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Dealing with Debt Collectors and Enforcement Agents

Dealing with bailiffs

The threat of bailiffs should not conjure up feelings of fear and worry.  We have you covered so you know how to deal with any potential intruders to your home.

When you are equipped with knowledge, you will find that you have all the power. 

Doorstep visits

In the current cost of living crisis, many find themselves unable to meet their usual living costs and falling into debt. Consequently, interactions with Debt Collectors and Enforcement Agents (commonly referred to as Bailiffs) may arise – a situation that is often stressful and intimidating if you do not know your rights and how to deal with them.

Whilst it is best to prevent a situation from escalating to the point of debt collectors at the door, if you are already facing this, there are a few important things to remember to help protect yourself and your property:

Their powers vs your rights

Yes, Enforcement Agents and Debt Collectors have some legal powers to collect debts and remove property, but these powers are limited by the type of bailiff they are, the type of matter at hand (civil/criminal/repossession) and are regulated to operate within strict legal boundaries.

They cannot act as they please with arbitrary powers or demands, nor can they intimidate or bully you into submission (though some may well try to). More often, they require your collaboration to successfully remove your property or elicit payments, and you have the right not to comply.

Enforcement activities generally fall within the remit of the:

Both of which can be read online.

You have rights

If you are dealing with doorstep visits from these types of agents, here are some simple things to remember:

  • They must always act within the Law – their certification depends on it.
  • They should have given you notice of their attendance, at least seven days beforehand. It is an offence if they do not.
  • You are under no obligation to answer your door to these agents. In fact, in most circumstances, it is better not to engage with them at the door and deal with them in writing.
  • They cannot force entry into your home in regards to general debt.
  • If a bailiff refuses to leave the property after being requested to do so, or begins to force entry, then he is causing a disturbance: Bibby v Constable of Essex [2000]
  • They can enter through an unlocked door, so be sure to keep your doors locked as a door left open is an implied license for a bailiff to enter: Faulkner v Willetts [1982] Crim LR 453
  • They cannot enter through an open window.
  • You have a right to see the warrant (they have to carry it with them according to the legislation, but they often will be reluctant to show it to you).
  • They must not be deceitful or misrepresent themselves or their powers.
  • They must not behave in a threatening manner.
  • They must provide Identification and relevant documentation when asked (126 County Courts Act 1984).
  • They must not embarrass the debtor.
  • They must not discriminate.
  • They must act with particular care with vulnerable debtors and alert the creditor.
  • They can only enforce between 6am-9pm on any day except public holidays (unless special court permission is obtained).
  • They must not take the goods of a third party.

It is worth getting to know the limitations which regulate bailiff activity because when they breach these (which is not uncommon), they invalidate the levy (the enforcement collection) and in some circumstances, give rise to a claim against them where compensation can be sought.

If they have acted outside of their remit and caused you distress, harm, or loss, depending on the severity of the breach, they may also risk being struck off.

Top Tips if you are dealing with a doorstep visit:

  • If you receive notice of a visit, ensure you keep your doors locked and any vehicles in your name, secure (this can be as simple as putting it in a locked garage or on a neighbour’s driveway or on other private land, but not on a public highway or on your own accessible driveway as they may clamp and remove it).
  • Do not open the door to them – you do not have to speak to them or identify yourself, however, if you decide to, speak through an open window or letterbox and film your interaction with them so you keep a record for yourself.
  • Do not enter agreements with them (controlled goods), they will often offer this as a kind of payment plan to prevent them from removing your goods today. But you do not have to enter this and if they cannot access your home or car, they will be leaving without your goods anyway. Entering these kinds of agreements give them powers to forcibly (by locksmith) enter your property later if you do not keep up repayments.
  • If you, or someone in your household is considered vulnerable, either tell them this or write to them (you don’t have to explain the finer details or give personal private data to them).
  • Report any misconduct at the earliest opportunity (your video footage may prove vital evidence of this).
  • Always remain calm and polite but firm in your interactions with them – remember you are being filmed too (often by their bodycams).

We recommend further reading here:

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NB: This article refers to matters of general debt. There are some circumstances where bailiffs have additional powers to enforce by entering a property, such as home repossession, utility warrants, commercial premises, and criminal fines. These matters require specialist advice at the earliest opportunity and the above does not fully apply to these situations.

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