Bailiff powers when they visit your home

A bailiff (enforcement agent) may visit your home if you do not pay your debts - such as council tax bills, parking fines, court fines and county court or family court judgements. 

This will happen if you ignore letters saying that bailiffs will be used. 

You might be arrested if you do not pay criminal debts, such as fines or penalty notices. 

A bailiff may also visit your home for other reasons, for example to serve court documents or give notices and summons.  

There are different kinds of bailiffs, known as: 

  • certificated enforcement agents
  • high court enforcement officers
  • county court and family court bailiffs
  • civilian enforcement officers

Bailiffs must usually give you at least seven days notice of their first visit. 

Pay what you owe before a bailiff visits 

If you think a bailiff might visit you to collect debts, you can stop this by paying the money you owe. Get advice about how to pay your debt from whomever you owe money to as soon as possible. 

Find out what to do if you have a debt that you cannot pay (external link)

Dealing with bailiffs 

You usually do not have to open your door to a bailiff or let them in. 

Bailiffs cannot enter your home: 

  • by force, for example by pushing past you 
  • if only children under 16 or vulnerable people (with disabilities, for example) are present 
  • between 9:00pm and 6:00am 
  • through anything except the door 

Bailiffs are allowed to force their way into your home to collect unpaid criminal fines, income tax or stamp duty, but only as a last resort. 

If you do not let a bailiff in or agree to pay them: 

  • they could take things from outside your home, for example your car 
  • you could end up owing even more money 
If you do let a bailiff in but do not pay them they may take some of your belongings. They could sell the items to pay debts and cover their fees. 

Check the bailiff’s identity 

Before you let a bailiff in to take your things or pay them, ask to see: 

  • proof of their identity, such as a badge, ID card or enforcement agent certificate 
  • which company they are from 
  • a telephone contact number 
  • a detailed breakdown of the amount owed 

You can ask for proof of a bailiff’s identity and authorisation even if they have visited before - for example, ask them to put it through the letterbox or show it at the window. 

All bailiffs must have a certificate unless they are exempt or they are with someone who does have a certificate. Anyone who claims to be a bailiff and is not one is committing fraud. 

To check a bailiff’s identity, find out what kind of bailiff they are from their proof of identity and then: 

Paying a bailiff 

You can pay the bailiff on the doorstep - you do not have to let them into your home. 

Make sure you get a receipt to prove you have paid. 

If you cannot pay all the money right away, speak to the bailiff about how you could pay the money back. 

Offer to pay what you can afford in weekly or monthly payments. 

The bailiff does not have to accept your offer. 

What bailiffs can and cannot take 

If you let a bailiff into your home, they may take some of your belongings to sell. 

Bailiffs can take luxury items, for example a TV or games console. 

They cannot take: 
  • things you need, such as your clothes, cooker or fridge 
  • work tools and equipment which together are worth less than £1,350 
  • someone else’s belongings, such as your partner’s computer 

You will have to prove that someone else’s goods do not belong to you. 

What bailiffs can charge  

How much you pay depends on your situation. 

Help or advice 

You can get free help or advice on dealing with bailiffs from: