Your rights if a bailiff visits your home and how to stop them visiting

Your rights if a bailiff visits your home and how to stop them visiting

A GROUP of MPs today called for bailiffs to be regulated and forced to wear body cameras when collecting debts.
This comes after a sharp increase in the number of bailiffs using intimidating behaviour and threatening to break into homes.
Getty – Contributor MPs are demanding stricter rules for bailiffs
Bailiff firms are currently self-regulated but the Parliamentary Justice Committee said an independent regulator and complaints body are needed to make sure that Brits in debt are treated fairly.
The enforcement regulator should have the power to ban companies from operating or issue fines, it added.
MPs said debt enforcement was “under-regulated” because reforms introduced in 2014 to protect people from unfair practices were not legally binding, while there’s also no independent body enforcing them.
It added that because bailiffs are paid by debtors, who are often poorer, it is “vital that the fees are proportionate and as low as possible”.
Getty – Contributor Bailiffs are often used to collect unpaid tax debts, utility bills and parking fines
In Britain, bailiffs are usually used by local authorities to collect council tax debts and unpaid parking fines.
In November last year, Citizens Advice estimated that households had a total of £19billion of arrears on bills such as council tax and utilities.
At the time, it was also suggested that a third of the 2.2million people who had been contacted by a bailiff in the past two years had experienced debt collectors pushing the limits of the law, like forcing entry to a home or taking goods needed for work.
Your rights if a bailiff visits your home
It can be extremely distressing to have a bailiff at your front door, but you have rights and shouldn’t be bullied.
There are certain things they can and can’t do. Below’s what you need to know.
When bailiffs can’t enter your home

By force, for example by pushing past you (unless in the below scenario)
If only children under 16 or vulnerable people (with disabilities, for example) are there
Between 9pm and 6am
Through anything except the door

When bailiffs can enter your home

Bailiffs are allowed to force their way into your home to collect unpaid criminal fines, income tax or stamp duty, but only as a last resort

If you don’t let a bailiff in or agree to pay them

They could take things from outside your home, for example your car
You could end up owing even more money
If you do let a bailiff in but don’t pay them, they may take some of your belongings. They could sell the items to pay debts and cover their fees

Before you let a bailiff take your things or you pay them, you should ask to see a proof of their identity, which company they’re from, a contact number as well as a breakdown of the amount you owe.
You don’t have to let them into your home. Instead, you can ask them to put the paperwork through the letterbox or show it at a window, for example.
Paying a bailiff
If you have the cash to pay the debt, you can pay the bailiff on the doorstep – just make sure you get a receipt to prove you’ve paid.
If you can’t pay all the money right away, speak to the bailiff about how you could pay the money back.
Offer to pay what you can afford in weekly or monthly payments, but keep in mind they don’t have to accept your offer.
If you let a bailiff into your home, they may take some of your belongings to sell.
Bailiffs can take luxury items, for example a TV or games console.
What bailiffs can’t take from youBELOW are the things that bailiffs aren’t allowed to take from you in order to cover your debts.

Things you need, such as your clothes, cooker or fridge
Work tools and equipment worth a total of less than £1,350
Someone else’s belongs, such as your partner’s computer. Just keep in mind you’ll have to prove that someone else’s goods don’t belong to you

Bailiffs can also charge fees for collecting your debt, but how much you pay depends on your situation.
They have to give you a written bill telling you how much the fees are – you’ll get this once you arrange to pay your debt or after your belongings are sold.
You can check how much they’re allowed to charge as well as how to complain about your bill on the Citizen Advice website.
How to stop bailiffs from visiting
Before a bailiff shows up at your front door, you’ll be sent a so-called “notice of enforcement” letter informing you that an agent will visit.
Getty – Contributor If you receive a “notice of enforcement” letter, don’t ignore it
It’s important to not ignore this letter, as if you act quickly, you may be able to stop them from turning up at all.
Below are some tips from Citizens Advice on what you should do.
Check the notice is valid
The first thing you need to do is make sure that the letter includes the right information.
If it doesn’t, you can complain to stop the bailiffs coming until a new notice is sent.
For your notice to be valid it must:

Show your correct name and address
Show what debt you owe and state the correct amount
Explain that you have seven days’ notice before the bailiffs can visit
Come from a registered bailiff and not a debt collector – you can check on the Bailiffs Register on the Justice website
Be sent to you by letter – either by post, fax, email, by being fixed to your front door if you don’t have a letterbox or by being given to you
Be written in a certain legal style – you can see an example of a notice of enforcement on GOV.UK

If you’re not sure if your notice is valid, Citizens Advice can check for you.
How to get debt advice for freeThere are lots of groups who can help you with your problem debts.

Citizens Advice – 0808 800 9060
StepChange – 0800 138 1111
National Debtline – 0808 808 4000
You can also find information about Debt Management Plans (DMP) and Individual Voluntary Arrangements (IVA) on the Money Advice Service website and on the Government’s site.
Speak to one of these organisations – don’t be tempted to use a claims managment firm that will claim it can write-off lots of your debts in return for a large up-front fee.

If you don’t owe any debt
If you don’t owe anything and you can prove it, bailiffs can’t come to your home or take any action against you.
To prove it, you should collect as much evidence as you can.
Then send it all to the bailiffs with a letter explaining this. You can find their address on the notice of enforcement.
Dealing with the debt
Even if you owe debt, you might be able to challenge it.
Just keep in mind this can take a long time, so it’s not the best option if you want to quickly stop the bailiffs visiting you.
Naturally, if you can afford to pay your debt it’s best to call the bailiffs straight away to pay.
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This will stop them visiting and you’II be able to avoid paying extra fees. You can find their number on the notice of enforcement.
Once again, remember to ask the bailiffs to send you a receipt when you pay in case you later need to prove you’ve paid.
If you can’t afford to pay the debt you can try to negotiate with the bailiffs to pay a smaller amount or get it written off.
Harry Dent, who can’t read or write, claims Universal Credit led to bailiffs took his TV, dryer and tablet

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