Dealing with bailiffs
Ken Downe, Swansea
I had High Court bailiffs coming to my house over a County Court Judgment that I didnt even know that I had and I received threatening letters and phone calls as a result. I actually felt physically sick. I couldnt afford a solicitor and didnt know what to do, so I just started googling trying to find information and advice about bailiffs.
I phoned John Galt and from that day onwards my life changed. He assured me that bailiff action could be stopped if we implemented certain legal steps and processes and gave me confidence and even brought me out of my panic and fear by telling me bailiff jokes (they werent very funny) and generally making light of the whole thing whilst we worked together to prepare the necessary documents.
Before I spoke to John, I was so despondent that I didnt think that it was an option to beat the bailiff but we did; we took it all the way back to the High Court and won!
l can tell you now, dont sit back hoping it will go away because trust me, it wont. Ring John and let him take the stress away. Top class service well worth the money, I would recommend John Galt onto anyone with a bailiff problem. Solicitors can't hold a candle to him in terms of his speed, knowledge and affordable fees.
The Different Types of Bailiff and Types of Debt they Collect
The main purpose of the bailiff is the collection of debt. Their only means of enforcement is the legal power to seize and sell goods to pay off a debt. However, although goods are rarely removed, the threat of seizure is usually sufficient to make people pay. There are two main types of bailiff:
- County Court Bailiffs - They are employees of the County Court, and enforce County Court Judgments, e.g. for consumer credit debts such as unsecured bank loans.
- Private Bailiffs - They are private firms used by the Magistrates Court to collect fines, and by councils (once they have obtained a Liability Order from the Magistrates Court) to collect Council Tax.
Contact and Identification
The bailiff should carry an identity card and show it on request. County Court Judgments, council tax, and magistrates court fines can be collected anywhere in England and Wales.
Debts and fines can be collected at any time but the court may have regard to whether the timing was reasonable. Generally, 6am to 9pm is classed as reasonable.
The Bailiffs Rights of Entry
The bailiff cannot force entry into a domestic property. The bailiff can walk through an open door, an unlocked door, or go through an open window. Once in they will make a walking possession order (a list of all your goods/belongings).
Usually once they have the list of goods they will enter into an arrangement but this will be on their terms. If you do not keep to the arrangement, the bailiff can force entry and seize goods after default. Agreement can only be made after peaceful entry.
What is the Walking Possession Agreement?
This is an agreement signed by the debtor which allows the goods to remain with the debtor as long as they keep to a payment arrangement. However, if the debtor defaults on a payment arrangement the bailiff can return, force entry and seize the goods
Which Goods Can or Cannot be Seized?
Goods which can be seized - The bailiff can only seize goods which belong to the debtor. However, the bailiff can seize goods which are jointly owned even if the other joint owner is not the debtor. Goods which cannot be seized - Generally the bailiff cannot seize the following:
- Goods which belong to another person.
- Fixtures and fittings.
- Goods on hire - purchase.
- Goods which are rented.
If the bailiff is collecting a County Court Judgment debt, or Council Tax the following goods cannot be seized:
- Such clothing, bedding, furniture, household equipment or provisions as are necessary for satisfying the basic domestic needs of the debtor and his/her family."
- Such tools, books, vehicles, and other items of employment as are necessary to the debtor for use personally in their employment, business and vocation
- If the bailiff is collecting a fine from the Magistrates Court the following goods cannot be seized:
- the clothes and bedding of the debtor and his/her family.
- the tools and implements of the debtor's trade.
Costs and Fees
The costs and fees charged by the bailiff depends upon the type of debt.
County Court Judgment
No charges for signing a walking possession agreement. A fee for the issue of a warrant to seize goods. The creditor pays the fee and it is added to the debt. The amount depends upon whether the judgment is from a normal county court or a bulk centre county court. For further information on fees not shown in the table below check www.hmcourts-service.gov.uk
Amount of Debt County Court Bulk Centre
- £300 or less - £30
- £300-£500 - £50
The bailiff visits the premises but does not gain entry:
- 1st visit - £24.50
- 2nd visit - £18.00
The bailiff gains entry, lists and takes 'possession' of the goods (the goods are not necessarily removed).
