The government has announced plans for new laws to "clean up" the bailiff industry and protect vulnerable debtors.
Under the changes which will be introduced next year, late-night visits will not be allowed, and restrictions will be put in place over what property can be seized.
The Citizens Advice Bureau offers advice on different types of bailiffs and what they are allowed to do that. The following information applies to England and Wales.
Private bailiffs are either self-employed or employed by private firms. They can work for:
- The local authority, to collect council tax arrears
- Magistrates' courts, to collect money owed in criminal cases, for example fines, or in non-criminal cases such as road traffic penalties.
- The Child Support Agency to collect unpaid child support
- Landlords, where there are rent arrears
- HM Revenue and Customs to collect unpaid income tax or VAT
County court bailiffs
County court bailiffs can be used for a county court order (CCJ) against you for:
- Most credit agreements (regulated credit agreements)
- Personal debts of £5,000 or less.
High Court enforcement officers
High Court enforcement officers deal with High Court judgments. They may also be used for county court orders of £600 or over.
Magistrates’ court bailiffs
Magistrates’ court bailiffs are used to deal with:
- Money owed because of a criminal case, including fines.
- Money owed in certain non-criminal cases, for example, road traffic penalties.
Things to check if a bailiff visits
It is your right to ask to see:
- Proof of their identity
- A copy of the original court order saying you owe the money
- A copy of their authorisation to take your things away
- If they are a certificated bailiff proof of their certificate.
Letting bailiffs into your home
- Generally you do not have to let the bailiffs in to your home unless they have been in before.
- The basic rule is that they cannot come in unless you or another adult lets them in.
- However, they can get in without your permission if they can do so without using force. For example, if they can get in through an unlocked door or open window. This is called peaceful entry.
Taking away your goods
The bailiffs can take:
- Things that belong to you, except protected items
- In some instances, jointly owned items
- In some cases, cash or cheques for money owed to you.
They do not have the right to take:
- Children's belongings
- Things are still being paid for on hire purchase and conditional sale.
Complaining about bailiffs
If you feel a bailiff has not acted appropriately, you may be able to make a complaint against them, take court action or report them to the police.