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Being in a position where you have to deal with debt collectors and bailiffs can be difficult. However, even if you owe money and are in debt, there are still rules about how you can be treated. It’s important to know your rights if you’re threatened with bailiffs because there are only very specific circumstances in which someone can enter your home and remove your belongings. Unfortunately, many companies and over-zealous councils have taken this too far and individuals who don’t know their rights have been unable to stop them as a result.
The two terms are often used interchangeably but in reality, they are very different:
This is someone who will come to your home to collect a debt on behalf of a debt collection agency. That agency may be working on behalf of a lender or someone else who you owe money to. Debt collectors are rarely used these days as they have no power to remove anything from your home. Debt collectors can:
Debt collectors cannot come into your home without your permission, come to your workplace, take anything, intimidate or threaten or pretend to be a bailiff.
It is the bailiffs (or enforcement agents) who have the legal powers to remove items from your home – but only if they have a court order. Bailiffs are used by the courts in various circumstances, such as where there has been non-payment of council tax, parking fines or County Court Judgments. Bailiffs can:
If you have been contacted by bailiffs it’s important that you don’t ignore the situation. Bailiffs charge fees for their visits and these can escalate quickly, especially if there are repeated visits when they can’t get in. You will need to take steps to deal with the debt in a way that you can manage. If you feel that you’ve been treated unfairly by bailiffs, or that they haven’t followed the rules then you can make a complaint. MPs recently criticised councils for the over-zealous use of bailiffs and there is increasingly a view that the debt collection industry needs to be better controlled and managed so things could change in the future. However, for now, the basic rules are as outlined above.
Alex Hartley is a keen advocate of improving personal finance skills. She's worked at Solution Loans since 2014 and written hundreds of articles about how people can manage their money better. Her interest in personal finance goes way back to...Read about Alex Hartley
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