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Can a bailiff force entry into your home?
If you're facing bailiff action, you may be concerned that the bailiffs might force their way into your home.
This page explains when a bailiff can force entry into your home and what you can do if they use force wrongly.
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.
Stopping bailiff action
The best way to stop bailiffs getting into your home is to take action quickly to deal with the money you owe.
When can a bailiff force their way into your property?
Generally, most bailiffs can't force their way into your home or business premises to take control of your goods. There are some exceptions to this, which are:
- when the bailiff is chasing up unpaid magistrates' court fines
- when the bailiff wants to enter your trade or business premises to chase up unpaid county court judgements (CCJs) ) or High court judgements
- if the bailiff has been given a court order allowing them to use reasonable force to enter your property to collect debts owed to HM Revenue and Customs
- when the bailiff has been given a court order allowing them use reasonable force to enter other premises where they believe you may have deliberately taken your belongings to stop them being seized.
In these situations, a bailiff is allowed to use reasonable force to get into the premises.
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What counts as reasonable force?
The bailiff isn't allowed to enter the premises through anything other than the normal means of entry, which usually means through a door, an attached garage or a loading bay. This means that reasonable force may include, but isn't limited to the following:
- forcing a door open by breaking the lock or hinges
- forcing a gate open
- cutting through a padlock and chain that has been put over a door, gate or loading bay
- breaking down a vehicle barrier.
Reasonable force doesn't include the following, because they are all ways in which the bailiff isn't allowed to enter your home or premises:
- pushing you or anyone else out of the way
- getting in through an open window
- breaking a window to get in
- taking up floorboards to access part of your property
- climbing over a fence or wall.
Can a bailiff use force on a return visit?
If the bailiff has already taken control of your belongings and has returned to take them away, or wants to take control of more items, they're not generally allowed to use force to get in, unless they were allowed to force their way in the first time.
However, if you've broken the terms of a controlled goods agreement and have had a notice telling you that the bailiff will be returning to take away belongings, the bailiff is allowed to use force to get in. The notice is called a notice of intention to re-enter premises, and must keep to a certain format to be valid.