Negotiating with a Bailiff

If you have received a notice that a bailiff is going to come and visit your property you should not ignore this. The best course of action is to contact the company that the bailiff works for and negotiate a repayment plan with them. If you are willing to make a reasonable effort to repay what you owe they cannot ignore this.

However if a bailiff does arrive on your doorstep and you cannot afford to pay what you owe in full you are allowed to negotiate a reasonable repayment plan with them. You must be polite but firm. Make an offer of payment based on what you can afford even if this is only a couple of pounds per month.

While negotiating with a Bailiff you should never let them into your home. Any negotiations you carry out with them face to face (as opposed to on the telephone) must be done on the doorstep. If you let a bailiff in to your home this is known as gaining peaceable entry and it would then be very difficult to get them to leave unless you agree to sign a Controlled Goods Agreement (previously known as a Walking Possession Order).

A bailiff might tell you that unless they are allowed to come into your home they cannot agree a payment arrangement with you. This is nonsense. You do not have to allow a bailiff to come into your home and you must simply refuse them entry.

Paying a Bailiff in full

If a Bailiff knocks on your door and you are in a position to pay them some or all the money you owe then there is nothing to stop you doing this there and then.

Before you pay anything ask to see proof of their identity such as a copy of their bailiff certificate. Also ask for one of the following:

–       a copy of the court order saying you owe the money
–       a copy of their ‘authorisation’ (permission) to take your things

If they cannot produce any of this documentation then you should not pay them any money.

BMD Tip: Always ensure you get a formal receipt for any money you pay. This will be the only proof of your payment later.

Agree a payment plan with a Bailiff

If you are unable to pay the amount that you owe to the bailiff when they call then there is absolutely no reason why they should not agree a sensible repayment plan with you.

You should first politely tell them you are not going to let them in. You should also make clear that you are willing to make instalment payments at a rate that you can afford. There is no specific time limit in which you must pay the debt. It is simply a matter of negotiation between you and the bailiff.

If the bailiff is unwilling to agree a reasonable repayment plan do not allow yourself to be bullied. Ask them to leave and that you will simply have to pay the money back directly to the organisation you owe it to.

If bailiffs are collecting unpaid council tax it is often difficult to negotiate instalment payments with the bailiff. However, you should try to negotiate instalment payments with the local authority and encourage them to withdraw the warrant from the bailiff.

BMD Tip: Local authorities collecting council tax often have codes of practice instructing the bailiffs to accept very small repayments if you’re on Income Support or Jobseeker’s Allowance.

What is a Controlled Goods Agreement (Walking Possession order)

If a bailiff has already gained peaceable entry to your property they may then agree to give you time to pay your debt. However in return they will ask you to sign a Controlled Goods Agreement (previously known as a Walking Possession Order). This agreement lists the goods which the bailiff will take if you don’t pay within the time set out in the agreement or if you miss an instalment. There will normally be a daily charge for the order that you must pay on top of the original debt you owe.

A Controlled Goods Agreement means that the goods listed in the agreement now legally belong to the bailiff and can be removed at any time in the future hence the reason why they are allowed to break into your property to reclaim them.

In order for a Controlled Goods Agreement to be valid a bailiff must have gained peaceful entry to the property and identified the goods. It is not enough for a bailiff to list items that they have seen through a window and push a walking possession order through the letterbox for you to sign and return.

BMD Tip: It is important that you do not agree to pay instalments that you cannot afford. If you and you then miss a payment Bailiff will call again and then has the authority to take your belongings to sell at auction.

How to overturn a Bailiff’s Warrant

If a warrant has been issued by the Court allowing a creditor to instruct a Bailiff you can apply to the Court for this to be suspended or varied. You will need to complete an N245 form which enables you to explain your current financial situation to the Court and offer to pay your debt in instalments based on what you can afford.

You need to send your completed form to the Court which issued the Warrant together with a fee of £40. The creditor will be notified and they then have 14 days to object, setting out their reasons. If the creditor does not object, a court officer will make an order suspending the warrant on the terms requested.

What happens if the creditor objects?
If the creditors objects to your offered terms of payment the Court will review the details and make a decision about what they feel is a reasonable rate of payment and order the warrant to be suspended on those terms.

If the creditor objects the court will fix a date of hearing before the district judge. It is important to attend the hearing and justify why payment by instalments should be granted. The creditor will also be invited to attend. After listening to evidence from both parties, the district judge will make an order.

Making a complaint about a Bailiff

If you feel that a Bailiff is acting unreasonably or harassing you then you can complain. Most bailiffs work for private companies even if they are collecting money for the council or the government. Therefore if you want to complain about the bailiff’s actions you will need to write a formal letter of complaint to the company that they work for.

If you do not get a response from the company then you should also write a letter of complaint to the organisation you owe the money to. Remember always keep a copy of any complaint letters that you write

The last course of action is to complain to the bailiff’s trade association which is called the Civil Enforcement Association. You should follow the complaint’s procedure on their website.

BMD Tip: If a bailiff or debt collector threats you physically then you should contact the police.