Unless a crime has been committed or someone is in immediate danger, the police are unlikely to intervene in civil disputes. However, we’ll put you in touch with the groups and organisations who can help. Complete the sentence below to get the advice you need to resolve your dispute as quickly and amicably as possible.

Advice tool

I’m having a dispute with a bailiff about the law around them collecting civil debts.

Bailiffs, also known as ‘enforcement agents’, work on behalf of the courts to collect debt. They have the power to take your possessions, sell them and give the money to your creditor if you have failed to maintain payments.

‘Debt collectors’ do not have the same powers as bailiffs, so always make sure they are legitimate by asking to see their proof of identity. This could be an ID card or badge, a contact telephone number, the company they work for, or a detailed breakdown of the debts owed.

If you are suspicious that a person is acting as a bailiff but will not produce ID when asked, they could be committing fraud. In this case, contact the company they say they work for.

There are rules that set out what a bailiff can and cannot do. For example, a bailiff:

  • must give an enforcement notice at least seven days prior to visiting your home
  • can only enter your home via the usual means and not, for instance, the window
  • cannot enter homes where only children (under 16 years) are present
  • cannot normally call outside the hours of 6:00am and 9:00pm
  • cannot enter homes by force unless they are dealing with unpaid fines from magistrates' courts or in possession of a court order
  • cannot be used by landlords to seize property as rent arrears
  • cannot take household items that are considered to satisfy basic domestic needs such as cookers, washing machines, clothing and bedding
  • must wait seven days before selling goods retrieved from a debtor
  • is responsible for proving to the court that a warrant must be issued in order to access premises that they believe has goods belonging to the debtor

In some circumstances a bailiff may have permission to use reasonable force as entry. This means they can forcibly open a door or cut a padlock. It does not mean that they can physically force their way past you or climb over walls or through windows to gain access.

Please note, you should not ignore the debts. They will not go away. It is better to try and negotiate with the creditors.

The following resources may also be of use:

Know your rights about bailiffs 

Tough new laws against aggressive bailiffs

Bailiff powers when they visit your home

Citizen’s advice on bailiffs

HM Courts tribunals service

Applying to become bankrupt

National Debtline

This information is provided courtesy of Ask The Police.