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Everyone reading this blog will have a general understanding of the term Bailiffs. Or you must have read on the internet about it. We are going to introduce you to the bailiffs’ world in more depth covering their powers, duties, fee, and everything related to the enforcement process carried out by them. So here we go!

Who are Bailiffs?

County Court Bailiffs are enforcement agents who can be used to enforce County Court judgments. They have the court’s permission to reclaim debts by visiting a debtor’s property and asking for payment on behalf of the creditor. Bailiffs can take possession of the debtor’s belongings and sell them at auction if the debtor fails to make the required payments. Bailiffs are commonly referred to as ‘enforcement agents’ because they can be court officials or work for a private bailiff agency.

They are not, however, employees of the creditor, but rather operate as their agents. Bailiffs can be appointed in response to an unpaid CCJ, but they can also enforce a variety of other debts, including parking fines, council tax, child support, criminal fines, and HMRC tax arrears.

County Court Bailiffs can only enforce judgments up to £5,000, and they do so with the use of a Warrant of Control, which can be requested at the end of the court process. Although Warrants of Control are a natural next step in the money claims online system, we advise judgment creditors with judgments over £600 that are not based on Consumer Credit Regulated Agreements to move their CCJs to the High Court for execution. Why? Because the High Court enforcement mechanism, unlike County Court bailiffs, is based on results, HCEOs and their agents are paid based on results.

The term has been in use for over 500 years, but the government recently decided to simplify the enforcement process. So, the Tribunal Courts and Enforcement Act 2007 (Commencement No. 9) Order 2013 was passed and changed the term bailiff with a modern and clearer name of Enforcement Agent.

In effect, this means that even if the debtor moves their products before the time restriction expires, bailiffs may still be able to seize them. Once the time restriction has gone, they may attempt to seize possession of them at the location where the debtor has relocated them.

When can a bailiff collect a debt?

Bailiffs can only visit the debtor’s property after meeting the court action through Magistrates’ Court, County Court, or the High Court. This will depend on the type of debt to be recovered. An exemption is HM Revenue & Customs, wherein bailiffs can be used without court jurisdiction. Though this can only happen if the debtor kept on ignoring court orders or fails to secure payment arrangements for your debt.

Debts that bailiffs can collect

Bailiffs can collect a wide variety of debts including –

  • Council tax arrears
  • Parking fines dispensed by the local authority
  • Child maintenance arrears
  • Criminal fines
  • Money owed to HM Revenue & Customs, such as income tax, VAT, National Insurance or tax credit overpayments

What powers do bailiffs have?

Bailiffs can visit a debtors’ property after they have sent a letter to inform them, they’ll be visiting.

This letter is known as a notice of enforcement, and it must be received seven days before the scheduled visit. Allowing for weekends means the debtor has a minimum of 9-10 days to either pay the debt in full or come to an arrangement to repay the debt in instalments. If they don’t do this, the bailiff will visit.

A bailiff can only enter a residential property through a door and in a peaceful manner with the debtor’s permission. They must present proof of their identity and explain why they are present. Bailiffs are not allowed to force their way into your house or break down the doors. They can’t force their way in or enter the house if just a child under the age of 16 is there.

Once they’re in the property, they can begin making a list of goods that they could later remove to sell at auction. For most types of debts, bailiffs can’t force their way into a residential property.

If a bailiff is collecting a criminal fine, then they can force to enter a residential property. This will only be done as a last resort and this power is very rarely used. Bailiffs who collect debts at businesses have more ability to force access, so if your debtor is self-employed or run a workshop, they might be able to break in.

When the bailiff enters a property, they’ll usually make a list of goods and valuables that could be sold to pay off the debts. Before taking the goods away they will give the debtor a chance to make a payment towards the debt in what’s called a ‘controlled goods agreement’.

If the debtor still doesn’t make the payment the bailiffs will return to take the goods they’ve listed. These will then be sold to raise money to pay towards the debt.

Can bailiffs force entry into a home?

County court bailiffs are only allowed to enter the debtor’s home by force if all four of the following points apply.

  • They have taken control of your goods inside the debtor’s home.
  • If the debtor misses an instalment agreed under the controlled goods agreement (CGA) with the bailiff.
  • If the bailiffs have given two clear days’ notice that they are coming to inspect or take the goods.
  • If the bailiffs were not let in before.

Bailiff entry rights

Bailiffs can only access the debtor’s premises by a door. They should not enter by a window, and they are unlikely to be able to use ladders to get over gates and fences.

Virtual Controlled Goods Agreement

Bailiffs can also ask to make a ‘virtual’ or non-entry-controlled goods agreement. This could be a step taken initially before the bailiffs visit the property to take control of the goods contacting via phone or letter.

The debtor can choose not to agree to the virtual CGA. Bailiffs do not have the permission to force entry if they are collecting most types of civil County Court or High Court judgments.

Agreeing to a virtual or non-entry CGA may have potential advantages and disadvantages for the debtor depending on the circumstances.

Vehicles

Bailiffs also have the right to take control of the goods outside a debtors’ property. They could take the car or other vehicles parked in the drive.

Commercial Premises 

Bailiffs have the legal authority to enter the debtors’ business premises even if they have never been there before.

What goods can bailiffs take?

County Court bailiffs are not allowed to take:

  • clothing, bedding, furniture and basic household items that are necessary for the basic domestic needs of debtors’ families.
  • tools of the trade, books, telephones, computers, vehicles, and other items of equipment that the debtors need for their work, business or education (up to a total value of £1350); and
  • third party or leased goods

This means that items of equipment that the debtors need to use in their business or education that are worth more than £1350 are not exempt.

Exempt goods

The goods that bailiffs are not allowed to take include the following.

  • A cooker or microwave
  • A refrigerator
  • A washing machine
  • A dining table and chairs for you and your household

When can bailiffs sell goods that they have removed?

Bailiffs may sell goods they have taken custody of at a public auction once they have removed them. They must, however, wait at least seven clear days before they can do so. Bailiffs may approach the court for permission to sell the goods privately in particular cases.

Summing-up

Shergroup understands that collecting debts can be a worry for creditors and especially for people who are not familiar with the legal processes involved. So, we are here to make the process as simple as possible for our customers. Upload your money judgment, pay your one-time fee, and leave the rest to us.

We take care of the law and process, so you don’t have the headache. So, if you need help in enforcing a judgment, if you have tried and been left without a proper outcome, or if you want to just have a chat about your options, we are here to help you.

Contact our team today for a FREE no-obligation call, and we will give you the benefit of our considerable experience on what you can do.

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Last updated | 19 July 2023

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