Bailiffs have traditionally struck fear into people. In the popular imagination, they’re irresistible forces that have the power to strip you of all your possessions. In reality, though, your attitude to bailiffs will depend largely on whether you’re a debtor or a creditor.
Using a Bailiff
If you’re owed money by a customer or tenant, there are many possible actions for recovering the debt. Most of these involve communication with the debtor, either directly or through a collection agency like SJ Collections, but if that fails there is the option of taking the case to the County Court.
If the court rules in your favour, you can then instruct bailiffs to make the recovery. This will involve them going to the debtor’s home or business premises, depending on whether they owe money as a business or an individual, and recovering either money or goods up to the value of the debt.
It’s vital to choose a reputable firm of bailiffs, in order to ensure they’ll act legally and ethically. If you’re a landlord, you should also be sure they’re clear about what items in the property belong to you and therefore shouldn’t be seized.
A Visit from the Bailiff
If you happen to be at the other end of the process and are receiving a visit from the bailiff, it’s important to know both their obligations and your rights. In most cases, you aren’t obliged to open the door to bailiffs, and they aren’t allowed to break in, use force or get in through a window. The exception is if the debt is for certain criminal fines.
They also aren’t allowed to enter a premises where the only people present are under sixteen or otherwise vulnerable — disabled, for instance. If you do choose to open the door to them, you’re entitled to be shown proof of their identity, such as a badge, ID card or enforcement agent certificate. They must also tell you which company they belong to and give you a phone number and a detailed breakdown of the debt.
What a Bailiff Can Take
If things have got to the point of a visit from the bailiffs, the best approach is to pay them your debt if you possibly can, or else negotiate a payment plan. If you don’t, they’re entitled to seize items from within the premises — or from outside, if you refuse to let them in.
Bailiffs are only entitled to take what are regarded as luxury items, such as a TV or computer, but not possessions like clothes, fridge or cooker. They also can’t take anything that isn’t the property of the person owing the debt.
Properly regulated bailiffs are part of the debt collection system, but it’s better not to let the situation get to that point, whether you’re a debtor or creditor. Give me a call if you want to investigate less extreme approaches.