House of Commons Library


Published Wednesday, September 19, 2018

This Commons Library briefing paper on bailiffs summarises recent changes to the regulation of bailiffs, and attempts to answer the most common questions about bailiff action.

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Bailiff law is fairly complex. This paper attempts to answer some of the most commonly asked questions about bailiff action.

Instructing bailiffs is just one method of civil debt enforcement available to a creditor (someone who is legally owed money). A bailiff, now known officially as an enforcement agent, can either be an officer of the court or employed by a private debt collection company. They are authorised to collect certain debts on behalf of a creditor. They may do this by asking for immediate payment of the debt, or by “levying distress”, which means seizing the debtor’s goods and selling those at auction to raise the money needed to repay the debt and cover the bailiff’s fees.

The information in this note is only applicable to bailiff action taken after 6 April 2014, when the rules governing the regulation of bailiffs were completely overhauled. Complaints about bailiff action taken before 6 April 2014 would be governed by previous rules (see below).

It is important to stress that if bailiffs have already notified a debtor of their intention to visit the debtor’s home, the debtor should seek proper legal advice as a matter of urgency. In addition to a solicitor, advice could be sought free of charge from the debtor’s local Citizen’s Advice Bureau (CAB). The Citizen’s Advice website contains a useful search tool to help people to find their nearest CAB. An outline of other sources of advice is provided in Section 3 (see below): Where to get advice on bailiffs. In addition, a separate Library briefing paper – Legal help: where to go and how to pay – may be of interest.


Commons Briefing papers SN04103

Authors: Lorraine Conway; Jack Dent; Alison Pratt

Topic: Civil law

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