Understanding Bailiffs

11th October 2019.

James Salmon, Operations Director.

What is a bailiff?

The proper name for  bailiffs now is the official designation enforcement agents. However, most of us still refer to them as bailiffs.

A bailiff or enforcement agent has legal powers to collect a debt. Some bailiffs work on behalf of private companies, some are self-employed and some work for local authorities.

Bailiffs collect things such as County Court judgments (CCJs), council tax arrears, parking fines, and child maintenance arrears.

In most cases, a bailiff can only be sent to your property after court action – either via magistrates’ court, High Court or County Court, depending on the debt – has been taken. The exception is HM Revenue & Customs, who can use bailiffs without taking you to court first.

Even then, a bailiff only typically gets involved if you’ve ignored correspondence from the court or failed to set up a payment everyone can agree on.

Bailiffs have a legal right to visit your property, and to remove and sell your goods to pay off a debt. These powers mean that these kinds of debts are more of a priority to stay on top of than other debts.

Bailiffs can only visit you after they’ve sent you a letter to let you know they’ll be coming.

This letter is called a notice of enforcement and should be received seven clear days before the visit.

Allowing for weekends, this means you should have a minimum of 9-10 days to either pay the debt in full or come to an arrangement to repay the debt in instalments. If you don’t do this, the bailiff will visit.

See our previous post on Bailiffs

Bailiffs and Business Debts

In contract to personal debts or visits to home addresses, county court bailiffs or High Court Enforcement Officers can break into business premises.

If you or your business owes tax, a court order is not needed before a bailiff can visit to try and take control of goods.

If you have a business premises, bailiffs can call to try to take control of goods.

If your limited company owes money, the bailiff can take control of any goods or assets that belong to the limited company.

They are allowed to take control of goods that will raise enough money to cover the debt plus any interest that may have been added, as well as the bailiff’s fees. Your goods will usually be sold at auction.

The bailiff may not take your goods away on the first visit.

Their goal is to get you to pay your debt. It’s much easier for them if you simply pay the money, whether that be in full or in instalments, rather than them taking your goods and then having to sell them.

On a first visit, they will inspect your home or premises and draw up a list of assets that they believe at auction will cover the value of the debt.

Remember, they can also include items that are outside your home or premises that belong to you or the business, such as a car.

The items on this list will become controlled goods, meaning you can’t sell them, remove them or give them away.

Rather than taking the controlled goods away, the bailiff may secure them at your property or you may be able to carry on using them whilst you pay off the debt under a Controlled Goods Agreement. However, if you miss any payments, they will come back and take those goods away.

If the bailiff has been into your home or business premises, taken control of your goods properly and you have not kept to any agreement you made with them, they usually have the right to return and take your goods. There are goods that bailiffs should not take, such as essential household items or items that belong to someone else.

For sole traders, business debts are treated the same as personal debts. From your home, bailiffs can take any items that belong to you, any jointly-owned items, any cash, cheques, or other monetary items you may have such as bonds or pawn tickets.

They can’t take any items that are leased or on hire-purchase or any items that belong to somebody else or a child.

There are exemptions which include anything considered essential for basic domestic needs, such as a cooker, washing machine or furniture.

They can however take non-essential items such as a dishwasher or a games console. Items used personally for either work, study or education such as books, tools and computers are also exempt, but only up to a value of £1350.

For a limited company, a bailiff can only take items that belong to the company, and not goods that are leased or on hire-purchase.

As a limited company is a separate legal entity, a director won’t be pursued personally unless they have signed personal guarantees. Bailiffs can take money, stock, office equipment or machinery.

This can be extremely damaging for a company and could force them out of business, so if you receive notice from a bailiff, it is important to act quickly to either settle the debt or seek professional advice.

Keep calm and don’t be intimidated. Getting angry or fighting with a bailiff will make the situation worse.

What you can do when a bailiff visits

A bailiff (‘enforcement agent’) may visit your home if you do not pay your debts – such as Council Tax bills, parking fines, court fines and county court or family court judgments.

