How to deal with Bailiffs

Bailiffs come in all shapes and sizes. Some are just doing it as a job, some justify what they do by being disgusted at those they shake down, some do it for the power trip of making you feel vulnerable and afraid.

Whatever their reasons, you’re not going to make them change their ways by shouting abuse at them, calling them ‘fascists’, asking how their mothers feel about what they are doing or whatever. Remember, these are just the messengers, the ‘muscle’ – the ‘brains’ of the outfit are the people who decided to put you through all this pain. They sit in air-conditioned offices and click buttons on computers, talk about ‘increasing recovery targets’ and sleep very well at night. If you want to get back at someone, get back at them.

Having said that, if a bailiff acts like a nasty wanker (or NW for short) then you should treat them like one. They should act professionally, be understanding of your position and not take their job too seriously, or personally.

Here’s a few tips for dealing with a bailiff visit:

1. GET HELP. If you have a at least 24hrs warning that a bailiff is likely to visit, call East Bristol Debtors Alliance on 07878 384439 or email us on info@eb-da.org. We’ll try to be there with you, or meet up before to give you some support. We may be able to get some of the local community down to keep an eye on things, take some pressure off your shoulders and put in on the shoulders of the bailiffs.

Or, even better, ask your neighbours for their support – you can bet that most of them will understand your situation, they may have been through it themselves, they may be going through the same nightmare as you.

2.  NEVER LET A BAILIFF IN YOUR HOUSE. They are like vampires: once they have been invited in, they have the right to come back whenever they want, even if that means breaking down your door.

Apart from that, bailiffs have NO RIGHT to force entry to your house unless they have a court order. They will only get a court order if you have refused to pay a fine, owe income tax arrears, or for fixed penalty fines from magistrates courts, and even with those examples not every time. The bailiff doesn’t have to show you paperwork, but if they don’t they’re being an NW. If the bailiff is an NW they may lie about having a court order, just so they get in, so they can get paid for the job and not have to come back.

3. Shut your windows, lock your  back door. Bailiffs are allowed to enter your house thru an open window or over a fence, as long as they don’t cause any damage doing it.

4. Don’t answer the door. Even if the bailiff knows you are in, don’t answer the door and definitely don’t open it ‘a crack’ to talk to them – they can push right past you and then they are in until they want to leave.

5. Don’t negotiate. As i said, bailiffs are just the messengers – deal with the penpushers. Call them up and make arrangements, make a final offer, move out of the house for a while – whatever it takes to start solving the situation. Making a ‘deal’ with the bailiff as they try and bully their way into your house is not a good tactic: either they’ll only agree to a level of repayment you can’t afford, or they’ll be an NW and lie then push past you and into your house.

6. Once a bailiff is inside your house, the battle is basically over. They have the right to do pretty much what they want, but they have to do it in the right way. If you can record them with a mobile or video recorder, do it. They will act nicer when they know they are on film, and you can spot any NW business that goes on. If they tell you to turn the camera off, tell them to F off and carry on.

7. If you’ve got the money you can pay in cash or card, but cards will normally have a handling charge. The bailiff will also charge a fee for the privilege of being terrorised in your own home, that you will need to pay as well. More fees will be charged for removing, storing and selling your belongings. DON’T PAY ANYTHING IF YOU ARE STILL DISPUTING THE AMOUNT OF MONEY OWED. Paying the bailiff is an admission of guilt that will stand up in court.

8. What bailiffs can take: A bailiff cannot take any possessions that are essential to your work and livelihood: for example if you work from home and have a computer they cannot take that away. They also cannot take away essentials such as a cooker or washing machine, beds, or clothing. Anything they do take away they have the right to sell at auction – even if it only fetches a tiny percent of what it’s worth. The money raised at auction will then be used to pay SOME of your debt – chances are that even after all this horror, you will still end up owing some money.

Your Rights

Not good news. Bailiffs and other ‘enforcement agents’ only have a voluntary code of conduct that they can choose to recognise or not. Most do – for example bailiffs that operate for Bristol City Council: Bristow Sutor agree to work “in strict conformation to the laws and regulations” and Ross and Roberts say they “adhere to the Enforcement Services Association Code of Conduct” as well as their own code of conduct, that is so secret you have to send away for it with a stamped, self-addressed envelope, rather than read it on their website.

So, these are a few of the ‘rules’ that bailiffs have agreed to work under. If they break them they are NW’s and should be treated likewise.

The Enforcement Services Association Code of Conduct

Bit of the code of conduct are in italics, my comments are in normal writing

2. Members should comply with the provisions of the National Standards for Enforcement Agents.I’ve put more about this further down.

