Beware of a #bailifblag

Bailiffs will use many different techniques to gain entry to your property but it’s important you understand your rights should you be faced with them standing on your doorstep.

Debt AdviceBailiffs are often used to collect council tax arrears or to enforce a court judgement. They can also used to collect parking fines and penalties, tax debt, or child support arrears.

A bailiff will frequently adopt any peaceable tactic to gain entry to your home as once he has managed this he can return to take your goods and break in if you don’t let them in.

The debt advice charity the Money Advice Trust is running an initiative this week to encourage consumers to stand up for their rights against bailiffs. The #bailiffblags hash tag is being used on Twitter to highlight different techniques being used.

Some of the most common used include:

  • “Can I come in to use your toilet?”
  • “I’m from the local council, can I come in?”
  • “We have a warrant, so you have to let us in.”

As Joanna Elson OBE, Chief Executive of the Money Advice Trust, comments:

“The rules and regulations around bailiffs can be quite complicated and so it is not fair to expect your average person in the street to know all the specifics. However there are some rules of thumb that are very useful to be aware of, and one of those is to not let the bailiffs in your property.

“This means locking doors and windows, and not falling for some of these blags.

“The most important thing is to get some free advice immediately. Organisations like National Debtline and CCCS can talk you through your rights over the phone, even whilst the bailiff is waiting outside.”

With help from National Debtline here are some tips for dealing with bailiffs:

  1. If the bailiffs have not been into your home before to collect this debt, they have no right to come in and they cannot break in. You can choose not to let them in.
  2. By law the police should not force you to allow a bailiff in. Bailiffs will sometimes call the police and ask them to force you to let them in, as many police are unaware of the complex laws and regulations involved.
  3. Don’t sign anything this means don’t sign papers left by the bailiff or any that have been posted through your door.
  4. Except in rent arrears cases, bailiffs cannot take goods which are rented or hired, on hire purchase agreement or that belong entirely to someone else.
  5. Contact National Debtline for advice.

Just to be aware, bailiffs are allowed to force entry as a measure of last resort – this is for debts such as Income Tax, or VAT.  However, this power is only used in practice on extremely rare occasions for income tax or VAT debts.

MoneyHighStreet comments: “Debt is a significant problem for many households, a position not helped with the current wider economic difficulties.

“If you are struggling with debt problems, the sooner you take action to address them the better as left they are likely to only get worse.

“Work out a budget so that you know exactly what your income is and compare this with your outgoings.

“Above all don’t borrow money to pay off debts unless you know for certain that you can pay this new loan off in the agreed timeframe.

“If need be, seek professional debt advice to help you understand the best way forward and action to take.”

Useful links

Accountz – money management software you can use to help you budget your household and wider personal finance matters

Government website – to check of you are claiming all the benefits you can – online debt advice service

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