Stopping bailiffs at your door
If a bailiff says they're evicting you instead of collecting a debt you'll need to get different advice.
Check what to do if a bailiff says they’re evicting you on Shelter’s website.
Coronavirus - if bailiffs come to your home
The bailiffs should send you a letter before they visit, to check if you’re more vulnerable because of coronavirus. If you’re vulnerable or self-isolating, they shouldn’t come to your home or try to make a payment arrangement with you. You can check if you’re classed as vulnerable if you’re not sure.
Bailiffs should also follow government guidance on social distancing - check what the guidance says.
The bailiffs should ask you if anyone in your household is symptomatic, self-isolating or shielding. If your answer is yes, the bailiffs should stop their visit and leave. They shouldn’t try to get you to agree to any payments in this situation. You might be asked for proof - show the bailiff your email, phone message or letter from the NHS if you have one.
If bailiffs visited you when they shouldn’t have or didn’t follow the rules, you can complain about bailiffs.
Check if the bailiffs have to follow extra rules
The bailiffs should follow some extra rules if they’re collecting debt for:
your local council - for example council tax or a parking fine
court fines you owe
If the bailiffs are collecting any of these debts, you should tell them if you have less income because of coronavirus. They should consider your situation and help you make a payment arrangement you can afford.
If you already have a payment agreement, you can ask the bailiffs to let you pay less back each month. This means you’ll pay the debt back over a longer period of time.
If the bailiffs try to take your vehicle, they’ll be less likely to take it if you tell them you need it:
for work and you’re a critical worker - for example, if you work in health and social care
to give urgent transport to someone who’s ill
Bailiffs (also called ‘enforcement agents’) visiting your home can be a stressful experience but you have rights and you shouldn’t be bullied.
Bailiffs are only allowed to try to come into your home between 6am and 9pm.
You shouldn't let a bailiff into your home - it’s always best to try to sort out your debt by keeping them outside and speaking through the door or over the phone.
Make sure your doors are locked and your windows are closed - bailiffs are allowed to come in through unlocked doors. If you have a porch with a lockable door you should lock this too.
Depending on the kind of debt you owe, the bailiff will sometimes have the right to force entry by asking a locksmith to open your door if you won’t let them in. It’s very unlikely they’ll do this - you should still have the chance to pay without them coming in.
Call 999 if you're being physically threatened by a bailiff - don't let them into your home.
Before you speak to a bailiff, check the extra rules they 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
Get proof of who they are
The first thing to do when a bailiff arrives is to ask for proof of who they are and why they’re visiting.
If they say they're a 'debt collector' tell them to leave. They don't have the same powers as bailiffs and they have to go if you ask them to.
If they say they’re a bailiff or enforcement agent, ask them to show you a badge, ID card or ‘enforcement agent certificate’. All registered bailiffs have to carry proof of who they are.
They’ll also need to tell you which company they’re from and give you a telephone contact number for the head office.
Tell 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.
To check their identity you should either:
- check the certificated bailiffs register - if they say they’re a certificated enforcement agent
- check the directory - if they say they’re a high court enforcement officer
- contact the court that sent them - if they say they’re a county court bailiff, family court bailiff or a civilian enforcement officer
Tell them to leave if they can’t prove who they are. Say you’ll report them to the police if they don’t go. If they won’t leave you should call 999.
Check if the bailiff can force entry
The bailiff could have the right to force entry to your home or business 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’ll need 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.
It’s very unlikely they’ll do this - you’ll usually still have time to make an offer to sort out the debt.
It’s best to contact your local Citizens Advice for help if the bailiffs say they’re getting a locksmith to force entry to your home.
If you let the bailiff into your home
If you decide to let them in and you can’t afford to pay what you owe straight away you’ll normally have to make a 'controlled goods agreement'. This means you'll agree to a repayment plan and pay some bailiff fees.
Check how to make a controlled goods agreement with bailiffs.
If you don’t make an agreement the bailiffs could remove your things to sell and pay off your debt. Read more about what happens if bailiffs say they'll sell your belongings.
If the bailiff isn't allowed to force entry
If the bailiff is collecting any other kind of debt they aren't allowed to force entry.
This includes if they're collecting:
- council tax arrears
- credit card or catalogue debts
- unpaid parking tickets
- money you owe to energy or phone companies
You have the right to keep them outside and talk through the closed door. Make sure everyone else in your home knows not to let them in.
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. Tell them to pass any documents through the letter-box or under the door.
Check that any documents they give you are still in date and have your correct name and address.
If it’s someone else’s debt, say you’ll contact the bailiff’s head office to explain and tell them to leave. Check how to prove it’s not your debt.
If it’s your debt, tell the bailiff to leave and say you’ll speak to their head office to make arrangements to pay.
The bailiff might say you have to pay them on the doorstep or you have to let them in - you don’t. They aren’t allowed to force their way into your home and they can’t bring a locksmith to help them get in.
They’ll normally leave if you refuse to let them in - but they’ll be back if you don’t arrange to pay your debt. It's important to do this as quickly as you can, otherwise the bailiffs can add fees to your debt.
You can complain if the bailiff won't leave and you think they're harassing you.
If you’ve broken a ‘controlled goods agreement’
You might get a letter called a 'notice of intention to re-enter' if you've broken a 'controlled goods agreement'. This means the bailiff has the right to enter your home using 'reasonable force'. They'll have to use a locksmith to unlock your door - they aren't allowed to break it down.
There could still be time to renegotiate your controlled goods agreement and stop the bailiffs from visiting - you should act quickly.
Check what to do if you’ve broken a controlled goods agreement.