3. Members will maintain high standards of business ethics and practices in order not to bring the Association, the enforcement industry or the bailiff profession generally into disrepute.– a bit woolly, but a clear statement against using NW tactics.

4. Members will not discriminate on the grounds of age, colour, creed, disability, gender, race, religion or sexual orientation. – note especially disability, which includes any mental health problems you may have.

5. Members will comply with all defined legislation, case law and all health and safety requirements in carrying out enforcement. Members will comply with data protection legislation and maintain strict client confidentiality at all times.– If a bailiff is shouting through your letterbox that he is a bailiff and he owes you money, in order to embarrass you in  front of your neighbours, he is not complying with data protection or confidentiality legislation. Tell him so.

6. Members should on each and every occasion when a visit is made to a debtors property which incurs the debtor in a fee, leave a notice setting out in detail how the fee was made up and retain a record of the said issue of the notice for a minimum period of 12 months, after the date of issue Bailiffs will charge for every visit they make, even if you’re not at home or don’t answer. Make sure their fees are set down in detail.

11. Members will appear smartly groomed, dressed neatly and soberly, and behave courteously at all times. Members will not misrepresent the powers, qualifications, capacity, experience or ability of themselves their staff, agents or business associates. Letters, notices and other documentation sent or delivered to debtors will not be ambiguous or misleading.- Bailiffs can’t shout at you and threaten you. They can’t lie or mislead about what they are allowed to do. Letters and other documents should be in plain english, easy enough to understand and not written in legal jargon.

National Standards for Enforcement Agents

Professionalism and conduct of the enforcement agent

  • Enforcement agents should always produce relevant identification on request, such as a badge or ID card, together with a written authorisation to act on behalf of the creditor.– They’ve got to show some ID, in a way that you can read it, and take details (so not just flash it from 10 feet away)
  • Enforcement agents must act within the law at all times, including all defined legislation and observe all health and safety requirements in carrying out enforcement. They must maintain strict client confidentiality and comply with Data Protection legislation and, where appropriate the Freedom of Information Act. – same as ESA code above.
  • Enforcement agents, for the purpose of distress or execution shall, without the use of unlawful force, gain access to the goods. The enforcement agent will produce an inventory of the goods seized and leave it with the debtor, or at the premises, with any other documents that are required by regulations or statute.– No force at all allowed, and they need to give you a list of anything they take.
  • Enforcement agents must carry out their duties in a professional, calm and dignified manner. They must dress appropriately and act with discretion and fairness. – as ESA code above.
  • Enforcement agents must not misrepresent their powers, qualifications, capacities, experience or abilities. – as ESA
  • Enforcement agents must not discriminate unfairly on any grounds including those of age, disability, ethnicity, gender, race, religion or sexual orientation. – as ESA code
  • In circumstances where the enforcement agency requires it, and always where there have been previous acts of, or threats of violence by a debtor, a risk assessment should be undertaken prior to the enforcement agent attending a debtor’s premises. – if you’ve kicked off at them in the past, they’ll take that into account.

Training and Certification

  • Enforcement agencies must ensure that all agents, employees and contractors are provided with appropriate training to ensure that they understand and are able to act, at all times, within the bounds of the relevant legislation. This training should be provided at the commencement of employment and at intervals afterwards to ensure that the agent’s knowledge is kept up to date – a bailiff has no excuse if he doesn’t know the law, or doesn’t know about these codes of conduct.
  • Enforcement agencies must ensure that all employees, contractors and agents will at all times act within the scope of current legislation, i.e. The Companies Act, VAT, Inland Revenue provisions, Data Protection, Health and Safety etc, and have an appropriate knowledge and understanding of it and be aware of any statutory obligations and provide relevant training. – bailiffs should know about the Data Protection Act, they should know how to protect your health and safety as well as their own.
  • Enforcement agents should be trained to recognise and avoid potentially hazardous and aggressive situations and to withdraw when in doubt about their own or others’ safety.- they should avoid winding you up, and putting themselves or you in dangerous situations.
  • Professional training/assessment should be to an appropriate standard, for example to that of the NVQ for Civil Enforcement Officers, or membership of the Sheriffs’ Officers Association.– ask for their qualifications. They should AT THE VERY LEAST be wearing a Securities Industry Association (SIA) badge, clearly displayed so you can see it.
  • Enforcement agencies must ensure that legislation restricting the enforcement activity to certificated bailiffs is complied with. – EVERYONE should be certified, not just the bloke doing the talking.

Complaints/Discipline

This bit basically says that bailiffs need a complaints policy, they should know about it, you should be able to be told about it in plain english if you called their office, and you should always be able to make a complaint, and have it taken seriously.

