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Our guide to dealing with bailiffs

Dealing with bailiffs can be a highly stressful experience. On top of the financial burden that’s weighing you down, there’s also the added stress of a stranger turning up at your door making demands, trying to repossess your property, or forcing you to sign complex paperwork.

With this in mind, here are some tips and useful advice that should help you to deal with bailiffs more effectively. With a little background knowledge of your rights, and those of the enforcement agents, you’ll be able to confidently tell them what they can and can’t do. Before we go into too much detail, it’s probably best to outline some of the general rules that apply to bailiffs and govern their conduct.

What is a bailiff?

More formally known as enforcement agents, bailiffs are authorised to work on behalf of a creditor. If you have council tax arrears, a local council may authorise a bailiff to visit your home to try and recuperate this money. These certificated agents are part of a private company, and need to carry a ‘distress warrant’ or ‘liability order’.

What gives a bailiff the right to come to your door?

A bailiff can come to your home after receiving authorisation from a court or creditor. This authorisation could come in the form of a court order, warrant of control, or writ of control. On the warrant there will be the name of a bailiff who has been authorised to act on behalf of the creditor. So if a different bailiff turns up at your door — or they can’t prove their identity — then you can refuse them entry and make a complaint to either the creditor or the firm that sent out the enforcement officer. In most cases, bailiffs don’t have the right to force entry. There are some specific exceptions, such as collection of income tax or VAT.

How can I complain about a bailiff?

If you’re having difficulties and think the bailiff has acted beyond their authority, you can seek help from the Citizens Advice Bureau. You can also make a direct complaint to the creditor that’s given the bailiff instruction. You can also complain to a trade association like the Certificated Bailiffs Association (CBA) or the Association of Civil Enforcement Agencies (ACEA).

If an enforcement officer has unlawfully forced entry into your home, you may also be able to make a complaint to the police or one of the professional bodies above. You could also take court action to get your goods back.

“I am so happy and would absolutely recommend Council Tax Advisors to anyone who is in the same situation I was. Now all my council tax worries are gone, thank you Council Tax Advisors” Hayley

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