Writing a complaint letter about bailiffs
When complaining about bailiffs your first step is to write to whoever you owe money to - called your ‘creditor’. For example, if your debt is for council tax your creditor is your local council.
When sending a complaint to your creditor, send a copy to the bailiffs as well. Check who to complain to if you're not sure where to send your complaint.
There are 4 steps to writing a letter or email of complaint:
- Tell the creditor who you are
- Identify the bailiffs
- Explain what the bailiffs did wrong
- Say how the creditor should deal with the complaint
Contact your nearest Citizens Advice if you’d like help writing your complaint.
Before you complain, check the extra rules the 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.
1. Telling the creditor who you are
As well as giving your name, check any letters from the bailiffs to see if they’ve given you an ‘account reference’. If they have, include this in your letter.
2. Identifying the bailiffs
Include the name of the bailiff you’re complaining about.
If a bailiff visits, ask for proof of who they are. They have to carry a badge, card or certificate showing who they are and who they work for. If you speak to them on the phone, ask for their name and take a note of it. If a bailiff refuses to give a name or prove their identity, mention this in your letter, as it’s against the rules.
If you didn’t get a name from a visit or call, call the bailiff company and ask them who you dealt with. You should find the bailiff company’s phone number on any letters they’ve sent you, or on their website.
3. Explaining what the bailiffs did wrong
Describe what the bailiffs have done wrong and how it's affected you. Give as much detail as possible, including names, dates and times. Check when to complain about bailiffs if you’re not sure what you can complain about.
If you have any evidence of the bailiffs’ behaviour, send this with your letter or attach it to an email if you can. You could include:
- notes from bailiff visits or conversations
- copies of letters or text messages from bailiffs
- copies of any letters or messages you've sent to bailiffs
- a bill from the bailiffs showing what fees they're charging you
Don’t send original documents, as you might need to refer to them later.
If you're complaining about a bailiff visit, mention if you have any sound or video recordings - for example from a mobile phone. Also say if a witness was there. Your creditor will contact you if they want to see any of this evidence - for now it’s enough to tell them you have it.
4. Saying how the creditor should deal with your complaint
Usually it’s best to ask the creditor to withdraw the bailiffs and deal with the debt themselves. They won’t always agree to this, but it’s worth asking, especially if the bailiffs have been aggressive or if you should be classed as vulnerable.
Depending on your complaint you should also ask the creditor to:
- confirm that they or the bailiffs will treat you as a vulnerable person
- acknowledge that you don’t owe the debt
- end a payment agreement if bailiffs pressured you into one you couldn’t afford
- return belongings the bailiffs shouldn't have taken
- cancel or repay excessive bailiff fees
Ask the creditor to respond within 10 days to let you know what they’ll do about your complaint.
Offering to pay off your debt
Creditors will be more likely to accept your complaint and withdraw the bailiffs if you can offer to pay off the debt.
If you can afford it, you could offer to pay the whole debt off at once. If you can’t afford that much, offer to pay part of the debt each week. Be realistic when telling the creditor how much you can afford. If you offer more than you can afford you could have to break the agreement, and the bailiffs might come back.