  • Enforcement agencies must operate complaints and disciplinary procedures with which agents must be fully conversant.
  • The complaints procedure should be set out in plain English, have a main point of contact, set time limits for dealing with complaints and an independent appeal process where appropriate. A register should be maintained to record all complaints.
  • Enforcement agents/agencies are encouraged to make use of the complaints and disciplinary procedures of professional associations such as the Association of Civil Enforcement Agencies or the Certificated Bailiffs Association.
  • The enforcement agent must make available details of the comments and complaints procedure on request or when circumstances indicate it would be appropriate to do so.

Information and confidentiality

Like the other Code of Conduct, they agree to treat you privately, so no bawling outside your door. Easy to read notes and letters.clear and detailed bills, and an inventory for you of anything they take.

  • All notices, correspondence and documentation issued by the agent/agency must be clear and unambiguous and to the satisfaction of the creditor.
  • On returning any un-executed warrants, the enforcement agent should report the outcome to the creditor and provide further appropriate information, where this is requested and paid for by the creditor.
  • All information obtained during the administration and enforcement of warrants must be treated as confidential.
  • Copies of the National Standards for Enforcement Agents must be freely available from the offices of enforcement agencies, or agents on request and wherever possible from creditors.
  • Enforcement agents should provide clear and prompt information to debtors and where appropriate, creditors.
  • Enforcement agents should, so far as it is practical, avoid disclosing the purpose of their visit to anyone other than the debtor. Where the debtor is not seen, the relevant documents must be left at the address in a sealed envelope addressed to the debtor.
  • Enforcement agents will on each and every occasion when a visit is made to a debtor’s property which incurs a fee for the debtor, leave a notice detailing the fees charged to date, including the one for that visit, and the fees which will be incurred if further action becomes necessary. If a written request is made an itemised account of fees will be provided.
  • Enforcement agents will clearly explain and give in writing, the consequences of the seizure of a debtor’s goods and ensure that debtors are aware of the additional charges that will be incurred

Times and Hours

Bailiffs should only knock between 6am and 9pm, never on Sundays or bank holidays unless the court order exactly says they can (read it). They should respect your holy days.

  • Enforcement should not be undertaken on Sundays, on Bank Holidays, on Good Friday or on Christmas Day, unless the court specifically orders otherwise or in situations where legislation permits it.
  • It is recommended that enforcement should only be carried out between the hours of 6.00am and 9.00pm or at any time during trading hours, existing legislation must be observed.
  • Enforcement agents should be respectful of the religion and culture of others at all times. They should be aware of the dates for religious festivals and carefully consider the appropriateness of undertaking enforcement on any day of religious or cultural observance or during any major religious or cultural festival.


Goods

Bailiffs should not damage your stuff when they take it away, rip it out of your hands, or smash anything to get to it. They can’t take anything that is clearly something to do with your kids. They shouldn’t take something that is obviously worth much more than you owe them, so for example a new HDTV widescreen tv for a 50 quid fine.

  • Enforcement agents must only take goods in accordance with the appropriate regulations or statute. In addition creditors may agree other restrictions with agents acting on their behalf.
  • Enforcement agents must ensure that goods are handled with reasonable care so that they do not suffer any damage whilst in their possession and should have insurance in place for goods in transit so that if damage occurs this is covered by the policy.
  • Enforcement agents should not remove anything clearly identifiable as an item belonging to, or for the exclusive use of a child.
  • A receipt for the goods removed should be given to the debtor or left at the premises.
  • Enforcement agents should take all reasonable steps to satisfy themselves that the value of the goods impounded in satisfaction of the judgement is proportional to the value of the debt and charges owed.


Vulnerable situations

This is the most important section

Bailiffs are under orders from the people you owe the money to and have to stick to their rules. Some, especially councils, may have stronger rules than these guides – we’ll be putting Bristol Councils guidelines up on this site.

If the only person home is under 18 (or looks under 18) the bailiff should leave their card and then go away. If the only person in the house looks under 12 they have to turn on their heels and leave immediately, without saying another word.

If your English isn’t so good, thats their problem, not yours, and they have to find a way around it.

If you fit the bill of someone on the ‘potentially vulnerable’ list, you can expect to be treated with extra respect – if you don’t, the bailiff is a massive NW and shout be treated as such. Make sure you get their name, contact us, and we’ll take them to the cleaners.

It’s hard to prove the bailiff’s bad behaviour, they obviously aren’t going to admit to it, so it’s always handy to have a record of it – photos, written but preferably video. if you can film from somewhere the bailiffs don’t notice, even better – remember Ian Tomlinson’s death would have been blamed on ‘hippies’ if someone hadn’t filmed the coppers and got away without them seeing him.

