Get Help with Debts

Can a Bailiff Force Entry to Your Home?

We all have vague notions in our heads about bailiffs, but when it comes down to it how much do we actually know about their powers and the limits on those powers? If a bailiff came to your door or mine, what can we do? Do we let them in or not? What are our rights?

What are your rights with a Bailiff?

When dealing with a Bailiff you might have so many questions that you need answered, such as:

  • Can I lawfully refuse entry to my premises or property?
  • If I willingly let a Bailiff into my home, what can I do?
  • Can I argue that a Bailiff took unfair advantage of my knowledge of the law and that their subsequent actions were or might have been unlawful?
  • Do I have any recourse if a Bailiff has already seized my goods?

County court bailiff

Bailiffs and Debt

The type of Bailiff we will look at in this article is a County Court Bailiff. This type of Bailiff works on behalf of the county court, in circumstances where a county court judgment (CCJ) has been made against you (within the jurisdiction to England and Wales).

If a bailiff arrives at your door, the first thing to do is to confirm whether the bailiff is a bailiff or not! Remember that a debt collector is not the same thing as bailiff and should not pretend to be a bailiff.

If someone comes to your door claiming to be a bailiff do not allow them to enter your home. Even if they ask to make a phone call or ask for a drink of water do not let them in.

A genuine bailiff cannot force his way into your home and can generally only enter with your permission.  We will look at some exceptions to this rule at a later date. Be careful however. If your doors or windows are unlocked, then a bailiff is allowed to walk in or climb through whether he rang your doorbell or not.

If anybody lives with you, you need to tell them not to allow a bailiff to enter your home if you are out. 

What to do when a Bailiff knocks on your door

Let us look at the situation when you answer the door and someone claiming to be a bailiff asks to come in. The first thing you should do is to keep the chain on, if you have a chain. Secondly, ask the person for identification and ask to see the actual warrant.

If you are satisfied that the person is a bonafide bailiff you can refuse entry to your premises or you can invite them to come in. If you refuse entry the first time they may visit again and seek peaceful entry, or they may take other steps to gain entry, which we will not look at for the moment. There are some circumstances where the bailiff may lawfully force entry to your premises. These are if:

  • they have been peacefully allowed into your home on a previous occasion;
  • they are collecting unpaid fines as a last resort, whether or not they have gained peaceful entry before;
  • they have court permission and are collecting unpaid income tax or VAT and have previously failed to gain peaceful entry;
  • with court permission, they are entering a commercial property with no living accommodation attached.

In our next article we will look at what happens after a bailiff gains peaceful entry to your home, whether or not it was at your express invitation.

Article written by
Paddy Byrne 30 / 10 / 2012