Bailiff golden rules for business debt

​If a bailiff calls to collect business debt

  • You should get notice in advance if a bailiff is likely to call.
  • If you or your business owes tax, a court order is not needed before a bailiff can visit to try and take control of goods.
  • If you know that a visit to your home is likely, make sure that you do not leave any external doors open. Although bailiffs can no longer get into your home through an open window, it is still a good idea to keep your windows closed.
  • If you have a business premises, bailiffs can call to try to take control of goods you personally own. If you are a sole trader or a partner in a partnership, you will personally own part, or all, of any assets of your business.
  • If your limited company owes money, the bailiff is only allowed to take control of goods that belong to the limited company.
  • If you know a visit to your business premises is likely, make sure you do not leave any windows or external doors open. This can be difficult if you are open to the public.
  • When bailiffs visit, they should show you identification such as a badge or ID card, when you request it, so you know who they are.
  • In most cases, bailiffs should not force entry to your home if they have not been in before. The rules can be different for business premises. 

Important:

when can bailiffs force entry?

There are limited situations when a bailiff can force entry to your business premises or your home if they have not been in before.

  • Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs (HMRC) are collecting tax debts. The court’s permission is needed for this.
  • County court bailiffs or High Court Enforcement Officers can break into business premises.
  • The bailiff is collecting a criminal magistrates’ court fine.
  • In practice, it is rare for these types of bailiff to force entry. Also, remember that other types of bailiff collecting personal debts should not force entry if they have not been in before.

If the bailiff has been into your home or business premises, taken control of your goods properly and you have not kept to any agreement you made with them, they usually have the right to return and take your goods. There are goods that bailiffs should not take, such as essential household items or items that belong to someone else.

Keep calm and don’t be intimidated. Getting angry or fighting with a bailiff will make the situation worse.

How to make payments

It is really important to try and make an offer of payment that you can afford and to start making the payments as soon as possible. Use Your budget to work out an offer of payment that is affordable for you.

When you make an offer of payment to the bailiff, show them a copy of your budget. Explain your circumstances and why you are struggling to pay. If you find it difficult to negotiate with them, consider putting your offer in writing.

Always get a receipt if you make cash payments to a bailiff.

Sometimes, you can ask the creditor to let you pay them directly. This can work if the bailiff is collecting business rates you owe to your local authority.

Check to see if you have the right to ask a court to take back the debt and look at what you can afford to pay. This might be possible if your debt is in the County Court or the High Court, or if you have a magistrates’ court fine.

Complaining

Extra advice:

make a written complaint

If you are not happy with the way a bailiff has acted, you can make a written complaint. If you are not happy with their response, you can take your complaint further.

You might be able to complain to the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman if you owe business rates or parking penalty charges. Most private bailiffs belong to the Civil Enforcement Association, which operates a complaints procedure for their members.

Get a written breakdown of what the bailiffs say you owe. The law says that the bailiffs can only add set charges to your debt. You can complain if they have charged you too much.

If you are not sure whether bailiffs have the powers they say they have, get advice. All bailiffs should behave professionally. They must act within the law at all times and follow agreed national standards.

Most bailiffs need to have a certificate from the County Court to allow them to act. You can complain to the court and ask for the bailiff’s certificate to be withdrawn. Contact us for advice if you are considering making this type of complaint.

 
 
 
 
 

Important:

get help

If you need extra help to deal with bailiffs, contact us for advice.