This will happen if you ignore letters saying that bailiffs will be used.

You might be arrested if you do not pay criminal debts, such as fines or penalty notices.

A bailiff may also visit your home for other reasons, for example to serve court documents or give notices and summons.

There are different kinds of bailiffs, known as:

  • ‘certificated enforcement agents’
  • ‘high court enforcement officers’
  • ‘county court and family court bailiffs’
  • ‘civilian enforcement officers’

Bailiffs must usually give you at least 7 days’ notice of their first visit.

Pay what you owe before a bailiff visits

If you think a bailiff might visit you to collect debts, you can stop this by paying the money you owe. Get advice about how to pay your debt from whoever you owe money to as soon as possible.

You’ll have to pay the person or business you owe the money to, or their solicitor. The name and address will be on the judgment form. Do not pay the court.

Make sure you can prove you’ve paid. Send a cheque or postal order by post, or make a bank transfer. Do not send cash through the post.

Keep a record of your payments and make sure you pay in time.

Pay in installments

If you’re paying in installments, ask the person or business you owe the money to about the best way to pay.

You may want to set up a standing order to pay the money directly from your bank account.

If you’re late with your payments, you could be taken back to court and you may have to pay extra costs.

How to negotiate settlement

You may be able to stop the bailiff from visiting, by filling in the N245 application form.

Say on the form how you’ll repay the money – for example weekly or monthly payments.

If your offer is accepted, the warrant will be stopped as long as you keep up with the payments.

If you have other judgments or debts

If you have another judgment against you, you can arrange to pay all your debts to the court in a single weekly or monthly payment.

This will stop people taking action against you to get their money – for example by sending bailiffs to your home.

You can only do this if your total debts are under £5,000.

Dealing with bailiffs

You usually do not have to open your door to a bailiff or let them in.

Bailiffs cannot enter your home:

  • by force, for example by pushing past you
  • if only children under 16 or vulnerable people (with disabilities, for example) are present
  • between 9pm and 6am
  • through anything except the door

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 do not 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 do not pay them they may take some of your belongings. They could sell the items to pay debts and cover their fees.

Check the bailiff’s identity

Before you let a bailiff in to take your things or pay them, ask to see:

  • proof of their identity, such as a badge, ID card or enforcement agent certificate
  • which company they’re from
  • a telephone contact number
  • a detailed breakdown of the amount owed

You can ask for proof of a bailiff’s identity and authorisation even if they’ve visited before – for example, ask them to put it through the letterbox or show it at the window.

All bailiffs must have a certificate unless they’re exempt or they’re with someone who does have a certificate.

Anyone who claims to be a bailiff and isn’t one is committing fraud.

To check a bailiff’s identity, find out what kind of bailiff they are from their proof of identity and then:

Paying a bailiff

You can pay the bailiff on the doorstep – you do not have to let them into your home.

Make sure you get a receipt to prove you’ve paid.

If you cannot 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.

The bailiff does not have to accept your offer.

What bailiffs can and cannot take

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.

They cannot take:

  • things you need, such as your clothes, cooker or fridge
  • work tools and equipment which together are worth less than £1,350
  • someone else’s belongings, such as your partner’s computer

You’ll have to prove that someone else’s goods do not belong to you.

What bailiffs can charge

Bailiffs will add a fee to the debt for the work they do.

How much you will be charged depends on the situation. Citizens Advice has information on bailiff’s fees.

Some bailiffs (such as high court enforcement officers) will be VAT registered add VAT to their fees.

Can the police help bailiffs?

The police can only help a bailiff do their job in very limited circumstances.

This is allowed if:

  • The bailiff is enforcing a High Court writ of control
  • The bailiff has applied to the court for a warrant to force entry and the court has agreed that the police can help with this

The police can’t help the bailiff in any other circumstances.

The police may attend with a bailiff to make sure there’s no disturbance. They have to remain impartial and they can’t help the bailiff.

Once a bailiff has made a list of your goods and taken them into control you can also be arrested if you hide, remove or deliberately damage any of these goods.