  • Enforcement agents/agencies and creditors must recognise that they each have a role in ensuring that the vulnerable and socially excluded are protected and that the recovery process includes procedures agreed between the agent/agency and creditor about how such situations should be dealt with. The appropriate use of discretion is essential in every case and no amount of guidance could cover every situation, therefore the agent has a duty to contact the creditor and report the circumstances in situations where there is potential cause for concern. If necessary, the enforcement agent will advise the creditor if further action is appropriate. The exercise of appropriate discretion is needed, not only to protect the debtor, but also the enforcement agent who should avoid taking action which could lead to accusations of inappropriate behaviour.
  • Enforcement agents must withdraw from domestic premises if the only person present is, or appears to be, under the age of 18; they can ask when the debtor will be home – if appropriate.
  • Enforcement agents must withdraw without making enquiries if the only persons present are children who appear to be under the age of 12.
  • Wherever possible, enforcement agents should have arrangements in place for rapidly accessing translation services when these are needed, and provide on request information in large print or in Braille for debtors with impaired sight.
  • Those who might be potentially vulnerable include:
    • the elderly;
    • people with a disability;
    • the seriously ill;
    • the recently bereaved;
    • single parent families;
    • pregnant women;
    • unemployed people; and,
    • those who have obvious difficulty in understanding, speaking or reading English.


Creditors’ Responsibilities

This bit says that the people you owe the money to should never send a notice (or bailiff) to somewhere they know you won’t be, e.g. a house you’ve told them you’ve moved out of, hoping that the new residents will give them your new address, or start hassling your mum & dad or ex-partner to get info.

It also says that the people you owe money to can’t make a deal with you without letting the bailiffs know first, and they must tell the bailiff about any contact they’ve had with you, and any money you’ve paid. So, this means the bailiff has no excuse if they don’t know about any arrangements you have made – they should.

  • In order for the enforcement process to work effectively, creditors must be fully aware of their own responsibilities. These should be observed and set out in terms of agreement with their enforcement agent/agency. They should consider carefully any specific requirements for financial guarantees etc so that these are adequate, fair and appropriate for the work involved.
  • Creditors must not seek payment from an enforcement agent or enforcement agency in order to secure a contract.
  • Creditors must notify the enforcement agency of all payments received and other contacts with the debtor.
  • Creditors have a responsibility to tell the debtor that if payment is not made within a specified period of time, action may be taken to enforce payment.
  • Creditors must not request the suspension of a warrant or make direct payment arrangements with debtors without appropriate notification and payment of fees due to the enforcement agent.
  • Creditors must not issue a warrant knowing that the debtor is not at the address, as a means of tracing the debtor at no cost.
  • Creditors must provide a contact point at appropriate times to enable the enforcement agent or agency to make essential queries particularly where they have cause for concern.

4 thoughts on “How to deal with Bailiffs

  1. Its all very well reading the codes that these people say they adhere to, but when i refused bailiffs entry to my property they contacted the police and stated i had made treats to kill them. Laughable untill my home was surrounded by police and a helecopter hovering above. There had been a breakdown in comunication concerning the warrant, but because of the accusation made against me the whole situation got out of hand and money had to be borrowed from money lenders to stop the bailiffs taking the cooker… the beds all items that are essential and should never had been taken, but try telling that to the bailiff, they are a law unto themselves. My complaint has been logged but am not holding my breath on getting a postive result. How many people have their complaints upheld and compo paid to them? not many i bet.

  2. You may have more of a chance to have your complaint listened to if you contact one your local advice centres.

    Many local advice centres in Bristol now have specilaised debt workers.

    Good luck.

  3. a bailiff came to my flat above a hair sallon through the sallon told the people working there who he was why he was there and that if i didn’t pay him he would be able to come through their door to get to my property when he wanted left a notice on my door in plane view stating that i owed £668 for council tax (not in a sealed envelope or folded or anything!) This resulted in my almost immediate eviction by my landlady who was so worried that she stayed in the salon 2 hours after it shut.
    I called him and he told me that i had to pay £714 before 12 the next day or it would go up to £814 then told me if i payed in installments i’d have to pay £400 immediately or he would reposses my stuff. I told him i intended to pay the full ammount in 3 weeks time he then asked why i couldn’t borrow the money from someone to give him! I asked if i could sort it out with the council and he said no.
    He told my landlady that night all about the conversation we’d had and again told her he could go through her shop door to get to my flat.
    I had no prior notice from the baillif firm that he was coming and no contact with the council tax people for atleast 2 months.

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