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1. What are the powers of bailiffs and debt collectors?

Bailiffs are employed by creditors to collect debts owed to them. They may seize your goods as a form of payment.
Creditors may use bailiffs to attempt to seize property, which can then be sold to repay debts owed. Generally they can only do this with permission from the court. The magistrates' court will grant permission for the use of bailiffs for debts such as council tax or fines, whereas the county or civil court will issue warrants in relation to unsecured consumer debts.

Different types of bailiff may be instructed, depending on the type of debt and who it is owed to. In most cases a bailiff would either be a certificated court officer or be employed by a private firm that has been asked to collect the debt.

Bailiffs cannot enter your property by force unless they have been let in on a previous visit to collect the same debt. You should, therefore, consider refusing to let the bailiff into your home. This will ensure that they cannot force entry if they visit again.

If you let a bailiff into your home, they will usually ask you to sign a walking possession agreement and leave goods on your premises as long as you make payments as they demand.

Bailiffs cannot seize your basic household goods, clothing, bedding and tools of the trade. They are not allowed to seize goods belonging to a person other than the debtor but can normally seize jointly owned goods. The proceeds of any sale of jointly owned goods would have to be divided between the owners.

Debt collectors are not bailiffs and do not have the same range of powers. They must not harass people who owe money, but they are allowed to pursue debts by letter, phone, and in extreme cases legal action. They are also allowed to petition for bankruptcy.

If you need help dealing with bailiffs, debt collectors, bankruptcy or any other aspect of debt, we recommend that you speak to one of our debt advisers on 08001 225 6653 for specialist advice. Telephone specialist advice is only available if you qualify for legal aid.