Bailiff Help & Advice


If you owe money to a company or local Court and you don’t repay it in a timely manner, you may be threatened with a visit from the bailiffs, enforcement agents whose job it is to collect debts on behalf of creditors.

In this guide we’ll explore what bailiffs are, what powers bailiffs have to enforce debts, and how you can protect yourself if you finding yourself facing a bailiff visit over an unpaid debt.

What does a bailiff do?

It’s a bailiffs job to enforce court orders. This might involve serving legal documents, evicting someone from a property, or collecting unpaid debts.

What is a bailiff?

A bailiff is a certificated enforcement agent who is empowered to:

  • Collect debts
  • Serve court documents
  • Seize goods
  • Carry out evictions

The powers that particular bailiffs carry, and steps they can take in order to pursue you for repayment of debts, will depend on who they work for.

What are the different kinds of bailiffs?

Bailiffs might work for the court, local authorities, or private companies, or even landlords. The most common types of bailiffs in the UK are listed below.

County Court bailiff

As the name suggests, County Court bailiffs are directly employed by the County Court of England and Wales. They’re primarily used to enforce something called a County Court Judgment (CCJ), a kind court order creditors can apply for in order to force you to repay money owed.

Sheriff/High Court enforcement officers

High Court enforcement officers are employed by the High Court, but they also work for Sheriffs Courts in different regions across the UK. A High Court enforcement officer will also enforce CCJs, however if the judgment involves debts over £600, it will then be passed to the local High Court.

Magistrates Court bailiff

Magistrates court bailiffs report directly to the clerk of the local Magistrates Court, and mainly collect on debts related to criminal offences like public order offences and antisocial behaviour.

Private bailiff (or enforcement agent)

Private bailiffs aren’t employed by the Court. Instead, they work on behalf of private companies – like a bank, mobile phone company, or the local council.

Private bailiffs will collect debts a range of debts, like unpaid bills, outstanding parking fines, and income tax and council tax arrears.

There are other types of bailiffs who operate in the UK, such as a family court bailiff or civilian enforcement officer, but they are far less common and deal with more specific situations.

Is a debt collection agency the same as a bailiff?

No. Both can visit your home regarding unpaid debts, but bailiffs and debt collection agencies are very different. Bailiffs are certificated enforcement agents. They are empowered by the Court and so can use legal tools like County Court Judgments to force you to repay what you owe.

A debt collector, on the other hand, might leave you threatening messages or even visit your home, but has no legal power to force repayment of debts or seize goods on behalf of creditors.

When will a bailiff visit?

You will only have to deal with a bailiff visit if you have failed to repay a debt. Even then, you will receive fair warning before enforcement action is taken.

First, you’ll receive a written warning – or notice of enforcement – offering you details of the debt, the creditor involved, and their intention to take enforcement action if you refuse to repay.

Then, you’ll have seven days before the bailiffs can visit, which gives you a week to approach your creditors with an appropriate repayment plan. If that week passes and no agreement is reached, only then will a bailiff visit.

What powers do bailiffs have?

In general, bailiffs will begin the enforcement process by contacting you in writing. Once they do, they may then begin exchanging emails with you or contacting you via phone call, but they can only contact you during working hours.

Bailiffs are empowered to visit your home if you continually fail to repay debt they consider to be enforceable, but they can only enter the property using ‘peaceable’ means.

Bailiffs can enter your property via:

  • A door
  • Gate
  • Detached garage or loading bay

Generally speaking, enforcement agents cannot force entry into your home, whether that’s through the front door, a window, or climbing over a wall or garden fence, however they are allowed to force entry in certain circumstances.

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Can bailiffs force entry into my home?

A bailiff can only force entry into your home if they are:

  • Collecting unpaid fines
  • Entering a commercial property with a CCJ
  • Collecting on behalf of HM Revenue & Customs (i.e. income tax or VAT)
  • Returning to a property where they have already gained peaceful entry

If a bailiff arrives at your home and attempts to force entry without cause, you are well within your rights to ask them to leave.

What can bailiffs take?

If a bailiff arrives at your home in legitimate circumstances – if you have a CCJ against you, for example – then they have the ability to seize your property as a way of raising funds for your creditors.

Items bailiffs can take include:

  • Clothing
  • Furniture
  • Household equipment
  • Domestic goods

In general, bailiffs can’t seize property that relates to your job, like a set of tools or a work van. They are also prevented from taking goods owned by anyone other than the person named on the warrant.

the best way to protect yourself from creditors is simply to pay it, if you can afford to.

How can I protect myself against bailiffs?

If you receive a letter from certificated enforcement agents stating their intention to collect an unpaid debt, there are steps you can take to protect yourself before the bailiffs visit.

Talk to your creditor

The first step to take is to talk to the creditor listed on the notice of enforcement, whether that’s your bank or your mobile phone company.

It may be that the debt listed isn’t yours, or you simply weren’t aware of it, and you may be able to come to some sort of arrangement.

Pay the debt

If you are responsible for the debt that’s being discussed, the best way to protect yourself from creditors is simply to pay it, if you can afford to.

Discuss it with your creditors first – they may be willing to allow you to pay up the debt over time at an affordable rate, or even accept less than the total amount in some cases.

Seek debt advice

If the reason that you haven’t repaid your debt is that you simply can’t afford to, you should seek debt advice immediatley. There are always options available to you.

Organisations like Citizens Advice can offer you free advice on your situation, whereas companies like Your Debt Expert can help you set up a payment agreement that allows you to repay the debts you can afford, and write off the rest.

Where can I get debt advice on dealing with bailiffs?

If you owe money in unpaid debt and your creditors are threatening you with a bailiff visit, you may not be sure how to protect yourself or your property.

We can help. At Your Debt Expert, we’ve helped thousands of people put a stop to bailiff visits. Our team of debt specialists can offer you free advice and guidance on the options available to you, and even help set up a payment plan with creditors on your behalf.

For impartial advice and guidance you can trust, talk to the experts. Call Your Debt Expert today on 0800 082 8086.

Where can I get more advice on Bailiffs, and what help is available?

To discuss your options and get the support you need to deal with your debt today, contact us now on 0800 082 8086 or click the button below to get started.