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i The advice on this page applies to residents in England and Wales only.

Bailiff help and advice

Dealing with bailiffs. How to stay in control

The threat of bailiffs is a worrying thought. Our top ten tips on how to deal with bailiffs can help put your mind at ease.

When a bailiff (officially known as an enforcement agent) visits you, they have to follow a set procedure. This helps determine the rights you have when a bailiff is at your property and can help you deal with the situation.

Ten tips to help deal with bailiffs

  1. The number 1 most important tip is this: don’t ignore the situation. If you’ve got to the stage of bailiffs getting involved, things will only get worse if you ignore it. It’s never too late to get in touch with your creditor and offer a payment you can manage. We can help you with debt advice.
  2. If you receive a visit from a bailiff try to keep calm and don’t act aggressively - getting angry or attacking the bailiff will make things a lot worse and could even result in you getting arrested.
  3. If you’re expecting a visit from the bailiffs, keep your doors locked at all times and make sure everyone in the house – including children – knows not to open the door to someone they don’t know. Fit a door chain if you can (these only cost a couple of pounds) in case someone accidentally opens the door to a bailiff.
  4. When a bailiff visits, don’t open the door to them. You can speak to them through the letterbox or from an upstairs window. You can ask them to return to their vehicle and speak to them there. If you do this make sure you lock your door behind you. There are some situations when it can be best to let the bailiff in, but you must think very carefully before doing this, and we strongly recommend you don’t open the door to them unless you’ve had expert debt advice.
  5. Always ask to see proof of ID and a copy of the warrant or writ. The bailiff can hold these up to a window or show you through the letterbox.
  6. Keep all paperwork you get from a bailiff, and always get a receipt for any payments you make.
  7. If a bailiff has made a list of your goods and asks you to sign a controlled goods agreement (This PDF is not suitable for screenreaders. If you need any help with reading its contents please contact us), you should do this. If you don’t sign it, they’re much more likely to take your goods straight away. If any goods listed aren’t yours ask for them to be removed, or write ‘not mine’ next to the item.
  8. If you sign a controlled goods agreement, make sure the payments you’re agreeing to make are realistic. If you miss payments because you can’t afford them, the bailiff may take your goods away.
  9. You can hide goods in your house or take them somewhere else before a bailiff visits, but if you hide or remove goods after the bailiff has visited and listed them, you’re committing a criminal offence.
  10. Cars are an easy target for bailiffs – they’re hard to hide and easy to sell. If they know you have a car, bailiffs will look hard for it, so park well away from your home, preferably in a locked garage. However if the bailiff has already found your car and listed it, it’s too late and hiding it could be a criminal offence.

Bailiffs coming? We can give you debt help

A letter or visit from a bailiff is sign that you need free and impartial debt help. We can give expert budgeting advice to help deal with the bailiff debt and manage your situation.

To build a budget and get a personal action plan to deal with your debts now, use our Debt Remedy advice tool. It’s free to use, confidential and only takes around 20 minutes to complete.

Or if you’d prefer to speak to us, call our Helpline free from landlines and all mobiles). We’re open from Monday to Friday 8am to 8pm, and Saturday from 8am to 4pm.

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“I wish to thank your staff for all the great help they gave me when I was in so much debt.
They were a pillar of support to me.” (Leslie, Essex)

Foundation for Credit Counselling Wade House, Merrion Centre, Leeds, LS2 8NG trading as StepChange Debt Charity and StepChange Debt Charity Scotland. A registered charity no.1016630 and SC046263. It is a limited company registered in England and Wales (company no:2757055). Authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.

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