Since the Middle Ages, the use of bailiffs to enforce debts by seizing goods has been available in English Law. The fees that bailiffs are allowed to charge are set by statute.
Since the early 1990s the use of bailiffs by local authorities to enforce debts due to them arising from unpaid council tax and unpaid parking charge notices has risen exponentially and it is in these areas that we will be operating.
Organisations such as the Citizens Advice Bureaux have published a number of reports highlighting a wide range of problems experienced by debtors such as misrepresentation of powers of entry, harassment and intimidation and the unlawful charging of fees.
These problems have been compounded by the absence of effective independent monitoring, complaints monitoring and mechanisms for redress
What is a Bailiff:
A Bailiff is someone authorised to collect a debt on behalf of someone you owe money to. There are different types of Bailiffs but we are concerned with the actions of Certificated Bailiffs. These are private Bailiffs who have been certified by the Court as “fit and proper individuals” to hold the role. Bailiffs that collect parking fines and council tax on behalf of local authorities and TFL need to be certified.
What Bailiffs can do - bailiffs powers:
If a Bailiff calls at your door you do not have to let him in. However, if you do leave any doors or windows open they have the right to enter through them. Once the Bailiff has been inside your property by entering peacefully they can call again at a later date and enter your home without your permission to remove your goods. There are restrictions on what goods the Bailiff can remove. For example, a Bailiff cannot remove certain protected items, children’s belongings or goods on hire purchase.
‘Walking Possession Agreement’
If the Bailiff has gained entry to your property and you do not want your goods to be removed this has to be agreed. Such agreement is called a “Walking Possession Agreement”. For a small daily fee this will allow you continued use of the goods. This is not permanent and will only give you a few days to try and renegotiate the repayment.
Goods seized by the Bailiff must be put into auction to be sold. The Bailiff is under a legal obligation to get the best price possible though second hand goods are usually valued at a fraction of their value as new.
What Bailiffs can’t do
They cannot enter your home by force
They cannot seize goods belonging to anyone else
They cannot seize goods subject to a hire purchase or rental agreement
Send you to prison for not co-operating with them
They cannot threaten you or use abusive language
The amount that a bailiff charges is subject to Statutory Regulation. Bailiffs often seek to charge fees which are not permitted, unreasonable, spurious and for alleged visits which never took place.
What to do if Bailiffs contact you
You may be able to suspend the Bailiff’s action by application to Court or local authority
If you cannot suspend the action you should contact him and try and negotiate with the Bailiff or creditor to try and repay the debt over a longer period.
If a Bailiff visits your Property you do not have to let them in.However, they will come back. The problem will not go away and you will be charged further fees. You should try to negotiate payment of the debt over a longer period at a rate that you can afford.
Try to have a witness present when the Bailiff calls and make a note of what they say and make sure that you ask for their name and evidence of their identity.