Bailiff at woman's front door

Bailiffs are Back

The lockdown ban on bailiffs entering our homes has ended. Here’s what we need to know if we get that knock on our door…

The ban on bailiffs entering our homes ended in England and Wales at the end of August. Within limits, they are free once more to take household items to cover any outstanding debts.

Those of us who were struggling before coronavirus will be hardest hit. But, we are not alone. Figures from Citizens Advice show that six million UK adults have fallen behind on bills during the pandemic, including 2.8 million in council tax arrears.

With the ban lifted, debtors will start receiving action notices from bailiffs related to unpaid council tax, fines and penalties. And debts sold onto collection agencies, like for long-standing credit card balances, can also trigger bailiff action. For millions of us, pre-lockdown anxieties will return with a vengeance. But, we have rights and shouldn’t feel threatened if bailiffs show up on our doorstep.

Bailiffs must send us a ‘notice of enforcement’ before they visit. Bailiffs usually then have 12 months to collect any debt. They might have longer to collect the debt if coronavirus stopped them from visiting.

Bailiffs need to know if we are more vulnerable because of coronavirus. If we have a disability or serious illness, including mental health problems, we need to call them and let them know.

We also need to tell them if any children, pregnant women or over-65s live with us. If we don’t speak or read English well or were recently bereaved or unemployed, let them know. Bailiffs should take these factors into account and treat us with greater care, giving us more time to respond to demands. They also need to maintain social distancing when they visit.

If bailiffs do turn up, we can decide whether we let them into our home or not. Citizens Advice recommends we keep our doors locked and speak to bailiffs through the door or over the phone. Take a look at our guide to dealing with bailiffs for more information on what the options are.

In Scotland bailiff action by sheriff officers can be pushed back by applying for a six-month ‘statutory moratorium’. More from Advice Scotland.
The rules are different in Northern Ireland, check out the Enforcement of Judgements Office (EJO) for details.

If you are worried about a visit from the bailiffs, contact StepChange for free on 0800 138 1111 or Citizens Advice.
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