Summary: This article will clarify what a bailiff legally can and cannot do when attempting to seize property from a debtor.
In order for a bailiff to seize property from an individual, they will usually require a court order, or a warrant of execution. This does not, however, give them the right to break into an individual’s property to gain entry. A bailiff may enter a property without the owner’s permission, but they must do so peacefully, i.e. they are not allowed to break a window or door, but if the window or door has been left open, this would be considered gaining a peaceful entry. There are some circumstances when a bailiff can use force to gain entry, but this would usually only be with permission from the courts (for example, when collecting for the Inland Revenue), but these are rare.
Can a bailiff push past me on the doorstep to gain entry?
When a bailiff has approached an individual on the doorstep, they are generally not permitted to force their way into the property. Providing all other windows and doors are closed and locked, they will also be unable to gain peaceful entry elsewhere. It is possible they may try to find an excuse to come into the property, but the individual does not have to let them in. If they try to push past, this would be forced entry.
A bailiff has arrived with the police; do I have to let them in?
As above, an individual does not have to let a bailiff in, the police are there purely to maintain the peace, and they are not there to enforce the bailiff.
Can I be arrested if I don't let a bailiff in to my property?
Simply put, no, an individual will not be arrested for refusing entry to a bailiff. Generally, a debtor cannot be imprisoned for non payment of debt, although non payment of council tax, magistrate’s court fines or child maintenance can result in a prison sentence if the individual is found guilty of wilful non payment.
All bailiffs will carry identification, and they will know what they can or can't do. If they are repeatedly unable to gain entry to a property, then they will eventually return to the court to advise they have been unable to seize the goods.