A bailiff may visit your home if you don’t pay your debts - eg a Council Tax bill, parking fine, court fine, county court or family court judgment.
This will happen if you ignore letters saying that bailiffs will be used.
Bailiffs must normally give you at least 7 days’ notice of their first visit.
You can stop bailiffs from visiting by paying the money you owe. Talk to the person or business you owe money to as soon as possible to get advice on how to pay your debt.
Bailiffs are also known as ‘enforcement agents’.
Dealing with bailiffs
In most cases, you don’t have to open your front door to a bailiff or let them in.
Bailiffs are not usually allowed to force their way into your home - eg by pushing past you, or putting their foot in the door.
However, if you don’t let them in or agree to pay them:
- they could take things from outside your home - eg your car
- you could end up owing even more money
If you do let them in, but don’t pay them, they may take some of your belongings. They could sell the items to pay the debt and cover their fees.
Bailiffs are allowed to force their way into your home to collect unpaid criminal fines, Income Tax or Stamp Duty, but only as a last resort.
- enter your home if only children or vulnerable people are present
- enter your home between 9pm and 6am
- enter your home through anything except the door
What to ask a bailiff
Before you pay a bailiff, or let them in to take your things, ask to see:
- proof of their identity - eg a badge or ID card
- a detailed breakdown of their charges
Paying a bailiff
You can pay the bailiff on the doorstep - you don’t have to invite them into your home.
Make sure you get a receipt to prove you’ve paid.
If you can’t pay all the money right away, speak to the bailiff about how you could pay the money back.
Offer to pay what you can realistically afford in weekly or monthly payments.
The bailiff doesn’t have to accept your offer.
Help or advice
You can get free help or advice on dealing with bailiffs from:
What bailiffs can and can’t take
If you let a bailiff into your home, they may take some of your belongings to sell.
Bailiffs can take luxury items - eg a TV or games console.
They can’t take:
- things you need - eg your clothes, cooker, fridge, furniture or work tools
- someone else’s belongings - eg your partner’s computer
You’ll have to prove that someone else’s goods don’t belong to you.
What bailiffs can charge
Bailiff fees are fixed. In most cases, if you owe less than £1,500 the fees are:
- £75 when your case is sent to the bailiff
- £235 if you ignore a letter from bailiffs and they have to visit you
- £110 if they have to take your goods and sell them at auction
You’ll still have to pay the bailiff for any action they take against you - like storing your goods or using a locksmith.
If you owe more than £1,500 you’ll also have to pay a percentage of your debt as an additional fee each time bailiffs visit your home.
You can challenge bailiffs if you think they’ve charged you:
- the wrong fee
- for something they haven’t done