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Stopping bailiffs if you don't owe the debt

This advice applies to Wales

If you've got a letter from a bailiff saying they're going to collect payment for a debt you don't think you owe, there are things you can do to stop them coming.

The letter is called a ‘notice of enforcement’ and it might say it's from an 'enforcement agent' - this is another name for a bailiff.

Don’t ignore the letter - even if you’ve paid the debt. If you do the bailiffs can visit your home in 7 days.

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 if you're in one of these situations. 

If the notice of enforcement wasn’t sent correctly, you can also get more time.

If bailiffs are already at your door, check whether you can stop them getting in.

Check whether you owe the debt  

Your notice of enforcement must say how much the debt is and who it’s owed to.

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 bailiffs try to put pressure on you to pay the debt, for example by repeatedly telephoning you, this could be harassment. Check what you can do if you’re being harassed.

If you’re not sure whether you owe the debt

Call the person the bailiffs say you owe the debt to - this person is called the ‘creditor’. Ask them why they think you owe the debt.

You can find the creditor’s name on the notice of enforcement - use this to search online for their telephone number.

If you can’t find a number or it’s difficult for you to call the creditor, get help from your nearest Citizens Advice.

If bailiffs are trying to collect a debt that's more than 6 years old get advice before speaking to the creditor. You might be able to challenge the debt if it's more than 6 years old.

It's always best to get advice about any debt bailiffs are collecting. Even if you owe the debt it's worth finding out if you might be able to challenge it.

Find out more about how you can avoid bailiffs even if you owe the debt.

If you don’t owe the debt

You should act quickly to prove the debt isn’t yours - this can stop the bailiffs visiting.

If it’s someone else’s debt

Call the bailiffs - you can find their number on the notice of enforcement. It’s best to call them, as this is the quickest way to get in touch.

Tell them you’re not the person named on the notice of enforcement. Explain you’II send evidence to prove this. You should still do this even if the debt belongs to someone you live with - for example your partner or a housemate.

Ask them to put your case on hold while you’re sending in your evidence and they look into your case - they must do this if you ask.

If you’re worried about calling the bailiffs get help from your nearest Citizens Advice.

Evidence you should send

Send a letter to the bailiffs, you can find their address on the notice of enforcement. Say you don’t owe the debt and include evidence that shows you’re not the person named on the notice of enforcement. You could send any of these things:

  • a benefit letter from the last 3 months
  • your council tax bill from the last 3 months
  • your bank or building society statement from the last 3 months 

 It’s best to send copies of your documents not the originals.

You should also send a copy of your letter to the creditor. Doing this could help you get your problem sorted more quickly, this is because the creditor is the person that has asked the bailiffs to collect the debt.

You can find the creditor’s name on the notice of enforcement - use this to search online for their address.

Send your letter and evidence by recorded delivery if you can. Keep a copy of your letter and any reply you get in case you need it later.

If you’ve already paid the debt  

If you’ve paid the debt the best thing you can do is call the creditor to tell  them to stop the bailiff from coming to your home.

You can find the creditor’s name on the notice of enforcement use this to search online for their telephone number.

It’s also worth contacting your bank - to check the payment to your creditor was made.

You should also call the bailiffs to tell them you’ve spoken to the creditor and what was agreed. It’s still worth doing this - even if you’ve called the creditor already - because they might not call the bailiffs immediately.

If the creditor doesn't agree you've paid the debt

You should collect as much evidence as you can to show you've paid the debt if the creditor doesn't agree.

Send a letter to the creditor saying you've paid and include your evidence. You should also send a copy to the bailiffs.

Ask them to put your case on hold while you’re sending in your evidence and they look into your case - they must do this if you ask.

Your evidence could include any of these things:

  • a receipt for the payment
  • a copy of the debt statement showing final payment
  • a letter from the creditor saying the debt is paid
  • a direct debit payment statement

It's best to send copies of your documents not the originals.

You should send your letter by recorded delivery if you can. Keep a copy of your letter and any reply you get in case you need it later.

If the bailiff still says you owe the debt

If the bailiffs continue to contact you after you've proved you don't owe the debt you can complain.

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