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Their Job, Your Rights – Lifting the lid on bailiffs

There are few positions in British society more controversial than the bailiff. Few are subject to as much scrutiny from the general public as those employed by the government to recoup debts.

For your situation to reach its desired outcome it is important that you are well aware of your rights. The bailiff should also be well aware of their responsibility. Without one side being aware of the other’s predicament the chances of resolution remain slim. And that is not ideal for anyone.

First of all, remember that they cannot force their way into your home. Pushing past you at the front door. Asking a child for entry. Climbing over a fence or a wall or in through a window. None are acceptable methods of entry. Such actions would be breaking the law. Before you grant them entry to your home, we recommend seeking advice first. Without knowing bailiff’s rights you will not being giving yourself a fair chance.

Their identification is also a crucial part of the process. Especially as some creditors will send people round to act on their behalf. Check their credentials when they arrive as you can use it to report any behaviour you think is aggressive or offensive. Especially if people who are in your care (children, the elderly or the disabled) are present.

A single father stated his disbelief when a bailiff entered his home and ‘started pricing up items in front of [his] son – including the computer console [his son] was playing on at the time’ and ‘wouldn’t budge, claiming [his son] had let him in’. This is an example of a bailiff exploiting his role, and is something you can act upon if you feel you have been mistreated.

It is also key to remember that, in most cases, the bailiffs themselves are just doing their job. While it is difficult to stomach, they are required to value and confiscate your possessions. They are not necessarily out to make life difficult for you. It is also important to remember what counts as an exempt item. Tools, books and computer systems that are integral to your work or education are off limits. Items that belong to your child (or another household member) are also exempt. Bailiffs will be aware of this, and will do their best to accommodate both parties.

Gareth, a former bailiff, is aware of the poor standards some bailiff companies have but claims your experience needn’t be a traumatic one. ‘[The company I worked for] were fair to debtors and always gave them time to pay, working as more of a negotiator between the client and the debtor’. These are tactics he believes that ‘work much better’. Just remember two things when faced with a visit – seek bailiff advice, and know your rights.

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