Complaining about bailiffs
You can complain about bailiffs (also called ‘enforcement agents’) if they treat you badly or don’t follow the rules. Complaining can give you more time, get belongings back or stop bailiffs visiting you any more.
Complaining won’t cancel your original debt, but it can give you a chance to deal with it in a way that suits you.
Before you complain, check the extra rules bailiffs should follow if you:
- are disabled or seriously ill
- have mental health problems
- have children or are pregnant
- are under 18 or over 65
- don’t speak or read English well
- are in a stressful situation like recent bereavement or unemployment
Your complaint is more likely to succeed if the bailiffs have broken these extra rules.
When to complain
You should complain if bailiffs:
- break the rules around entering your home - or lie about what they can do to get in
- take things they shouldn’t - or threaten to take things they shouldn’t
- refuse a reasonable repayment offer - or pressure you into paying more than you can afford
- don’t send you the proper paperwork before they visit you
- keep contacting you even though you don’t owe the debt
- discriminate against you based on your race, religion, sex, sexuality, age or disability - check if you’re being discriminated against
There’s a separate process for fees - start by checking bailiffs' fees.
If bailiffs harass you or act aggressively
You should also complain if bailiffs harass you or act aggressively. This includes:
- threats, intimidation or violence
- using offensive language
- repeatedly calling, texting or visiting you
- telling neighbours about your debt, or demanding information from them
- putting pressure on you to pay someone else’s debt
- continuing to visit or contact you when you’ve already paid a debt
Find out who to complain to
Check who you owe the money to - they’re called your ‘creditor’. For example, if your debt is for council tax your creditor is your local council - not the bailiffs.
Usually it’s best to complain to your creditor as well as to the bailiffs. This is because your creditor can tell the bailiffs to stop if they aren’t following the rules. Send a copy of your complaint to the bailiffs - this will help you later on if complaining to your creditor doesn't help.
You can get contact details for most creditors online. For some creditors there are specific places to look:
You owe council tax
Find your council’s website on GOV.UK and look for their complaints process. Most councils have an online form you can fill in to send a complaint.
If you can’t find your council’s complaints process, write to their postal address. This should be in the contact section of their website. Address your letter to the council tax department.
You haven’t paid a parking ticket
Check what kind of parking ticket you have. It could be a ‘penalty charge notice’ from the council or a ‘parking charge notice’ from a company.
If you have a penalty charge notice
If you want to complain about getting the penalty charge notice rather than about the bailiffs, check if you can appeal the penalty charge notice.
To complain about the bailiffs, find your council’s website on GOV.UK and look for their complaints process. Most councils have an online form you can fill in to send a complaint.
If you can’t find your council’s complaints process, write to their postal address. This should be in the contact section of their website. Address your letter to the council’s legal department.
If you have a parking charge notice
If you want to complain about getting the parking charge notice rather than about the bailiffs, check if you can appeal the parking charge notice.
The company that fined you will have had to get a county court judgement to send bailiffs after you. To complain about the bailiffs, you’ll need to write to the court that made the judgement. Use the GOV.UK court finder to get the court’s email or postal address. Address your complaint to the bailiff manager.
You owe a magistrate’s court fine
Use the GOV.UK court finder to get the court’s email or postal address. Then address your email or letter to the court clerk.
You owe money for a county court judgment
Use the GOV.UK court finder to get the court’s email or postal address. Then address your email or letter to the court’s bailiff manager.
You owe income tax, VAT or National Insurance
Complain to HM Revenue and Customs on their website. It’s best to use their online form so it reaches them instantly and you can keep a record of what you’ve sent. You can complain by phone or letter if you prefer.
You owe child support
Check if you owe your debt to the Child Support Agency or Child Maintenance Service. Letters and other documents from the bailiffs should tell you this.
For the Child Maintenance Service, or if you’re not sure, write to:
Child Maintenance Service (CMS)
PO Box 249
Phone: 0800 171 2345
Text relay: 0345 266 8795
For the Child Support Agency, find your nearest office on the DWP’s website.
How to write your complaint
FInd out how to write a letter complaining about bailiffs - including what to ask the creditor to do.
Send a copy of your complaint to the bailiffs
Make sure you send a copy of your complaint to the bailiffs as well as to your creditor. This will let you take more action later on if complaining to your creditor doesn’t help.
Bailiffs shouldn’t visit you or take any other action against you until your creditor has dealt with your complaint. If you get any more visits or letters, call the bailiff company and tell them you’re waiting for your creditor to deal with your complaint.
To send a copy of your complaint to the bailiffs, look on their website for a complaints process. You can also ask a bailiff how to complain if they visit.
If bailiffs don’t have a complaints process or won’t tell you how to complain, add this to your complaint to your creditor. Say that this is a breach of the national standards all bailiffs should follow. Ask your creditor to take back the debt and end the bailiff action.
Complain to a trade body
If you aren’t happy with the response from your creditor you can complain to a bailiff trade body. The bailiffs can continue to visit and send you letters while you’re complaining.
You can only complain to a trade body once you’ve heard back from the bailiff company you sent a copy of your complaint to. You can also complain to a trade body if you haven’t heard anything from the bailiffs after 28 days.
You can complain to the Civil Enforcement Association if your debt is for magistrates' court fines or child support payments.
You can complain to the High Court Enforcement Officers’ Association if you’re dealing with high court enforcement officers. Bailiffs have to say if they’re high court enforcement officers - it will be on any letters they’ve sent you, and on the ID they have to show you if they visit you.
To complain to the High Court Enforcement Officers' Association, email your complaint to email@example.com. You can also complain by calling 0844 824 4575 - but it’s better to email if you can. By emailing you can make your complaint more detailed and keep a record of what you sent.
Complain to an ombudsman
Some creditors will have an ombudsman. This is a separate organisation that makes sure they’re behaving properly. You can complain to an ombudsman about bailiffs collecting debts for:
- your local council
- a magistrate’s court
- HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC)
- the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP)
- an energy, internet or phone company
Complaining to an ombudsman is free, but you need to have complained to your creditor first.
If you owe money to your council
You can complain to the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman. Your complaint should be about the council that you sent your original complaint to. Explain what the bailiffs have done wrong but focus on your council’s response to your original complaint.
You’ll need to wait until you hear back from the council before you complain to the ombudsman.
If you owe money to a magistrate’s court, HMRC or the DWP
You’ll need to complain to the Parliamentary and Health Services Ombudsman. To do this you’ll need to fill in the ombudsman’s complaints form for UK government services and ask your MP to send it for you.
Find your MP’s contact details by entering your postcode on the Parliament website. Contact them and say:
- what the bailiffs have done wrong
- why the HMRC, DWP or court response hasn’t helped
- you’d like to refer HMRC, the DWP or the court to the Parliamentary and Health Services Ombudsman
- that you’ve included the ombudsman’s complaints form and you’d like them to fill in section 5
If you owe money to an energy company
You can complain to the energy ombudsman about bailiffs sent by an energy company. You’ll need to have complained directly to the energy company first.
If you owe money to an internet or phone company
You can complain to the communications ombudsman about bailiffs sent by an internet or phone company. You’ll need to have complained directly to the company first.
Apply to court to stop a bailiff
If a bailiff has behaved so badly you don’t think they should be allowed to be a bailiff any more, it can be worth applying to court to have their certificate taken away. This will stop them working as a bailiff - they’ll stop contacting you and you won’t have to pay their fees.
Contact your nearest Citizens Advice for help if you’re considering court action against bailiffs. An adviser can discuss the options with you.