One of the scariest aspects of debt is the bailiffs and this is the real manifestation of the debt nightmare. You’ve failed to pay off your debts, and now you have someone at your door threatening to take away the things you love the most. Avoiding this at all costs is of course crucial, and it’s very important that you know your rights with regards to having your items taken to pay off your debts.
Debts that can be referred to bailiffs include those that are subject to a county court judgment, tax debts such as poll tax, council tax and self employed tax, and this will be preceded by a distress warrant. The bailiff will then have the legal rights to enter your home and take your belongings.
However the bailiffs will not have the rights to take all of your belongings and its important to know about these. For instance the bailiffs may not take anything that does not belong to you – so that means rented DVDs or the book your friend lent to you. While it’s risky, if you have a friend who is happy to help then now might be the time to ‘give’ them that watch you inherited from your Granddad… you can always persuade them to give it back at a later date.
Another thing to bear in mind is that bailiffs cannot take anything that is considered a fundamental part of daily life. This includes things like clothes, cooking utensils and the like. So if they start routing through your wardrobe then you are within your rights to tell them to stop. Likewise a bailiff may only take items that are named on the distress warrant – which means you need to make a copy of the warrant and you need to keep it to hand when they come around.
Something else that bailiffs cannot usually do is to break and enter your home – they need to have your permission and they need to be in. In some rare cases a magistrate will give them permission to break and enter, but this will be accompanied by a police officer. If you are visited by a bailiff and opt not to play ball – then don’t let them in but rather speak through a window.
Bailiffs and debt collectors in general may also not use threatening language and if they do then you may be able to take them to court – something that will greatly help you with your debt. It may help you from a legal standpoint to record encounters you have with bailiffs.
What you need to recognize though is that in many cases bailiffs are a tool to be used yourself to help pay off debt. The bailiffs will be legally required to sell off your items for the maximum possible price and to use all this money to help pay off your debt – and it’s certainly a preferable option to having your home repossessed. If you work with the bailiffs then they can sometimes help you too – for instance they will usually take the items you request and suggest (this isn’t a punishment it is a step used to pay off the debt) and they might agree to a walking possession agreement – which will help you to keep the items in your home while you attempt to renegotiate with your creditor. Of course if you’d rather not hand your items over though then you can always do the same thing yourself by selling off your property or even trading them at a pawn brokers with an eye to getting them back – this way you will be able to prevent the situation ever getting to the point where bailiffs need to be involved.