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Bailiffs are individuals with special legal powers that seek to reclaim debts by arriving at a debtor’s home or place of business and asking for payment. Should the debtor fail to make the necessary payments, bailiffs can repossess belongings and sell them at auction. Bailiffs can either be a court official or work for a private bailiff firm and are sometimes referred to as ‘enforcement agents’. However, they are not employees of the creditor but act as an agent to them. Bailiffs can be appointed following an unpaid CCJ but they can also enforce many other types of debt, such as parking penalties, council tax, child maintenance, criminal fines or tax arrears owed to HMRC.

Are bailiffs and debt collectors the same?

Whilst the two terms are often used interchangeably, Bailiffs and Debt Collectors are actually two separate entities and differ in the legal powers they possess. Bailiffs are legally appointed and have special legal powers as they are representing the courts, whereas debt collection agencies will either have been passed the debt from the original creditor or will have purchased it from them. It is illegal for them to imply that they are bailiffs, as they have no more legal power of recovery than the original creditor and cannot seize assets like a bailiff can. A debt collector can only seek to recover the amount owed by contacting a debtor and requesting payment and must give notice if they intend to visit the debtors home or place of business.

What powers do bailiffs have?

As representatives of the court, bailiffs have special legal powers when it comes to debt recovery and in certain circumstances can enter a debtor’s home and seize assets in order to sell them at auction. They are not allowed to use force without a court warrant, so can only enter through an unlocked gate or door or if someone in the house over 16 years old permits them entry. They can, however, obtain a warrant in order to enter forcefully, in which case they may break doors in order to gain entry. Before entering a debtors home they will first try and retrieve payment from the debtor. If this is unsuccessful then they may enter the debtor’s home and begin compiling a list of assets to place under their control. They can then take these items with them or leave them with the debtor to collect at a later date if the money owed is not repaid. Bailiffs can take items such as jewelry, vehicles or electronics, however, they cannot take items that are needed for living purposes or work purposes, such as bedding, furniture or tools of the debtor’s trade.

I have been threatened with bailiff enforcement, what can I do?

If you have received letters threatening Bailiff action or if you have already received your ‘notice of enforcement’, then time is of the essence and action needs to be taken fast. There are several recovery options available to both businesses and individuals but you need to get in touch with a licensed insolvency practitioner immediately in order to have the best possible chance of preventing them from taking your goods. Once a notice of enforcement has been issued you will have seven days (not including Sundays, bank holidays, Christmas Day or Good Friday) with which to initiate preventative measures, and failure to do so means that Bailiffs may then visit you at your home or business at any point in the following 12 months.

Ultimately, the only way to stop the bailiffs is to ensure that your creditor is satisfied that they will receive payment. This is not always easily achieved but approaching an experienced insolvency practitioner such as Wilson Field is the first step towards demonstrating your intentions.

Authored by Phil Meekin

Phil Meekin

Head of Marketing

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