What are your rights against bailiffs?

If you owe money to someone bailiffs can use various tactics to try to get it back. One option available to them is to instruct a bailiff to take things belonging to you to pay off the debt. The items they take are sold and the money is used to pay the bailiff’s fees and then clear the debt.

So what can you do?

Court order

If a bailiff turns up at your door, the first thing to do is check they have a court order to take goods.

In most cases they need to have one, the exceptions being if you owe council tax, income tax or VAT arrears or rent (although with the latter it depends on what type of tenancy you have as to whether a court order is needed. If your landlord is threatening you with bailiffs contact the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) to get advice on your specific situation).

Proof of ID

Next, ask to see proof of identity; a copy of their authorisation to take your things; and if they are a certificated bailiff (used in certain situations) ask to see their certificate.


The next thing to know is that bailiffs are not generally allowed to force their way in. They have to be let in by an adult. If they can gain ‘peaceful entry’ - in other words through an unlocked door or window, that is permissable - but other than that there are only a small number of occasions when they are allowed to force entry.

They can force their way in if they are: collecting unpaid fines; they’ve gained peaceful entry before; they are county court bailiffs entering a commercial property; or if they have court permission to collect for unpaid income tax or VAT.

If you live in a flat, get specialist advice as they may be allowed to break into your flat once they have got through the main entrance.

Property seizure

Once the bailiffs are in they can take only things that belong to the debtor, or jointly owned things.

They are not allowed to take certain protected items including: clothing; bedding; essential household equipment; furniture that you need for basic domestic living; or tools, books, vehicles and any other equipment you need for work. They also can’t take any items that belong to your children.

For more information on dealing with bailiffs contact your local CAB.

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