Bailiffs are no more than lay persons employed to collect debts. They have however additional powers given by a judge to remove and sell possessions to satisfy these debts. These powers are not as great as the bailiffs would have you suppose.
Bailiffs are of varying types, with varying powers. It is therefore important to determine which type of bailiff you are involved with.
County court bailiffs are employed by the county courts and are responsible for enforcing court orders by recovering money owed under a county court judgment. They can seize and sell your goods under a warrant of execution to recover the amount of the debt. They also supervise the possession of property and the return of goods under hire-purchase agreements, and serve court documents.
High Court Enforcement Officers (or Sheriff’s officers) are responsible for enforcing court orders by recovering money owed under a High Court judgement or a county court judgement transferred to the High Court. They can seize and sell your goods to cover the amount of the debt. They also supervise the possession of property and the return of goods.
Certificated bailiffs enforce a variety of debts on behalf of organisations such as local authorities, who must first obtain a liability order. They can seize and sell your goods to cover the amount of the debt you owe. They hold a certificate which enables them, and them alone, to levy distress for rent, road traffic debts, council tax and non-domestic rates. They cannot enforce the collection of money due under High Court or county court orders.
Non-certificated bailiffs are entitled to recover the money owed for a variety of debts by seizing and selling your goods but cannot levy distress for rent, road traffic debts, council tax or non-domestic rates, or enforce the collection of money due under High Court or county court orders.
Bailiffs are likely to initially contact you by telephone or letter. There is a protocol which they should follow and if you do not respond, they will eventually call at your home. If they do so, it would be unusual for them to immediately seize goods, and they will most probably agree to what is known as walking possession. This means that unless you agree and keep to an arrangement to pay, they have the right to return to your premises at any time to remove the goods and sell them at public auction. Once they have taken walking possession, you cannot legally dispose of the goods seized until the warrant is withdrawn.
The important question is what right of entry do bailiffs and High Court Enforcement Officers have. In essence nobody, including bailiffs have the right to enter residential premises against the wishes of the occupier. This includes for the purpose of collection of debt or any other purpose without a warrant. This restriction does not apply to commercial and business premises where a bailiff may force entry if this is refused. Once however a bailiff or HCEO has been allowed entry to residential premesis, then he is entitled to stay and to return if he leaves goods uncollected. This means that, if a bailiff is once allowed entry to your home, then he may return at any time, and on his return enter without your consent.
The law says that there is an implied invitation to enter property when the entrance gate is not locked or barred. This will usually extend to knocking at the door of a property. Bailiffs will rely upon not being told immediately to leave and not return. Often, they will encourage you to invite them into the house. It is a big mistake to allow them in as they may then and will return at any time, and will then have a right of entry without consent. If the house is not secure, they will enter of their own will.
The consequence of the law is not to invite a bailiff into your property, and to deny them any implied right of entry onto any part.
Try to sort out a liability without the involvement of bailiffs. If a bailiff does call at your property, it is important not to invite him into your home, and best to order him off your property and carry out any discussion on the street outside.