Summary: This article reviews the options available to an individual faced with a bailiff on their doorstep.
In order for a bailiff to remove goods from a property, they must be in possession of a Warrant of Execution from the courts, as well as have appropriate identification. They are not allowed to gain entry forcibly (except in the case of outstanding criminal fines, tax and/VAT debts), so they are unable to break in through a window, or force their way past an individual on the doorstep. The first action an individual should take is to request to see the bailiff’s identification and the Warrant.
There are a number of actions that can then be taken:
Pay the outstanding debt.If the finances are available, it is possible for the individual to pay the bailiff immediately. The amount may be higher as the bailiff is likely to have added costs, but this will be the quickest way to get rid of them and start afresh. It is vital to get a receipt for the payment.
Allow the bailiff to enter the property. It is important to remember that an individual does not have to allow entry to the bailiff, but once they have, the bailiff will be able to remove items from the property. The bailiff will calculate the resale value of the items they seize and will take as much as is required to recover the outstanding debt or as much as is available.
Allow entry to the property and discuss a Walking Possession Agreement. This is where the bailiff will make an inventory of items available to take and charge a daily fee in order to leave them in place. This is usually only a short term measure, however, and will ultimately just increase the amount owed.
Refuse entry to the bailiff. As mentioned above, a bailiff is only allowed to forcibly enter a property in the event of unpaid criminal fines and tax or VAT debt. If a bailiff tries to force their way in under any other circumstances, they are breaking the law. Be aware that they may use tactics to gain entry, such as requesting to discuss the situation inside! If an individual suspects a bailiff may call, ensure all doors and windows are shut and locked if possible. Not allowing entry to a bailiff is usually not a criminal offence, and eventually they will go. If they continue to fail to gain entry after subsequent visits, they will eventually return to the courts to advise they are unable to claim goods to the value of the debt.
Of the options available, in most cases, if an individual is able to clear the debt, this is always going to be the best course of action. However, for many, this is just not possible. The best action to take is to avoid getting in the situation before it happens. If an individual feels they are struggling to repay debt, they should seek immediate advice from the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB), or one the other free debt advice services available, or from a reputable licensed money advisor.