Also called 'enforcement agents' if you owe a debt you could be getting a visit from the bailiffs. There's millions of people around the country who are in debt, you've only got to watch TV programmes such as Can't Pay We'll Take It Away and The Sheriffs are Coming to see how easy it is to get into wrack up a pile of unpaid bills.

Some people manage their debt very well however, those who end up ignoring and not paying debts such as a parking and court fines, or getting behind with the council tax bills, or having family court or county court judgements, could find themselves in hot water and the next knock on the door could be from the bailiffs.

Figures released by Money Advice Trust has revealed how bailiffs more than 2.3 million debts were passed onto bailiffs by local authorities in 2016/17.

According to Wales Online , the figures from the leading money charity showed that council tax arrears accounted for 60 per cent of cases sent to bailiffs, while parking referrals were up by 27 per cent and referrals for Housing Benefit overpayments up 20 per cent.

The Trust, which runs National Debtline, said more could be done for the vulnerable in debt. But what exactly does the law say about bailiffs and can they actually enter your home?

Don't let your debt land you in hot water

What is a bailiff?

Bailiffs are enforcement agents who are instructed by creditors (the people you may owe money to) to retrieve any debts.

Before you let a bailiff in, you should always ask for proof of their identity, such as a badge, ID card or enforcement agent certificate.

You can ask for proof of a bailiff's identity and authorisation even if they've 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're exempt or they're with someone who does have a certificate.

How much notice must bailiffs give before visiting your home?

Bailiffs must usually give you at least seven days notice of their first visit. 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 whoever you owe money to as soon as possible.

When and why would a bailiff be called?

According to the Government website , a bailiff may visit your home if you don't pay your debts - such as Council Tax bills, parking fines, court fines and county court or family court judgments. This will happen if you ignore letters saying that bailiffs will be used.

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'
Paid or unpaid? If you get behind paying your bills you could end up getting a call from the bailiffs

Do I have to open my door?

Usually you don't have to open your door to a bailiff or let them in.

Bailiffs can't 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 9pm and 6am
  • 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.

What if I don't let them in?

If you don't let a bailiff in or agree to pay them they could take things from outside your home, for example your car and you could end up owing even more money

If you do let a bailiff in but don't pay them they may take some of your belongings. They could sell the items to pay debts and cover their fees.

So what can and can't bailiffs 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 can't 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'll have to prove that someone else's goods don't belong to you. They can, however, take items which you jointly own.

Paying a bailiff

You can pay the bailiff on the doorstep - you don't have to let them into your home. Make sure you get a receipt to prove you've paid.

If you can’t 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 doesn't have to accept your offer.

Help or advice

However, it's not all doom and gloom - you can get free help or advice on dealing with bailiffs from:

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