Getting Help With Bailiffs

Have you received a letter informing you that bailiffs are going to visit you? Maybe you’ve already had a visit from them, and you’re wondering what the next step is. It can be a very worrying and stressful time when a bailiff, also known as an enforcement agent, comes knocking on your door.

The sad truth is that debt problems are very common in the UK, and these scenarios are a reality for hundreds of thousands of people in the UK. A very common reason people end up with bailiffs at their door is because of council tax.

If you find yourself having to deal with bailiffs, you’re not alone – there are things you can do to solve the problem.

At IVA Helpline, we’ve put together all the practical advice you need to be able to deal with enforcement agents if they come to your home. From what a bailiff can do to what they’re not allowed to do, be sure to read along for more information.

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What Does An Enforcement Agent (Bailiff) Do?

An enforcement agent has the legal power to collect certain types of debts. They will do this by either asking you to pay off the debt or by seizing and selling your possessions to help pay off the debt. A private company can employ enforcement officers, or they may be court officials.

Although enforcement agents collect many different types of debts, one of the main reasons people find themselves dealing with these agents is due to council tax arrears.

If you do owe money, an enforcement agent might pay a visit to your home to see if you have anything of value that could be sold to pay off the debt. Any funds raised from selling your possessions will be used to pay the bailiff fees as well as your debts.

Usually, enforcement agents are only used when your creditors (the people you owe money to) have tried other methods of getting you to pay off your debt. You’ll normally get a letter warning you that the creditors are planning to use a bailiff to claim the money from you.

If you haven’t already made contact with your creditor, now would be an ideal time to do so. Discussing your problems with paying the debt means you may be able to come to an agreement with the creditor and avoid bailiff action completely.

Call us on 0800 464 7235

Our trained advisors are here to help, so if you think an IVA proposal is one of the best debt solutions for you, don’t hesitate to call us on 0800 464 7235 to speak to one of our trained debt advisors or click below to see if you qualify…

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Types Of Bailiffs

Certificated enforcement agents

Currently, there are 3 types of bailiffs in England and Wales. The most common type is a certificated enforcement agent. The court appoints these bailiffs; however, they don’t work for the court directly.

For private sectors, including members of the public, businesses, and the legal sector, a certificated enforcement agent will:

  • Collect judgements
  • Collect unpaid rent for commercial landlords
  • Evict tenants for landlords
  • Remove squatters and trespassers from land

For local authorities, they can collect council tax, parking fines, and business rates. They can also make arrests and collect fines for government departments, including the Magistrates’ Courts.

High court enforcement officers

A High Court enforcement officer is a person who enforces High Court judgements and is authorised by the Ministry of Justice. If a creditor is owed more than £600 through a County Court judgement, they can pass the judgement to a High Court enforcement officer to deal with.

However, they can’t enforce debts that are regulated by the Consumer Credit Act, such as items bought on credit or unpaid credit cards. These can only be dealt with by the County Court, except for debts that are worth £25,000 or more.

County court/family court bailiffs

A county court bailiff, also known as a family court bailiff or a civilian enforcement officer, is an enforcement agent who works for the HM Courts and Tribunals Service. Their job is to enforce court orders and recover money and goods or property that are subject to hire purchase arrangements.

Additionally, they have the power to carry out arrest warrants for contempt of court, and they also serve court documents. Executing arrest warrants involves the County Court bailiff arresting the named person and bringing them to stand before a judge.

When County Court bailiffs serve court documents, they hand-deliver papers such as court orders or divorce petitions.

Magistrate court fines and arrest warrant bailiffs

These types of bailiffs are employed by the Magistrates’ Court. They typically collect debts owed in criminal offences such as penalties or fines.

These listed bailiffs are certified by the Magistrates Court, which means they have been given a certificate that allows them to do their duties, including evicting tenants and enforcing debts.

What Rights Do Bailiffs Have?

As court representatives, enforcement agents do have legal powers when it comes to collecting debts. In certain circumstances, they can enter a debtor’s property and claim possessions that will be auctioned off.

How much power a bailiff and what they can legally do depends on which type of bailiff is visiting you. Bailiffs have to abide by very strict rules, and these rules have become even more strict recently. Their ability to enter your home depends on which type of bailiff they are.

It’s important to realise that no matter which type of bailiff is visiting you, they can gain entry through peaceable means, such as through an unlocked gate or door.

If they manage to enter your home peacefully on the first visit, they are entitled to enter on the second visit too. If you try and stop them a second time after the peaceful first entry, enforcement agents are allowed to use force to get into your home.

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What’s The Process That Bailiffs Must Follow?

