

Current Version

June 5 2024

Written by
Maxine McCreadie

Edited by
Ben McCormack

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