If there is one word which can strike fear in the hearts of anyone struggling with their bills and finances….it is Bailiffs!
If you live in Scotland, it is the Sheriffs.
There are a few things that must be said about Bailiffs:
- There are strict rules and laws they must follow to collect a debt
- If they have a Writ which allows them to seize goods, they cannot take everything, only certain items of value
- They need to act in a respectful and polite manner
- In most instances they cannot force entry, we will see later the few times they can force entry
- They are only doing their job
- If possible it is best to take care of the debt before it reaches the stage of Bailiffs being used
The Process of Bailiffs Being Used to Collect a Debt
The process of Bailiffs being used to collect a debt is not a lengthy one once the process has begun.
It begins with someone being in arrears on an account, the account going into default, a default notice being sent, and then a day in court where the creditor attempts to obtain a CCJ/County Court Judgment.
Once the Judgment has been obtained, the creditor may then seek an Enforcement Order to collect the account, and one tool that can be used to enforce the collecting of a debt is Bailiffs.
As you may notice, there are a few steps and stages in this process where it can be stopped, usually by setting-up a repayment plan, or entering into a Debt Management Plan, or even an IVA or Bankruptcy.
What To Do Should Bailiffs Come to Your Home
The first rule to know if Bailiffs show up at your home is to NOT let them in.
Close all curtains and blinds as well, so they cannot see inside.
Do speak to the Bailiffs, and read any documents they may have for you, but do this outside your home.
The reason for this is if a Bailiff enters your home, and takes an account or inventory of your possessions, which they may try and do a “virtual accounting” looking through windows, should they have to come back out due to a broken payment plan, they can force entry at that time.
The Bailiffs are there as a proxy for the creditor and the courts to collect a debt. It’s very simple, they will ask you to pay the full balance, or as much as you can, or if they can, set-up a payment plan with you.
Again, it is going to be rare that Bailiffs just show up and force their way into your home. However, for some Magistrate fines, and also for some tax debts.
What Goods/Possessions Can Be Seized
What Bailiffs can and cannot take is changing due the current Covid pandemic, and also if they will enter your home or not.
Until December 2020, Bailiffs were not entering homes or taking any property inside the home. However, they can still demand payment, seize your car, speak to you and also give you documents.
In seizing goods, the process would follow the following:
- You would be sent a notice that Bailiffs will be visiting. This is to allow you to respond to advise them if you are vulnerable or self-isolating.
- Upon their visit the Bailiffs will introduce themselves and show ID, they also will have documents for you, outing the details of the debt.
- If you cannot afford to pay the account, or set-up a repayment plan, the Bailiffs may then seize goods.
The goods they can seize are:
- Your car if not on any finance, or if it is not a mobility car, or used for someone with a disabled badge.
- Non-essential goods, TV, stereos.
- Anything of value that is considered non-essential and is yours.
The goods Bailiffs cannot take:
- Items which are not yours, but are someone else’s. You may be asked to prove this. Such as if someone else’s car is parked on the property.
- Essential items, such as a cooker, bedding, children’s toys, microwave, and also phones, including mobile phones.
If you have certain health issues or a disability, Bailiffs are trained to handle these types of situations.
Extra care is given if someone has young children in the home, are disabled, experiencing mental health issues, and don’t speak or read English.
A couple of things to remember:
- Try not to let the account/debt reach the point of Bailiffs being used.
- Bailiffs cannot force entry except for certain debts, not just for loans, credit cards, etc.
- If you enter into a repayment plan with the Bailiffs, they will take an inventory of goods, and should you break the payment agreement, they could come back and force entry.