Send a Notice Of Enforcement

Bailiffs, whether they’re High Court enforcement officers or County Court bailiffs, must send you a letter before they visit you. If the original creditors have your home address, you’ll always receive a warning that an enforcement agent will be visiting you. The process bailiffs must follow is:

  1. The creditor will tell the bailiff to act on their behalf with a ‘warrant of control’. This means the bailiff can visit you to take your possessions away and sell them at auction.
  2. You’ll receive a letter from the bailiff called a notice of enforcement. This explains why they will be visiting you.
  3. Once you receive the letter, you should either pay off the debt or negotiate a payment plan within 7 days. If you ignore the letter, the enforcement agent will come to your home.
  4. They’ll try to enter your property during the visit and compile a list of your belongings that could be sold to pay off your debt; however, they don’t usually take things during the first visit. They may create a controlled goods agreement, and this means they’ll leave your belongings with you on the condition that you’ll start making payments towards your debt.

Wait 7 days before making a visit

After you’ve received a warning letter, enforcement officers legally have to give you 7 days’ notice before they visit you. Be aware that these 7 days don’t include the day you receive the notice, the date of the visit, or bank holidays and Sundays.

For example, if you received the notice on a Tuesday, the enforcement agent wouldn’t be able to visit you until the Thursday of the next week.

If you know that a bailiff will be visiting you, make sure all doors and points of entry are locked, as they can come into your home through unlocked doors.

Call us on 0800 464 7235

Our trained advisors are here to help, so if you think an IVA proposal is one of the best debt solutions for you, don’t hesitate to call us on 0800 464 7235 to speak to one of our trained debt advisors or click below to see if you qualify…

Check if you qualify

What Aren’t Bailiffs Entitled To Do?

Enter your home by force

If you’re expecting a visit from certificated enforcement agents, it’s important to know that they cannot enter your home using force in most cases. This includes:

  • Breaking doors down
  • Barging past you
  • Climbing through windows

You are entitled to keep the bailiff outside and communicate through the locked door. Additionally, ensure that other household members know not to allow them in.

You should request a full breakdown of the debts they’re collecting and the name of the creditor, and get them to pass any documents or letters through the letterbox or under the door.

Enter if only children under 16 or vulnerable people are present

Another rule that enforcement agents must abide by is that they cannot enter a home when there are only children under 16 or vulnerable people present. This includes elderly or disabled people or those suffering from diagnosed mental health problems.

They’re also not allowed to enter your home if no one is in. However, if you’re not home but another family member is, the bailiff may attempt to enter peacefully.

Visit between 9pm and 6am

Between the hours of 9pm and 6am, bailiffs, whether that’s a high court enforcement officer or a civilian enforcement officer, are not allowed to visit debtors unless they have a court warrant granting them special rights.

They are supposed to avoid visiting during cultural or religious festivals, but they may if it’s necessary. If a bailiff attempts to visit you between 9pm and6 am you can put in a complaint to their employer.

Enter through anything apart from the door

As we mentioned earlier, a bailiff can only enter your home peacefully, and only through a door. This means they can’t get into your property:

  • Through a window
  • By climbing over a fence or garden wall
  • By climbing a locked barrier or gate

For this reason, make sure you lock all doors and gates, but even if you leave windows open, a bailiff is not allowed to climb in.

What Happens If You Don’t Let A Bailiff Into Your Home?

What can they take?

During the first visit, you do not have to open the door to a bailiff. They can only enter your home with your permission. If you don’t let them in, they will eventually leave, but they will come back, so it’s always best to try and pay some of the debt or request a payment plan.

It’s important to do this as soon as you can; otherwise, the bailiff may keep charging you fees, adding more stress to the situation.

What Can A Bailiff Do If They Enter Your Home?

What can they take?

If a bailiff manages to enter your home peacefully, they are entitled to search through your home and list items they intend to take.

They are allowed access to any room, and you mustn’t obstruct or attempt to stop them as you risk being arrested. They’ll look for high-value items such as electronics, jewellery, furniture, and luxury goods.

Do Bailiffs Charge Fees?

Yes, bailiffs can charge you for collecting your debts. There are usually fees for sending you letters and visiting your home and their expenses, such as court fees. They are required to give you a bill outlining the fees you’re being charged with.


The first fee you’ll be charged is called a compliance charge. This is when the bailiff is instructed by their client, such as local authorities, to chase the debt. At this stage, the bailiff will send you a ‘Notice of Enforcement’ giving you 7 days notice that they’ll be visiting you.

The £75 Compliance Fee can be charged for each Warrant of Control that’s issued. The compliance stage is when you may begin a ‘controlled goods agreement’ with the enforcement agent. If you break this agreement, the process will progress to the enforcement stage.


If you break the ‘controlled goods agreement’ terms, an enforcement agent will pay you another visit, remove your possessions, and charge you an enforcement fee. However, bailiffs that enforce more than one Warrant of Control can’t charge multiple enforcement fees.

Enforcement fees will cost you £235, but if your debts are over £1,500, you’ll be charged an extra 7.5% of the total value.


