If you have failed to make the payments on an outstanding debt your creditor can apply for a court order to pursue payment from you. The courts will employ the services of a bailiff to visit you at your home or place of work to demand payment or to seize items belonging to you as a tool to encourage you to find the means to repay the debt amount or to sell them in order to pay towards the amount you owe and the cost of retrieving it.
Your debt could be from unpaid legal avenues such as council tax, parking penalties, child support, income and value added tax, national insurance, rent, or existing court fines.
A bailiff may also be utilised to collect debt from social avenues where your creditor can apply to the court for assistance. The court will issue a CCJ (County Court Judgement) against you and is entitled to organise a bailiff to pursue you in the collection of debt from the failure to pay for credit card bills, store cards, loans, or hire purchase agreements.
Notice of enforcement
It is standard practice for the bailiffs to send you a letter telling you that they intend to visit in order to collect the outstanding debt. This is usually when someone will seek help with bailiffs in the UK
You have seven days to take action and either organise an agreement with the bailiffs or find a way to stop the proceedings.
Pay the debt
The simplest solution is to find a way to pay the debt in full. If you have arrived at the point of a bailiff visit then it is likely you’ve already exhausted all options you may have had to do this.
There may be finance options you haven’t considered:
- Consolidating several problem debts into one manageable loan
- Applying for an Individual Voluntary Arrangement
- Seeking help from family and friends
- Approaching a debt specialist
- Contacting a debt charity
Talking to your creditor
If you’ve ignored a debt to the point that your creditor has had to take legal proceedings then it could be worth contacting them to discuss renegotiating.
If you explain why you haven’t been able to meet their payment schedule your creditor should welcome attempts to resolve the debt and be open to amending the terms to those you can manage. If it takes a little longer to recover the debt it is still preferable to not recovering the debt at all.
Talking to the bailiff
Contact the bailiff in advance of their visit and see if you can find a resolution that will not involve the seizure of your belongings. Part of their visit will be to discuss the ways you can work with them to settle the debt. If you can reach an agreement before that time then there will be no need for them to pursue you at your home or work.
Check that the Notice Of Enforcement is valid
If the Notice Of Enforcement sent contains incorrect information you can complain to the bailiffs and stop proceedings. They must issue a new notice with the correct information before continuing with their action.
A valid notice must show:
- Your correct name and address
- Your debt and the correct amount
- The 7 day notice before your visit
- Be presented in written format such as a letter, a fax, or an email
- Be written in legal terms
Check that you are responsible for the debt
It is not your responsibility to pay a debt that isn’t yours. The bailiff must be able to show proof that the debt belongs to you.
Many debts pursued belong to previous tenants or to someone with the same name. Providing proof that the debt belongs to someone else is a simple process but can still be a stressful situation to be a part of.
You are not responsible for a debt that is older than 6 years. The time starts from your first failed payment. The time can be reset if at any time you acknowledge the debt by agreeing that you are responsible.
You are not responsible for a debt left by the death of a spouse of partner unless you are named on the credit agreement.
You are not responsible for debt gained through fraudulent measures. If someone has forged your signature to apply for credit this is a matter for the police and you should tell your creditor straight away. They have systems in place for fraudulent applications.
In certain cases bailiffs have to give additional rights to vulnerable individuals. You can prevent a visit from the bailiff if you contact them alerting them to the fact that you are:
- Disabled or seriously ill
- Suffering from mental health issues
- Pregnant or have children at home
- Under 16 years old or over 65
- Not a native English speaker with a good level of spoken English
- Negotiating a stressful event such as bereavement or unemployment
Challenge the debt
You may have an opportunity to challenge the debt even if it is yours. In most cases this will not prevent the bailiffs from pursuing the debt indefinitely but it can slow down proceedings in order for you to look into ways of resolving the debt in a more preferable manner.
You can suggest that you didn’t borrow the money, or that the debt belongs to someone else. If you acted as a guarantor you are still responsible for the debt but you can challenge what rights you have in order to temporarily stop or slow down the action of your case.
You can challenge a debt if you feel you were pressured or bullied into signing an agreement that you didn’t want to. You should get help in this area from a specialist debt advisor or the Financial Ombudsman service. They will work out the best way to show you signed against your will.
You can also challenge the debt if you claim you didn’t understand what you were signing. Reasons for not understanding can be:
- Learning difficulties
- Mental health problems
- Being under the influence of drugs or alcohol
Any debt that isn’t authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority is an illegal operation and should be reported immediately. These ‘loan sharks’ have broken the law so your debt is invalid.
You should continue to make payments when you can afford to do so
By continuing to make payments you are showing that you are taking responsibility for the debt amount and want to resolve the situation. This may be enough to prevent the bailiff from pursuing you personally in order to demand payment and it could also stand you in good stead if matters proceed to further court action.