Unless a crime has been committed or someone is in immediate danger, the police are unlikely to intervene in civil disputes. However, we’ll put you in touch with the groups and organisations who can help. Complete the sentence below to get the advice you need to resolve your dispute as quickly and amicably as possible.

Advice tool

I’m having a dispute with a bailiff about the law on them collecting civil debts

Bailiffs, also known as ‘enforcement agents’, work on behalf of the courts to collect debt. They have the power to take your possessions, sell them and give the money to your creditor if you've failed to maintain payments.

‘Debt collectors’ don't have the same powers as bailiffs, so always make sure they're legitimate by asking to see their proof of identity. This could be:

  • an ID card or badge
  • a contact phone number
  • details about the company they work for
  • a breakdown of the debts owed

If you're suspicious that a person is acting as a bailiff but won't produce ID when asked, they could be committing fraud. In this case, contact the company they say they work for.

There are rules that set out what a bailiff can and can't do. For example, a bailiff:

  • must give an enforcement notice at least seven days before visiting your home
  • can only enter your home via the usual means and not, for instance, the window
  • can't enter homes where only children (under 16 years) are present
  • can't normally call outside the hours of 6am and 9pm
  • can't enter homes by force unless they're dealing with unpaid fines from magistrates' courts or in possession of a court order
  • can't be used by landlords to seize property as rent arrears
  • can't take household items that are considered to satisfy basic domestic needs such as cookers, washing machines, clothing and bedding
  • must wait seven days before selling goods retrieved from a debtor
  • is responsible for proving to the court that a warrant must be issued in order to access premises that they believe has goods belonging to the debtor

In some circumstances a bailiff may have permission to use reasonable force as entry. This means they can forcibly open a door or cut a padlock. It does not mean that they can physically force their way past you or climb over walls or through windows to gain access.

Please note, you should not ignore the debts. They will not go away. It's better to try to negotiate with the creditors.

You may also find these resources useful:

Know your rights about bailiffs 

Tough new laws against aggressive bailiffs

Bailiff powers when they visit your home

Citizen’s advice on bailiffs

HM Courts & Tribunals Service

Applying to become bankrupt

National Debtline

This information is provided courtesy of Ask the Police.