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Know your rights about bailiffs

Having the bailiffs at your door is a stressful experience, especially if you don’t know your rights. The rules around bailiff powers are complex and it’s vital people know what bailiffs can and cannot do, so they aren’t treated unfairly or unlawfully.

We wanted people to know their rights so bailiffs couldn’t get away with misrepresenting their powers.

To help increase awareness we promoted the top things to remember when dealing with bailiffs:

Don’t panic. You may still have time to deal with your debts before the bailiff comes to your house, as long as you act quickly.

Don’t ignore the situation. Citizens Advice Bureaux help thousands of people deal with bailiff issues every year, if you are struggling to pay or are worried, contact your local bureau or get advice from www.adviceguide.org.uk.

You can tell the bailiff and the creditor if you are taking advice, and ask for breathing space to get advice. It is worth letting them know, even though they don't have to agree to give you more time.

It is important that you know what the bailiffs you are dealing with are allowed to do. An adviser can explain this to you.

If they haven’t been inside your home before, most bailiffs, including those enforcing council tax, can only get in if you let them.

Some bailiffs (such as those collecting unpaid fines issued by magistrates' courts or the Crown Court or for income tax, VAT or national insurance) may be allowed to force their way into your home, although they will hardly ever do this.

If a bailiff is able to enter your home through an open door or window, this is viewed as you letting them in, so make sure you keep doors and windows shut and locked at all times.

The bailiffs might charge you fees for coming to your property and your debt could just get bigger if you ignore them. If you let the bailiff in or they gain access to your goods, they can charge fees for this and more fees if they remove items.

An adviser can help you to check what the bailiff is allowed to take and the bailiff's fees. The fee system is different depending on the type of debt and bailiffs don't always explain what the fees are or charge the correct amount.

You can find more information about bailiffs and advice on what to do if faced with bailiff action on our website Adviceguide

Alternatively contact your local Citizens Advice Bureau, which can help you negotiate with creditors and bailiffs and make a complaint if necessary.