Local authorities London have referred debts to bailiffs half a million times in the past year.
Bailiffs have to adhere to a strict set ofrules when collecting debts. The National Debtline give the following advice:
You should have received a letter from thecouncil telling you how much you owe and warning you that a bailiff will callif you do not pay the debt within 14 days.
Check that the bailiff is certificated. Thereis a new on-line register of certificated bailiffs.
If the bailiffs have not been into your homebefore to collect this debt, they have no right to come in. They cannot breakin. You can choose not to let them in.
Don't open e door tothem as they may try to push past you. If they get inside, they may have theright to enter again and may break in to take your goods.
Don't leave windows openor doors unlocked – bailiffs can legally get through these.
A bailiff cannot breakin to take goods they have only seen through a window so if you do not let themin they will not be able to take anything from inside your home.
Some bailiffs may leaveyou a phone number, and arrange to come round to ‘have a chat’. Don't let themin, even if they say it's only to use the toilet or make a phone call.
If you have let them inbefore, then bailiffs have the right to return to your home and if you don'tlet them in they are allowed to break in.
Contact the bailiffsstraight away and make an offer to pay the debt in installments. Show them acopy of your personal budget sheet so they can see you are offering as much asyou can afford. You will need to treat this as a priority debt as bailiffscould come back and take any goods they have listed if you don't pay. Get areceipt for any payments you make. Contact your council and ask them to takethe debt back.
If you have let bailiffsin when they are collecting for Council Tax you owe under a particularliability order, this does not give them the right to come into your home andtake goods for a different Council Tax bill.
The following items areexempt and cannot be taken:
“such tools, books,vehicles and other items of equipment as are necessary for use personally inemployment, business or vocation”;
“such clothing, bedding,furniture, household equipment and provisions as are necessary for satisfyingbasic domestic needs of the person and family”.
It is not good practicefor a bailiff to take anything that belongs to, or is used by a child only, andyou should complain if they threaten to do this.
The bailiff should makea list that names the items they intend to take.
A bailiff should onlytake enough goods to cover the debt after they are sold. They should not takegoods that are worth a lot more than you actually owe unless there is only oneitem that the bailiff thinks is worth taking, such as a car.
For the full factsheet, visit the National Debtline website