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What is a Bailiff?

A Bailiff is an official of court and has the power to seize goods and sell them at auction to settle a debt.

When a debt is owed to a company or individual by a debtor, the debtor must repay this debt. Several attempts will be made by the company or individual to recover the debt. If all attempts fail, the debt will go to court. If this happens the court can instruct a bailiff to recover the debtors properties, i.e. TV’s Hi-Fi’s and any personal property of value which could be sold at auction to recover the debt. The proceeds of the sale will be used to pay the debts to the creditors This is usually a last resort to resolve the situation.

The bailiffs cannot seize goods for any type of debt. Usually, it is for debts from a County Court Judgment, unpaid council tax, court fines, child support agency maintenance and any outstanding rent.

Types of Bailiff

There are 2 main types of bailiff;

  1. County Court Bailiffs - This type of bailiff is typically an employee of the County Court. They usually carry out the County Court Judgments in credit cases. They are sent on behalf of consumer credit debts like that of bank loans or mortgages.
  1. Private Bailiffs - This type of bailiffs is sent by the Magistrate Court to collect county fines and other government fees and taxes. These are usually private firms who the Magistrate Courts can readily hire to chase outstanding arrears. Other authorities who hires these firms are Local Councils (as long as they have an order from the Magistrate Court) to collect unpaid taxes and charges for the community.

Rights of entry for Bailiffs

Every bailiff has a certain type of power to collect, depending on the debts that need to be collected. When a debtor is visited by bailiffs, the debtor has the right to ask for authority or “warrant” from the bailiff. If the bailiff is seizing property from a County Court Judgment, he must have a warrant. If the bailiff is seizing property under the Magistrate Court due to unpaid Council Tax, unpaid maintenance or compensation or outstanding fine, they must have a liability warrant or distressing warrant.

Although it will feel threatening, you need to understand that a bailiff cannot enter your property because of your failure to pay if they feel like it. Below are their rights of entry:

  • Bailiffs cannot force entry into your house ie.e break down a door or smash a window. They can, however, the through open windows, doors, jump over fence, and climb over walls.
  • Bailiffs must be able to present identification if you ask them to along with a warrant from a County Court or Magistrates Court.
  • Bailiffs can only force entry if a Police Officer is present
  • Bailiffs can only seize goods that are yours. Rented items, hired, or owned by someone cannot be seized from your house.

Normally, you do have the right not to let the bailiff come in. However, If this is the case they will return with a Police Officer.

What can Bailiffs take from you?

In order to recover any outstanding debts, bailiffs will seize goods such as;

  • TV’s, Hi-Fi’s and electrical equipment
  • Good not owned or co-owned by the debtor, i.e. you friend property if it is in your home (this would be classed as co-owned)
  • Hired goods
  • Rented goods

Bailiffs can only seize goods that are owned and co-owned by the debtor.

Does it have to go this far?

Initially, most creditors will try and avoid going to court due to the costs involved. They would welcome an intervention from a debt advisor to try and resolve the issue. A Debt Advisor does not take the job of a Bailiff. Instead, he presents different debt help solutions so that the situation can be resolved peacefully, rationally and most of all help you get out of debt. They do not have the right to seize any property. If the debtor does not seek help with debts, it may lead to County Court judgment being issued and eventually the need to deploy Bailiffs.

Debt Help options

There are many ways to settle outstanding debts without it getting to the court stage. Some options are; IVA’s, Debt Management Plans, Loans for bad credit, Trust Deeds and many other solutions. Try our free Product Advisor to determine which is the best solution for you.