Bailiffs And Your Rights
Bailiffs are persons authorised by the Courts to collect debts on behalf of someone owed money. If you're being visited by bailiffs, you still have rights and the bailiffs must conduct themselves in a lawful manner. However, you must face up to the loss of some possessions or start repayments very soon.
Bailiffs are now also referred to as Civil Enforcement Agents. For the majority of borrowers with unsecured debt repayment problems, the law is sympathetic towards them. This is because the Consumer Credit Act 1974 states a borrower is only required to repay their unsecured debts at a rate which is realistically affordable once essential living expenses and personal circumstances have been considered. This is regardless of the level of debt, the duration of the loan or the interest rate.
Only when all the following are true can a County Court bailiff visit your home/premises:
- A default notice(s) has been issued and not complied with.
- The creditor has advised of their intention of Court action and a Claim/ Summons has been issued.
- A Judgment has been made in favour of the creditor with terms the Judge deems to be fair to both parties.
- You are still not making repayments under the terms of the Judgment.
Advice contained here can offer some protection, but only an appeal against a Judgment, granting of a Time Order or the commencement of repayments will stop the debt being repaid by means outside your control.
Bailiffs & access to your home
County Court bailiffs will not arrive at your door without warning. You must be given seven days notice to allow you a final chance to reach settlement. You do not have to let bailiffs into your home. County Court bailiffs cannot use force to gain initial entry to a property. Walking in through an unlocked door or climbing in through a window without causing damage is classed as peaceful means. The bailiff may also ask you to allow them into your property to discuss the matter, thus gaining peaceful entry.
Forcing their way past you at your door is not allowed for debts relating to unsecured lending. Once in your home, a bailiff can use force to open internal doors and cupboards. If a bailiff has previously accessed your home by peaceful means, they are entitled to force entry on subsequent visits in respect of the same debt.
If you refuse the bailiff entry indefinitely, the Warrant will be returned to the Court. This means the bailiffs are saying they have not been able to get payment. The creditor may then take other action to enforce the Judgment, such as an Attachment of Earnings Order or in some cases seek a Bankruptcy Petition.
Bailiffs & Removing Items
Items bailiffs can't take
Once the bailiff has gained access, they can seize any goods belonging to the debtor with the following exceptions:
- Items or tools used in self employment/business by the debtor. This can include vehicles, computing equipment and smart phones.
- Household equipment and provisions necessary for the basic domestic needs of the debtor and their family. This includes clothing, bedding and furniture.
- Goods rented or on hire purchase (as technically these don't belong to the debtor).
- Items of little or no resale value.
- Items belonging to or used exclusively by a child.
The bailiff can take goods which are jointly owned by the debtor and another person or persons, but if they are sold they must pay the other parties their share of the money. If proven, it is not likely the bailiff will remove jointly owned goods. The onus is upon you to prove joint or non-ownership.
Walking Possession Agreement
The bailiff can remove goods immediately, and will usually do so in the case of vehicles. More commonly, they will leave the item on the premises, asking you to sign a Walking Possession Agreement. This lists the seized items marked suitable for removal. To list items, the bailiff must first have access. They can't list items viewed through a window. The bailiff is now in control of the listed goods but is leaving them on the premises allowing for continued usage. You must pay the agreed instalments on the Walking Possession Agreement otherwise the bailiff can return to remove the goods to sell at public auction.
You can remove, sell or hide possessions before a bailiff seizes them, however once items have been seized it is an offence to remove, sell or damage the itemised goods. The bailiff can now force entry to property to recover the seized items as they have previously gained peaceful entry.
Making Offers to Bailiffs
It is advisable to offer whatever payment you can afford to the bailiff. However, do not let them into your premise/home to do so. Close your door and ask them to wait outside or in their car. Make sure you get a receipt for any money paid.
Seizing Goods of Greater Value than the Debt
Goods are seized with the intention to be sold at public auction. Typically this will attract a sale price of about 10% of their 'as new' value. Therefore, the bailiff will try to seize goods of round 10 times the 'as new' value of the outstanding debt. You would be better off selling the items yourself before the bailiff arrives and using the proceeds towards the debt. This way you'll have more choice as to what you keep and lose and are likely to be able to achieve a better price.
How Harrington Brooks can Help
For many of our clients, the prospect of a visit from bailiffs was the final straw to prompt them to seek help. The key is to act quickly. We review your financial circumstances, and produce a common financial statement. This is a document your creditors will accept to be a fair assessment of your ability to repay this debt and any other debts. The money you have in excess of essential expenditure is called disposable income, and only this needs to go towards paying unsecured debts.
The debt subject to the Court Order can be given a priority if needed in order to comply with the terms of the Judgment.
Once we've prepared your financial statement, we'd propose you enter into a Debt Management Plan, or subject to qualification, an IVA. We'd contact the creditor taking the legal action explaining Harrington Brooks are now representing you and to direct all queries to us.
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Please see Client Support » Warrants Of Execution and Bailiff Action.