If you act in a threatening or aggressive manner you could be arrested. The bailiff could also be arrested if they act like this. You can also be arrested if you ‘obstruct’ a bailiff, for example by physically stopping them from removing goods.

You can’t be arrested for refusing entry to a bailiff if they’ve not already been in and made a list of goods.

Can I be contacted by bailiffs when I’m on an IVA?

If you receive any threatening debt enforcement action, such as from bailiffs or about a County Court judgment (CCJ), you should contact us or your IVA supervisor as soon as possible. Find out moreabout being contacted by creditors on an IVA.

Is it like on TV?

TV shows about bailiffs often focus on business debts or repossessions of homes or vehicles. This is because they have a legal right to break into property in these cases. For most types of debt, they don’t have a right to break in.

The reality is that bailiffs spend a lot of their time knocking on doors and making payment arrangements. This doesn’t make very interesting TV. Viewers are more likely to be interested in emotional or confrontational situations, even though these are not as common in reality.

Of course dealing with bailiffs will never be a pleasant experience, but the situations depicted in TV soaps and documentaries often make it look a lot worse.

Help or advice

You can get free help or advice on dealing with bailiffs from:

 

Do you sell on credit?

With pressures on the cash flow it is essential that you stay on top of the credit limits you grant customers and watch carefully for any late payments.

Those customers will look for the easiest option  to boost their cash-flow. Don’t let it be you.

You can’t just assume your customers can and will pay you eventually, no matter how big their name is.

It is essential to have credit management systems in place to monitor and check your customers credit worthiness.

It is also best practice to use a trusted third party like CPA to make sure you are paid on time by customers, no matter how good a name they have.

About CPA

The Credit Protection Association can help!

Formed in 1914, CPA has been providing credit management services to SMEs for over 100 years.

At the Credit Protection Association, we provide first class credit information that can help you avoid being over extended to customers who are at risk. Our monitoring service can flag up warning signs long before the end, giving you the chance to adjust and reduce your exposure. We provide recommended credit limits and credit scores on a traffic light system and can help you set appropriate credit policies for your customers.

We regularly publish lists of the latest insolvencies but by then it is too late. Our credit reports however predict approximately 96% of company insolvencies long before they arrive.

Companies in trouble usually have very bad cash flow and they try to deal with it by delaying payment to their suppliers, increasing your exposure to them.

If you supply on credit, help us help you identify the risks.

Why use a third party collector?

As a third party collector, we can also get your payments prioritised over those who are not as hot on collections. When you customer receives a letter from the Credit Protection Association regarding their outstanding account, they are going to want to get that resolved as a priority. Our overdue account recovery service can get your unpaid invoices to the top of their “to do” list and get your invoice paid.

Over the years we have collected billions in overdue invoices for our customers.

Our debt recovery and credit management services give our members the financial freedom needed to grow and prosper, while our new Late Payment Compensation department could unlock hidden potential and offer the compensation needed to springboard your business to success.

The Credit Protection Association – Prompting Punctual Payments – Ethical, Effective, Efficient, Economical collections

Ready to speak to an advisor?

For help or advice on credit management, entirely without obligation.

Call us today

0330 053 9263

CPA is passionate about late payment

The Credit Protection Association has been protecting smaller firms against poor payment practices for over 100 years.

We are extremely passionate about breaking the late payment culture that holds back the UK economy and threatens many SMEs with cash flow difficulties being the single biggest killer of Britain’s small businesses.

If you were regularly paid late we can help. Those former customers used you to boost their own cashflow, regularly paying you late.

As a result you had extra costs, you had the distraction of having to chase payment, you had opportunity costs because your capital was tied up in their late invoices.

Under little used legislation, you are entitled to compensation for those late payments.

Now you can boost your own cash-flow.

CPA can help unearth the those hidden treasures.

We have the technology to reveal the compensation you are due and we have the extensive experience and expertise to then turn those claims into cash.

Yes, CPA can help you boost your business cash-flow.