Debt less than £100 - £24.50
Where the debt is over £100 it is calculated thus: 22.5% on the first £100 of the sum due, 4% on the next £400, 2.5% on the next £1,500, 1% on the next £8000 and 0.25% on any additional sum. Where the bailiff makes one attendance with a vehicle and intends to remove goods (only where the bailiff has previously gained entry, listed, taken 'possession' but not removed the goods): reasonable costs and fees. Where the bailiff removes and stores goods: reasonable costs and fees. Where the bailiff takes walking possession of the goods (the debtor has signed a walking possession agreement) - £12.00.
Magistrates Court Fines
There is no proper regulation of these bailiffs charges, except that they be reasonable and not disproportionate to the size of the debt. The charges are agreed between the magistrates court and the bailiff.
- 20% of first £100
- 4% of the next £400
- 2.5% of the next £1500
- 1% of the next £8000
- 0.25% of any additional sum
The type of payment arrangement also depends upon the type of debt.
County Court Judgments
The debtor can apply on form N245 to suspend the warrant to seize goods and to make an offer of payment that the debtor can afford. The form lists details of their income, expenditure, debts, and should include an offer of payment.
The bailiff will not take any further action once the debtor has applied on the form N245 and sent it to the court. There is a fee of £35.00. The debtor can apply for exemption from the fee if they are on Income Support, IBJSA, or Pension Credit. Others on a low income may get remission if their income is sufficiently low. Council Tax
The bailiff will normally want the debt cleared within 13 weeks. The bailiff may accept £5.00 per week off all outstanding accounts if there are special circumstances. Contact your local neighbourhood office for free further advice
Magistrates Court Fines
The bailiff will normally want the debt cleared within 28 days. There is no provision for longer repayment arrangements
You Could Ask for the Bailiff Not to be Used
It may be possible to get the bailiff withdrawn if there are special circumstances. The debtor should contact: the creditor if they have a County Court Judgment; or the City Council Revenues if they owe Council Tax; or the Magistrates Court if they owe a fine; and inform them of any special circumstances, ask for the bailiff not to be used, and if it is possible to make a new payment arrangement.
The following are examples of special circumstances
- serious illness
- learning difficulties
- long term sickness
- recent bereavement
- mental impairment
- physical disability
- severe financial difficulties
If the Council Tax Debtor is on Income Support (IS) / Income Based Jobseeker's Allowance (IBJSA), or Pension Credit the Bailiff may accept £5.00 per week off all outstanding amounts.
If the bailiff has not previously gained peaceful entry the debtor can refuse entry. The bailiff cannot force entry (but can force re-entry). The bailiff will normally return to try to make contact and gain entry. However, if the warrant to seize goods cannot be enforced, the next course of action will depend upon the type of debt.
If it is a County Court Judgment
The warrant will be returned to the County Court. The creditor must decide whether it is cost-effective to ask the bailiff to visit again.
If it is Council Tax
The warrant will be returned to the City Council Revenues who will usually decide to take one of the following courses of action:
- Committal proceedings - The debtor will be summonsed to the Magistrates Court for a means enquiry to decide how much the debtor can pay and/or whether or not they should be imprisoned.
- Attachment of Earnings Order - If Revenues have details of the debtors employment they may ask for a deduction from the wages of the debtor.
- Payment arrangement - If there are special circumstances a new payment arrangement may be agreed with Revenues or deduction from a debtors IBJSA, Income Support or Pension Credit.
If it is a Magistrates Court Fine
The warrant will be returned to the Magistrates Court and committal proceedings will be commenced. The debtor will be summonsed to the Magistrates Court for a means enquiry to decide how much the debtor can pay and/or whether or not they should be imprisoned.
If you have a Complaint and/or wish to take Legal Action against the Bailiff
The bailiff may have committed an offence such as:
- illegal entry.
- charged wrong costs and fees.
- seized goods which are exempt or belong to another person.
- failed to provide the correct documents obtained an invalid walking possession agreement.
- sold goods below their market value.
- seized goods which are worth far more than the debt.
Complaints - Complaints about the actions of a bailiff should be made to the firm of the bailiff and the legal body or authority who employ or use the bailiff.
County Court Bailiffs - Complaints should be made to the Chief Clerk of the County Court.
Private Bailiffs who collect Fines - Complaints should be made to the Clerk of the Justices of the Magistrates Court.
Private Bailiffs who collect Council Tax, etc - Complaints should be made to the Manager of the Finance (Revenues) Dept of the Council.
To get immediate help with your bailiff problem call John Galt on 07909 588 519 .