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i The advice on this page applies to residents in England and Wales only.

Enforcement agents and bailiff advice

Bailiffs & enforcement agents. Expert help and advice

Bailiffs in England & Wales are now known as ‘enforcement agents’, however the general public still call them bailiffs.

They have the legal power to remove and sell your goods to pay a debt. In most cases, they can only get involved after your creditor has taken you to court.

In this section we highlight what bailiffs can and can’t do and what bailiffs can take when they visit. We'll also talk about bailiffs' fees and your rights when dealing with bailiffs. On this page we highlight some of the important questions we get asked about bailiffs. 


Video: How to deal with bailiffs

What debts do bailiffs collect?

Bailiffs can’t collect Consumer Credit Act-regulated debts like payday loans, credit cards or overdrafts unless:


  1. The creditor has taken you to court and obtained a County Court judgment (CCJ), and
  2. You ignored the CCJ or didn’t pay the amount the court ordered

As well as unpaid CCJs, bailiffs collect several other types of debt, including:


  • Council tax arrears
  • Child maintenance arrears
  • Criminal fines
  • Parking penalties issued by a local authority
  • Tax and National Insurance arrears if you’re self-employed

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How do I complain about a bailiff?

If you think a bailiff has broken the rules when dealing with you, there are different ways to complain, depending on the type of debt they’re collecting. In the first instance, send your complaint to the bailiff’s employer and a copy to the creditor. Read our guide to bailiff complaints

Can the police get involved with 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 more about being contacted by creditors on an IVA.

Will they be like the bailiffs I’ve seen on TV?

Documentaries 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.

We can help with bailiffs

A letter or visit from a bailiff is sign that you need free and impartial debt help. We can give expert budgeting advice to help deal with the bailiff debt and manage your situation.

To build a budget and get a personal action plan to deal with your debts now, use our debt advice tool. It’s free to use, confidential and available 24 hours a day.

Or if you’d prefer to speak to us, call us (free from all landlines and mobiles). We’re open from Monday to Friday 8am to 8pm, and Saturday from 8am to 4pm.

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