Don’t let your bankers control you, contact CPA today.

The Credit Protection Association – Prompting Punctual Payments – Ethical, Effective, Efficient, Economical collections

Read our blog here on how to crack down on the late payment culture.

Read our blog here on how to give late payers the slap they need.

The “Why” of the late payment culture.

New PM should walk the walk and back small firms over late payments

Paying late is “crack cocaine” to big business.

Late payment culture risks “spiraling out of control”

visit our late payment compensation page

See our full blog and FAQ on late payment compensation

Do you realise you could be sitting on a fortune?

Late payments often result in a cash flow crunch and leave SMEs in need of a cash injection.

If you sold B2B on credit then there may be a hidden source of capital you can call on.

If you fancy an bit of extra cash in your business, rather than jumping through hoops with your bank, you could look to uncover the resources from an unexpected source within your own business.

Not many are aware but there could be a hidden fortune within your business, sitting there, just waiting to be uncovered and released.

We can help you uncover the pile of gold, you didn’t even know you were sitting on.

If you trade with other businesses and were often paid late then you could be entitled to significant compensation.

Under little known and under-utilised legislation your business could be due huge amounts in compensation that you didn’t even know about.

Let’s be clear – this is not a way to weaken any customer relationships you value. It is one that identifies who’s been paying late and then recover the potentially significant sums in compensation using Late Payment Legislation from businesses where the relationship has already ended.

You can pick and choose who you want us to follow up – but once we’ve agreed which companies you’d like to pursue compensation from it’s a fast process and there’s no financial outlay to you whatsoever. My team at CPA put its expertise to work to recover the compensation due and fight late payment culture.

That compensation could provide the cash boost your business needed.

But don’t delay, that compensation evaporates if not claimed within six years of the late payment.

How can CPA help?

CPA has developed a unique technology to dig into your accounting records and discover the cash injection you are due by means of compensation. The software does all the hard work. Our software interacts over the cloud with over 300 different software packages, working directly with your accounts package, just so long as it’s stored on a computer.

We recognise that most companies do not have the resources to spend time on the identification and calculation of Late Payment Compensation. Our service can produce an Analyses within just a few days with (usually) less than 30 mins of co-operation from our clients. We work directly with over 300 accounting packages but can also work with bespoke accounts packages. Indeed, speed is essential as the oldest invoices may fall foul of the 6-year time limit.

Once the Sales Ledger Analyses is made available to clients, all that is required is that management decide which commercially sensitive ex-customers to remove from the list and return it to us.

CPA then uses its years of collection experience to explain and recover the Late Payment Compensation Claims. Clients do not handle any part of the recovery process as our team will take all communications from the companies against who the claims has been made. Often, it’s simply a case of explaining the legislation, sometimes we have to go all the way and enforce the legislation through the courts.

The result is that we are realising clients’ claims worth tens and sometimes hundreds of thousands of pounds which, of course, is pure net profit.  You may also be among the recipients of “hundreds of thousands of pounds” should you elect to take advantage of our services.

We do the work, you receive the cash.

If you have supplied goods and services to businesses on credit and were regularly paid late then you could be due significant sums in late payment compensation.

We are talking to companies and unearthing claims in the hundreds of thousands from former business customers who paid them late. Large business customers who abused their power to inflict unfair and sometimes illegal payment practices.

We are helping business owners  who are looking to boost the returns from their business before they retire. We are helping businesses who have lost major clients after years of loyal service to get properly compensated for systematic late payment. We are helping companies that were looking to close down, who looked insolvent and finding that cash injection they need to avoid insolvency.

Those former clients who regularly paid you late can finally be made to pay.

Ready to speak to an advisor?

For help or advice on credit management, entirely without obligation.

Call us today

0330 053 9263

The Credit Protection Association is a credit management company established in 1914. If you supply goods or services on credit then we can help you!

The Credit Protection Association – Prompting Punctual Payments – Ethical, Effective, Efficient, Economical collections

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See all our latest news here!

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