Step 7: Dealing with bailiffs

What is an enforcement agent?

The law relating to bailiffs changed in April 2014. Bailiffs are now known as enforcement agents.An enforcement agent is someone who is authorised to collect a debt on behalf of a creditor. A creditor is someone you owe money to. There are several types of bailiff who act differently according to the type of debt being collected. Although different enforcement agents have differing powers to collect debts, there are certain rules that apply to all bailiffs. The following general guidance may help you.

What powers does the enforcement agent have?

The enforcement agents must normally give you seven days notice of their first visit

 Enforcement agents can’t

  • Enter your home if only children or vulnerable people are present

  • Enter your home between 9pm and 6am

  • Take essential household goods such as cooker, fridge, washing machine, furniture and household equipment
     
  • Enter your home through anything except the door

You do not have to let an enforcement agent into your house. An enforcement agent cannot force their way past you if you answer the door. If all your doors are securely closed they will not be able to gain peaceful entry to your house unless you let them in.

Don’t open the door to an enforcement agent as they may try to walk straight into your home as soon as the door is open. Once this has happened they will have the right to return and force entry. If you let an enforcement agent in, or he/she gets in somehow without using force, they can enter and search any room for goods and once inside, they can force inner doors.

Agents may be able to take cars, motorbikes and other vehicles parked on your drive or near your home. If you have a vehicle keep it in a locked garage or you could park it away from your property.


What will an enforcement agent do?

If a bailiff gets into your home, he/she will attempt to take your goods in order to sell them off at public auction to raise money to pay the debt that you owe. Once the bailiff has identified the goods to be taken, he/she can then come back at a later stage to take them away and sell them.

In general, an enforcement agent can only take goods which belong to you, although jointly owned goods may be taken. The agents will be particularly interested in saleable goods like cars, audio-visual equipment and computers if these are available.

If the enforcement agent fails to get into your home or he/she cannot find sufficient goods of value, the creditor is informed and other enforcement action is likely to follow. For example in the case of council tax arrears an unsuccessful return from the enforcement agents is likely to lead to committal proceedings – final court action possibly leading to imprisonment.


What should you do if the enforcement agent is coming?

There are a number of things you can do to stop the enforcement agent taking your goods. This includes applying to the court to remove or suspend the order which gives the agents power to act. Even at this late stage you may be able to negotiate repayment arrangements with the creditor to stop the agents.

Unpaid Council Tax

If enforcement agents are collecting unpaid council tax it is often difficult to negotiate instalment payments with the bailiff or the local authority until the warrant is returned or withdrawn from the agents. However, you should try to negotiate instalment payments with the local authority and encourage them to withdraw the warrant. It is important to make clear that although you are unwilling to let the enforcement agent in, you are willing to make instalment payments at a rate that you can afford.

Remember

  • Enforcement agents cannot send you to prison
  • Don’t let the bailiffs in
  • Don’t sign anything 
  • Keep your vehicle parked away from home or locked in a garage.

Enforcement agent law is very complex and even if you think what they have done is unfair, they may still be acting within the law. Contact us for further advice see details below.


Contact us

Welfare Rights and Money Advice
Civic Centre
Southampton
SO14 7LR

Telephone: 023 8083 2339
Email: welfarerights.advice@southampton.gov.uk
Website: www.southampton.gov.uk/welfarerights