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First bailiff visit - what to expect

This page explains what you can expect to happen when a bailiff gets into your home or business premises for the first time.

If you’re dealing with bailiff action that began before 6 April 2014, different rules may apply. You should get advice from your local Citizens Advice Bureau.

Entering your home

When the bailiff enters your home, you should ask to see their identification and authorisation, if you haven't already done so. The bailiff must behave towards you in a civil way, and must not threaten or harass you.

If the bailiff enters your property and finds there is only a child under 16 present, they must leave immediately.

Harassment by bailiffs

Taking control of goods

Once the bailiff is inside your home or business premises, they will walk around your home and start inspecting your belongings with a view to taking control of goods with a second-hand value that would be enough pay off your debt and the bailiff's fees. The bailiff must not take any goods that are exempt from being taken, and must discuss how you use any goods with you, to make sure they don't take control of exempt goods by mistake.

The bailiff must follow certain processes to take control of goods, including giving you notices explaining what is happening and how you can stop the bailiff action.

More about how a bailiff takes control of your belongings

Goods that are exempt from being taken

How a bailiff values your goods

If no goods are taken into control

If the bailiff can't find any goods to take control of, they will leave and explore other options for finding goods. This may include seeing if you have a vehicle parked on the public highway or applying to the court for authority to enter another property where they believe you have stored goods of value.

Where a bailiff can take goods from

What happens next

If the bailiff has taken goods away

If the bailiff has taken away your goods, you can expect to receive a notice of sale, which explains when and how your belongings will be sold. It will also tell you how you can stop the sale from going ahead by paying back your debt.

How a bailiff sells your goods

If the bailiff didn't take goods away

If the bailiff hasn't taken any goods away, they may secure them somewhere in your property and return at a later date to take them away. If the bailiff has left your belongings with you because you've made a controlled goods agreement, you should keep to the payment schedule you've agreed. If you don't, the bailiff can force their way back in to take your belongings.

The bailiff might also come back if they believe you've brought belongings of value into your home since their first visit. If this happens, you'll be given notice.

Follow-up visit by a bailiff - what to expect

If a bailiff doesn't follow the rules

If you think a bailiff hasn't behaved as they should while they're in your home or business premises, you can make a complaint.

Next steps

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