Bailiffs actually have limited powers. In almost all cases you do not have to let them into your home and they cannot force their way in. Generally speaking they can only come into your property if you or another adult invites them in willingly.
A bailiff cannot force their way into your property or push past you or put their foot in the door to get in even if they have a Warrant issued by the court. If they try this it is physical harassment and you should call the police.
If you are not at home a bailiff can enter your property without your permission if they can do so without breaking in such as passing through an unlocked door or window. This is called gaining peaceable entry. To avoid the possibility of peaceable entry you must keep all your doors and windows locked shut if you believe that you might have a visit from a Bailiff.
If you are concerned that a bailiff might visit your home when you are not there it is important to alert the other adult members of your household so that they do not accidentally open the door and let a bailiff in. Children do not count as responsible people for the purpose of giving the bailiffs permission to enter your home.
BMD Tip: Never sign anything which a Bailiff asks you to sign without first getting additional advice. It has been known for Bailiffs to ask for a signature to confirm that you have said you will not allow them to come in. The document you have been asked to sign may be a Controlled Goods Agreement (Previously known as a Walking Possession Order). If you sign such a document and then do not pay your debt you are in affect giving the bailiff permission to come back and force entry into your home.
What can a bailiff do if they cannot get into my home?
If a Bailiff arrives at your property but cannot get in either because you are not there and the property is locked or because you will not let them in they may take the following action:
Claim Constructive Seizure
A bailiff may try to argue that they have in effect seized goods that they can see through a window. You should not take any notice of a claim like this. The High Court has ruled that in order to seize goods a bailiff must actually have been able to get into your premises by peaceable means. They cannot seize goods just because they can see them through the window.
Request that you complete a Statement of Means
Bailiffs can ask you to complete a Statement of Means form. They will generally put this form through your letterbox. You will be required to complete details of your income and expenditure and then return it to the Bailiff’s office. They will then use this information to try and agree a sensible repayment plan with you. You do not have to fill in the form but if you do not it could affect you later if the court thinks you’ve been unwilling to pay
Call again at a different time
Guidance for Certified Bailiffs states that if they have been unsuccessful on the first attempt they can make further visits to try to get full or part payment of the debt that you owe. However they should not normally make more than three visits to your home and they should not make any further visits if it is obvious that there is no prospect of payment.
The guidelines also allows a Bailiff to visit on different days and at different times to increase their chances of finding you in. They have a legal right to try and visit you at any time between the hours of 6am and 9pm Monday-Saturday to try to take your things.
BMD Tip: Bailiffs should not call at the following times unless the court has specifically ordered it:
on bank holidays
other religious festivals, as appropriate.
A bailiff must eventually give up
If a bailiff is unable to gain peaceable entry to your property they will usually try up to 3 times to visit you and get in. If they do not succeed after this number of attempts they are obliged to give up. They must then refer your debt back to whoever asked them to collect it. The lender or court may then decide to take alternative action against you for example ordering you to come to court to explain why you haven’t paid.
Can a bailiff break into my home?
Generally speaking a bailiff is not allowed to break into your home. However there are a few very specific situations when they can force entry.
You have signed a Controlled Goods Agreement
A bailiff is allowed to forcibly break into your property and take goods if you have previously let them in peaceably and signed a Controlled goods Agreement (formally known as a Walking Possession Order) but then have not keep up with the payment agreement.
Bailiffs working for the Magistrate’s Court
A bailiff is allowed to break in to your property if they are working for the magistrates’ court collecting unpaid criminal fines (including speeding fines). These types of bailiffs are known as Fines Officers and Civilian Enforcement Officers (CEO’s) and they can use reasonable force to get into your home to seize goods.
An Eviction Order has been issued
If you are behind with your rent or mortgage payments, your landlord or mortgage lender may get a court order to evict you. In this situation, the bailiffs are allowed to break into your home.
Breaking open internal doors
If a bailiff has gained peaceful entry through an outer entrance they are then allowed to break open the doors of other rooms or locked cupboards in your property. Any attempt to remove a bailiff from your property once they have gained peaceful entry is assault and you could be taken to court for this.