Bailiffs - Enforcement Agents
Expecting a visit from the bailiffs (also known as enforcement officers) can be a very scary and stressful experience. There are certain rights that you have and powers and procedures that a bailiff should follow.
Contact your local advice agency or debt specialist if you need specialist help and advice about bailiffs and how to deal with all of your debts.
What to expect
Visiting times and days
A visit can occur between the hours of 6am and 9pm. A bailiff can visit you outside of these times as long as they obtain a warrant from a court allowing them to do this. They can also visit you at your business premises if it is only open outside of these hours. Although a bailiff can also visit you on any day of the week, Sundays and religious festivals should be avoided, unless it’s absolutely necessary.
Where can the Bailiffs visit?
In England and Wales, bailiffs are allowed to visit your home and where you run a business if you are self-employed. They should not call at your place of work, if you work for someone else. Bailiffs can also visit another person's property if your goods are stored there, provided they obtain a court warrant first.
Goods and possessions
Goods owned by another person
Goods of no or little value
Sometimes the goods you own are not worth enough to cover the cost of the bailiff coming back with a van to remove and sell them. In this situation they will have twelve months from the date of the enforcement notice to take control of your goods. However they are likely to agree instalments on the debt. If you do not pay, then the twelve months will start when the arrangement has been broken.
The bailiffs should not take control of goods that are worth more than you actually owe unless there is only one item that the bailiff thinks is worth taking, such as your vehicle.
If you hide your goods away (for example at another location) and the bailiffs haven’t yet been in they can apply to the court for permission to break into the place where the goods are. If the bailiffs have already been in and obtained a control of your goods agreement, you will be committing an offence if you remove those goods.
Hire purchase vehicles
Under the current regulations some bailiffs may interpret the law differently and argue they are within their rights to take (or clamp) a car which is subject to a hire purchase agreement, (a vehicle you are not the legal owner of until it has been paid for).
If a bailiff does threaten, clamp or remove your hire purchase vehicle you could make a complaint in writing, to the bailiff firm, keep a copy for your own reference and also send a copy to the creditor that instructed the bailiff. You could also send a copy of the complaint to a regulator or ombudsman such as the Financial Ombudsman or Local Government Ombudsman.
High court writs
If you don’t think the bailiffs have correctly followed procedures or if they have not behaved properly you could address your complaint to the local authority as the bailiffs are acting as their agent. If your complaint is not dealt with you can escalate the complaint to the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman (LGSCO). Visit www.lgo.org.uk/contact-us or telephone 0300 061 0614. The LGSCO may not look at the complaint if you are able to ask the County Court to look at it instead, for example, if there is a dispute about who owns the goods. When you make a complaint, do it in writing, obtain a copy and send a copy to both the creditor who instructed the bailiff and the bailiff firm.
The Taking Control of Goods - National Standards
These are good practice guidelines, setting out the rules and procedures that the bailiffs should follow. Further details can be found at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/bailiffs-and-enforcement-agents-national-standards.
The Civil Enforcement Association (CIVEA)
Civea is a trade body which many private bailiff firms belong to. Check to see if the bailiff firm is a member of CIVEA and if so you may be able to make a formal complaint to them. Visit www.civea.co.uk/complaints for a members list and details of how to complain.
To check the courts register for certificated bailiffs visit https://certificatedbailiffs.justice.gov.uk/
To check the High Court Enforcement register, visit: https://www.hceoa.org.uk/members/authorised-members-directory