Dealing with bailiffs – a rough guide

July 30, 2008

There are unfortunately many sources of debts in which people are ripped off by interest rates, or persecuted for lack of cash. Many debt collection agencies and bailiffs work in tandem. Indeed, often they are just different branches of the same firm both use threatening letters to try to intimidate people.

Don’t panic

You don’t have to make it easy for them.   If in any doubt get advice. The debt collection agencies often threaten bailiff action. They can never use bailiffs without first taking you to court and obtaining a judgement on the debt. Even then, bailiffs are only used where you don’t keep to the terms of the judgement/repayment agreement. It’s easy to get this varied if your circumstances change, e.g. you lose your job or something.

If you decide you are able and willing to pay off a debt, you can go back to the original creditor. Paying through the bailiffs will cost you more. Only agree to amounts you can afford.

You don’t have to let them in

Bailiffs cannot break into your home to take away goods to recover the debt. They first need to have “walking possession” – either by you having let them in previously, or by having previously gained “peaceable entry”. But they can climb in through an open window. If you live in a flat in a converted house, you could have problems. The street door counts as the front door – so if a neighbour lets them through that threshold, it’s arguable they can then break down the door to your flat. This doesn’t apply in a block of flats with an entry-phone system.

Don’t be intimidated    

They’ll lie and say they will attend with the police who can break down your door. Not true -the police may attend, but only to prevent a ‘breach of the peace’, I.e. any threat of illegal violence by either side. 3ut if you offer no violence, there’s nothing the police can do. If cops threaten to break your door down, ring their station and report them’.

You can’t be jailed   


Bailiffs will say that if you don’t pay they’ll send the debt back with the recommendation that you be jailed. This is untrue for most debts.

It is only possible to get jailed for non-payment of Council Tax but then only if there’s an extra court case and the judge rules you are “wilfully” refusing to pay, and that there’s no other way of getting what you owe (like from your benefits or wages).

Don’t be fleeced  


Many bailiffs will inflate their costs by sending extra letters or charging you for visits to remove property that never actually occurred. They’ll even charge more for these things than are allowed in law. Bailiffs are money-hungry parasites. All bailiffs (except court bailiffs) make their money by collecting a debt quickly. They get a portion of the total debt by way of payment from the council or credit card company. That is why they will demand a higher level of repayment than you can afford, the longer it takes to collect the debt the more it costs them.


  1. It’s usually best to avoid getting into debt if possible.
  2. Don’t be ashamed: being harassed over debts is not a private failing, but a public scandal affecting tens of millions of people.
  3. The above is only meant as a very rough guide. If you have problems visit your local CAB/advice centre or see a solicitor for free. Tel. CAB 0870 1264030 Law Centre 8808 5354

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