Bailiffs: Here Are The Rules They Must Follow (And You Need To Know About)

MPs are calling for regulations – and even body cameras.

Bailiffs should be regulated and made to wear body-worn cameras, MPs have said following an inquiry into the sector.

MPs on the Justice Committee, who examined complaints about bailiffs, recommended in a report published on Thursday that the industry be overseen by a regulator to ensure people in debt are treated fairly and pay proportionate enforcement fees.

The report also criticised the current complaints system as fragmented and hard to navigate, especially for vulnerable people. An independent complaints body should also be set up, it recommended, and bailiffs should be made to wear mandatory cameras to make it easier for complaints to be investigated.

The report was welcomed by the Money Advice Trust, which runs the National Debtline. It said 2.3 million debts were passed to bailiffs by local authorities in England and Wales in 2016/17 – an increase of 14% – and that 83% of callers to the helpline said bailiff action had a negative impact on their wellbeing.

Citizens Advice said: “Bailiffs regularly break the rules, as our evidence has proved. In the past year we’ve seen a 16% increase in bailiff-related issues. All eyes will now be on the Ministry of Justice, which must introduce these reforms as a matter of urgency.”

Here’s what you need to know if you are facing a bailiff visit.

Peter Dazeley via Getty Images

There’s help on hand to get your finances under control.

You can find practical advice and support about your finances from a variety of free-to-use services including: Citizen’s Advice, Stepchange, National Debtline and Debt Support Trust.

They can help you to prioritise which payments to make first and depending on your individual circumstances may help you to negotiate an affordable repayment plan with the lender(s). The earlier you seek advice, the better.

Bailiffs are often hired after other avenues have been exhausted, so there are usually ways to pay them before they visit, to avoid having your possessions taken away.

If bailiffs do visit you, they have to follow rules.

If you do find yourself face to face with a bailiff, there are rules they have to follow. They can’t just turn up unannounced, for example. Nor can they break or force their way in, or climb in through your window. They must use the door. They are also not allowed to enter if you’re alone with children under 16 or people with disabilities. If you don’t let them in they can take items from your driveway though.

Once a bailiff has been instructed, they must write to you with at least seven days notice to let you know they will be visited. While they have to tell you the date, they don’t have to tell you the time. “They can visit any time between 6am and 9pm,” debt adviser Graham O’Malley previously told HuffPost UK.

If you do let them in, ensure you check their identity first to be sure they are legitimate. Read more on the government website for ways to check here –but y ask them to show ID and a certificate proving they are authorised to visit you.


Bailiffs will also charge you fees to cover their costs on top of your debts – usually in the region of £300. But if your debt is higher this can rise to include a £75 charge for writing to you, £235 for visiting your home and £110 for taking your belongings. Sometimes they can issue repeat charges for visiting your home too, according to Citizens Advice.

What can bailiffs take?

Bailiffs are allowed by law to take “luxury items” such as TVs and games consoles, according to the government website.

But they can’t take things you need for your day-to-day living or tools of trade, says O’Malley. This includes clothes, your cooker or fridge or anyone else’s belongings in your home (though you’ll need to prove they don’t belong to you).