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Dealing with a letter saying bailiffs will visit

This advice applies to England

If you haven’t paid a debt you might be sent a letter from bailiffs (also called  ‘enforcement agents’) saying they will visit your home to collect payment.

Don’t ignore the letter - this is called a ‘notice of enforcement’. If you do the bailiffs can visit your home after 7 days. As well as collecting payment for the debt they can charge you fees so you could end up owing more money.

There are things you can do to stop them coming if you act quickly.

Before you speak to bailiffs, check the extra rules they should follow if you: 

  • are disabled or seriously ill
  • have mental health problems
  • have children or are pregnant
  • are under 18 or over 65
  • don’t speak or read English well
  • are in a stressful situation like recent bereavement or unemployment

You might be able to get more time to deal with the notice of enforcement.

Coronavirus - if you're worried about bailiffs coming to your home

Bailiffs haven't been allowed to come to your home since 26 March 2020. They can start coming to your home again from 23 August 2020. They can still phone or email you.

You can complain about bailiffs if they visited you during this time or treated you badly. 

Bailiffs usually have 12 months to collect a debt, from the date they send their first letter to you - this letter is called a ‘notice of enforcement’.   They might  have longer to collect the debt if coronavirus stopped them from visiting. 

If you got a notice of enforcement dated 26 March 2019 or before

The bailiffs probably can’t collect the debt any more. They might still be able to collect the debt if:

  • you made a payment arrangement and missed payments
  • they asked the court for more time

If the bailiffs say they have more time to collect the debt, get advice from your nearest Citizens Advice.

If you got a notice of enforcement dated between 27 March 2019 and 24 September 2019

The bailiffs will have 12 more months to collect the debt. If their notice of enforcement has already been extended by the court, they’ll still get 12 more months.

For example, if you got a notice of enforcement on 18 August 2019 the bailiffs’ original deadline would have been 17 August 2020. The bailiffs will get 12 more months - the new deadline would be 17 August 2021. 

If you got a notice of enforcement dated after 23 September 2019

The bailiffs will have 12 months to collect the debt, from the date you got the notice of enforcement. This deadline might be extended if:

  • you made a payment arrangement and missed payments

  • they asked the court for more time

If the bailiffs say they have more time to collect the debt, get advice from your nearest Citizens Advice.

If bailiffs come to your home after 22 August 2020

The bailiffs should send you a letter before they visit, to check if you’re more vulnerable because of coronavirus. They should also follow government guidance on social distancing - check what the guidance says if you’re not sure. 

The bailiffs should also follow some extra rules if they’re collecting debt for:

  • your local council - for example council tax or a parking fine
  • court fines you owe
  • child maintenance

If the bailiffs are collecting one of these debts they should give you 30 days’ notice before they visit. They shouldn’t take property from your home - they should only talk to you, collect money or give you documents. 

If you think they haven’t followed these rules you can complain about bailiffs.

If bailiffs say they're evicting you 

If you get a letter saying bailiffs are going to evict you, find out how to deal with eviction by bailiffs on Shelter’s website.

Check the notice of enforcement is valid

You should first make sure your notice of enforcement includes the right information. If it doesn't, you can complain to stop the bailiffs coming until a new notice is sent.

For your notice to be valid it must:

  • show your correct name and address
  • show what debt you owe and state the correct amount
  • explain that you have 7 days' notice before the bailiffs can visit 
  • come from a registered bailiff not a debt collector - you can check on the Bailiffs Register on the Justice website
  • be sent to you by letter - either by post, fax, email, by being fixed to your front door if you don't have a letterbox or by being given to you
  • be written in a certain legal style - see example of a notice of enforcement on GOV.UK

Contact your nearest Citizens Advice if you’re not sure if your notice is valid - an adviser can check the notice for you.

Work out what day the bailiffs will visit on

After sending you the notice of enforcement the bailiffs have to wait 7 full days before they can visit you. This doesn't include the day you get the notice, the day of the visit or Sundays and bank holidays.

For example, if you get your notice on Monday the bailiffs can't visit you until the Wednesday of the next week

If your notice of enforcement is from a debt collector

Your notice of enforcement won’t be valid if it’s come from a debt collector.  They don’t have the same powers as bailiffs - they can’t come to your home to collect a debt. You can send them away if they do.

Even if you send the debt collector away, if you owe the debt you’II still need to make arrangements to deal with it. If you ignore it, the problem will only get worse. Find out how to deal with a debt.

If you think your notice of enforcement has come from a debt collector and you’re worried about dealing with them contact your nearest Citizens Advice.

Check if you owe the debt

You won't owe the debt if:

  • it belongs to someone else - for example if your name is similar to the person who owes the debt
  • you've already paid all the debt

If you're not sure if you're liable for the debt, find out how to check if you owe the money.

If you don't owe the debt

Bailiffs can't come to your home or take any action against you if you can prove you don't owe the debt.

Collect as much evidence as you can to show you're not responsible for the debt. Send this to the bailiffs with a letter explaining that you don't owe the money. You can find their address on the notice of enforcement.

Check what evidence you can send to prove you don't owe a debt.

Dealing with the debt if you owe it

You might be able to challenge your debt even if you owe it. This won't be the best option if you just want to quickly stop the bailiffs visiting you - it can take a long time.

If you can afford to pay your debt it's best to call the bailiffs straight away to pay. This will stop them visiting and you'II be able to avoid paying extra fees. You can find their number on the notice of enforcement.

Ask the bailiffs to send you a receipt when you pay - it's important to get this in case you later need to prove you've paid.

If you can't afford to pay your whole debt or anything at all you can try to negotiate with the bailiffs to pay a smaller amount or get the debt written off. Read more about negotiating your debt with bailiffs.

Preparing for a bailiff visit

If you haven't been able to pay your debt or set up a payment arrangement and the bailiffs are coming to your home, you don't have to let them in.

You can stop them getting in and from taking your belongings by:

  • telling everyone in your home not to let them in
  • not leaving any doors open (they can enter through any open door)
  • parking or locking your car in a garage away from your home
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