Can a bailiff force entry in to my property? In most cases a bailiff can only enter your house peacefully through a front or back door. This means they must: i) Explain who they are ii) Say why they’re calling iii) Enter only with your permission iv) Enter without using force They must not: i) Climb through a window ii) Break down doors or use a locksmith iii) Push past you or put their foot in the door to stop you closing it iv) Enter the property when there’s only a child under 16 at home v) Provide misleading information about who they are or why they’re calling There are some cases when a bailiff is allowed to use force to enter you house, for example: i) To collect a criminal fine or taxes owed to HM Revenue & customs ii) To remove goods if you made a controlled goods agreement but you’ve not paid an arrangement previously made. However, force is rarely used by bailiffs and you should always be aware that they cannot break in without giving you a chance to let them in voluntarily. In most cases they have to apply for a warrant from a judge before they’re allowed to use force. In what cases can the bailiff not force entry? The bailiff could have the right to force entry to your home if they’re collecting: Unpaid magistrates court fines, for example if you were given a fine for not paying your TV licence, Tax debts for HM Revenue and Customs, for example if you owe income tax They are required to show you proof of what you owe and a ‘warrant’ or a document called a ‘writ’ from a court.Check any documents are signed and in date and have your correct name and address. They aren’t allowed to break down your door – they have to use ‘reasonable force’. This means they’ll have to come back with a locksmith who will unlock the door. Fortunately it’s very unlikely they’ll do this – you’ll usually still have time to make an offer to sort out the debt. In what cases is the bailiff unable to force entry? If the bailiff is collecting any other kind of debt they aren’t allowed to force entry into your home. This includes if they’re collecting: i) council tax arrears ii) credit card or catalogue debts iii) unpaid parking tickets iv) money you owe to energy or phone companies You have the right to keep them outside and talk through the closed door. Certain bailiffs may have tactics to persuade you otherwise but always stand firm in this situation. The first thing to do when a bailiff arrives is to ask for proof of who they are and the purpose of their visit. If they are a ‘debt collector’ you can tell them to leave. They don’t have the same powers as a bailiff and they have to go if you ask them to. If they claim to be a bailiff or enforcement agent, you should always ask them to show you a badge, or a form of ID. Legally they must carry proof of who they are. They are legally obliged to provide you with information such as, which company they’re from and give you a telephone contact number for the head office. You can ask them to pass the documents through your letterbox or show you at a window. Their proof of identity will show their name and what kind of bailiff they are. Ask for a full breakdown of the debt they’re collecting and who the ‘creditor’ is – this is the person or company they say you owe money to. You can ask them to pass any documents through the letter-box or under the door. It is important to check that any documents they give you are still in date and have your correct name and address. What can bailiffs take? If a bailiff enters your home they have the right to seize goods using a Controlled Goods Agreement. This basically involves the bailiff taking an inventory of any of your belongings they’re allowed to take, along with a description of the item. Your vehicle – However if you are a courier or tradesman who needs their vehicle for work, you might be able to keep it. Bailiffs aren’t allowed to seize any vehicle vital to your job worth under £1350, but if it’s worth anything over the vehicle is still at risk. Electrical luxuries/gadgets – These tend to be things like televisions, games consoles, computers, laptops or other electrical gadgets. Remember, it is only in the bailiff’s interest to seize things that are likely to sell at auction so they can recover the debt. Jewellery Once the inventory of all the repossessed items has been completed, both you and the bailiff will have to sign the Controlled Goods Agreement. You can ask someone to sign it on your behalf if you’re not present for the repossessions. If you refuse to sign it the bailiff has the right to repossess your items. What items are they unable to take? Here are some examples of items that a bailiff can’t take: i) Hire purchase vehicles – if you’ve still got payments outstanding on a vehicle you’ve hired, a bailiff does not have the right to repossess ii) Anything that’s essential to your day to day living –. These are items such as microwaves, washing machines, clothes etc. iii) Anything that’s essential to your job or study up to a value of £1350 like tools, equipment, books etc. iv) Valuables that aren’t owned by you (if you’re living with someone else the person may have to provide evidence such as receipts or statements.) If you are seeking further information or advice about any of the above, please contact John on 08006990556. Disclaimer: this briefing is for guidance purposes only. We accept no responsibility or liability whatsoever for any action taken or not taken in relation to this note and recommends that appropriate legal advice be taken having regard to a client’s own particular circumstances.