After the enforcement agent has visited your home to remove your belongings, a sale fee will be charged for the agent overseeing the auction of them. Sale fees are charged at £110, plus an additional 7.5% of the total value if your debts are more than £1,500.

You may be liable for further fees for the removal of the possessions, including locksmiths and storage fees. However, by law, bailiffs fees are fixed, so they can’t charge more than the standard sums. This means the bailiff cannot keep charging you more and more. If this happens, you’ll be able to make a complaint.


County Court Bailiff & High Court Enforcement Officer companies

If enforcement agents contact you, you must make sure they’re legitimate, as, unfortunately, there are scammers out there who target vulnerable people. For this reason, the first thing bailiffs should do during a visit is show proof of who they are.

Bristow & SutorJacobs EnforcementNewlyn BailiffsJBW BailiffsCollectica Bailiffs
Phoenix CommercialDukes BailiffsEquita BailiffsAndrew James EnforcementPenham Excel
RundlesChandlers EnforcementCollect ServicesConfero CollectionConstant and Co
DG CollectionGoodwillie and Corcoran High Court Enforcement GroupMarston Group Excel Civil Enforcement
Reventus EnforcementRoss and RobertsRossendalesRundle & CoSherforce
Swift Credit BailiffsTask Enforcement BailiffsWhyte & Co

Contact IVA Helpline Today For Help With Enforcement Agents

If you’ve received a notice of enforcement or have already been paid a visit, don’t hesitate to contact our IVA Helpline experts today by calling 0800 464 7235.

We provide practical and helpful debt advice to help you deal with your financial problems so you can start moving towards a debt-free life.

Frequently asked questions

  • Can a bailiff take a family pet?

    No! The law protects non-human family members, so your furry friend is safe from UK enforcement officers. Pets are listed under essential items, so if bailiffs do visit your home, they have no right to take your pet.

    Not only are bailiffs not allowed to claim your pets, but they also can’t remove essential pet items that you need to keep your animals safe and healthy. This includes beds, fish tanks, aquariums, collars and leads etc.

    Although bailiffs aren’t entitled to take essentials, they may have the right to take pet items that aren’t essential.

    However, they’ll usually only do this if the item is valuable enough, and it’s not very common for a pet item to be both non-essential and valuable, so it’s unlikely the bailiff will take any of your pet’s property.

  • Will a bailiff take my car if I don’t let them in?

    Vehicles are usually the first things that enforcement officers look for, as they can be taken when you’re not home. They can take your car and use it to pay off the debt if you don’t pay or if you break the controlled goods agreement.

    You do not have to let bailiffs into your home, and as long as you are taking steps to pay off your debts, your vehicle won’t be taken just because you haven’t let them in. There are a few circumstances in which bailiffs are forbidden from taking or clamping your vehicle, such as:

    If it is a Motability vehicle or it contains a valid Blue Badge.
    If it’s also where you live, such as a motor home.
    If you need it for work and its value is less than £1,350.

    If you think your car is at risk of being seized by the bailiffs, you should move it to a safe place while your sort your debts out. Bailiffs can only seize or clamp your car if it’s parked outside your home, place of work or in a public car park or road.

    Unfortunately, it’s not enough to simply park your car on a different road as the bailiffs will search around the nearby roads and clamp it if they find it. To stop this from happening, either:

    Park your car in a secure locked garage.
    Park it on a friend or family member’s drive, but get their permission first.

  • Should I let a bailiff or enforcement agent into my home?

    Generally, you do not have to let a bailiff or an enforcement agent into your home or business, and it’s usually advised that you don’t. They are not allowed to enter your property between the hours of 9 pm and 6 am, and they can’t use force to gain entry during their first visit to your home.

    However, they can gain entry using “peaceable means”. This means they can enter your home through:

    An unlocked door or gate
    An attached garage
    A loading bay

    Bailiffs cannot gain entry to your home on their first visit using force, so make sure all doors, gates, and other points of entry are locked and secure.

  • Can I refuse to pay a bailiff?

    Although you can refuse to pay bailiffs, it’s strongly recommended that you don’t, as the debt won’t go away, and refusing to pay will only make things more difficult and stressful for you.

    If you’re struggling to pay off your debt in full, you can take other steps, but which one you opt for will depend on your financial circumstances. You can ask the enforcement agents if:

    You can pay the majority of the debt off if you can afford to

    It’s possible to set up a payment plan if small but regular payments suit you better.

    Even if the bailiffs refuse your offer, you should still make attempts to pay them. This will make it easier to negotiate with them as you’ll be seen to be willing to pay the debt.

    If the bailiffs gain entry to your home, don’t worry as it’s not too late to pay them. This will prevent them from taking your possessions and charging you extra fees.

    Ultimately, if you’re able to pay some or all of the debt, it’s better to do so. The worst thing you can do is simply refuse to pay if you’re able to, and you’ll be at risk of losing all of your valuable possessions.

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