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What powers do Bailiffs Have when they Visit?

Debt notice statementCourt Bailiffs – Enforcement Agents - have wide-ranging, but limited powers when they visit your home – but so do you! It is as well to know what a bailiff can do when they visits your home – or business – and what they cannot or must not do.

If you have to deal with a bailiff, the first thing you need to do is to make sure that the person is actually a court bailiff and not a simply a debt collector. A debt collector cannot pretend to be a bailiff. If they do they are committing a fraud.

Debt collectors have no more power than the person who uses them. A Bailiff is sent by the court to enforce the debt judgement that has been awarded to your creditor. You owe money and the court sends the bailiff to enforce that judgement. But there are rules in place to ensure that the bailiff acts in a responsible manner. The days of a bailiff smashing your front door down are long since gone.

We assume in this article that the bailiff is in pursuit of money you owe. (Sometimes a bailiff visits to serve you with court documents, or give you a summons to attend court – if you have ignored a previous summons etc. That takes place with the handing over of the document or some form of hand delivery.)

Bailiff in Pursuit of Money you owe

For a Bailiff Enforcement Agent, there is a set way in which they are legally obliged to go about their business. It is not all one-sided however and there are a few things you can do to make their job more difficult. Not advisable, for they will eventually get their way – all you can do is delay!

For an enforcement bailiff to act, there has to have been court proceedings in which you were adjudged as owing a person, organisation, or company a sum of money for goods or services received. They will have received ‘judgement’ against you in a court. This will include unpaid council tax or court fines.

 This may also be the case with unpaid fines and the like. If it is a ‘criminal’ debt such as a fine for a criminal offence, you could be arrested. For a civil debt, you CANNOT be arrested. Before a Bailiff can call, they have to send you an Notice of Enforcement, issued by the court in question - a County Court or High Court for civil debts. This notice must be sent to you at least 7 days prior the first visit. Once a bailiff has visited you the first time, they do not have to send you notification for next visits.

The Notice of Enforcement

Whichever means of serving you, you will have the full clear seven days as outlined above.

When the Bailiff Arrives

If the correct steps have been taken by the bailiff and you have not taken any steps to try to avoid the bailiff’s action, you can expect to receive a visit shortly after the 7 allowed days from receipt of the notice. Sometimes bailiffs are busy, so it could be quite some while before the first visit. Bailiffs are allowed up to 12 months from the date of notice in which to visit and start their action. Don’t just wait – do something to try and prevent further action by the bailiff.

The most important starting point for you is by ensuring that the person who has visited is in fact a bailiff and not just a debt collector. Debt Collectors have no powers, other than puersuasion. The Bailiff – Enforcement Agent – will have certification and means of identification authority. Make sure that you see and understand this.

DO NOT let the bailiff into your home until you are certain of the bailiff’s authority. The bailiff CANNOT force a way into your home, and cannot enter by any entrance other than normal entry points. A window – even if open – is not a normal entry point. Normal entry means a doorway or similar that you use for access to your own home. 


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