3 Ways to Protect Yourself (and Your Belongings!) from Bailiffs
*Ding dong…* -The sound of the doorbell is usually good news. Maybe your parcel has arrived, your takeaway is being delivered or your neighbours are round for tea.
However, if you owe council tax arrears, something as simple as the doorbell ringing can be very stressful!
Bailiffs act as debt enforcement agents for local councils. They are well-known for using scare tactics and intimidation to seize debtors wages and possessions.
But what is not well-known is what ordinary people can do to protect themselves from bailiffs.
Bailiffs deliberately use ambiguous language when contacting you – in letters or on your doorstep. This is to intimidate you into thinking they are more powerful than they are and that you have to do as they command – or else…
However, in most cases, this just isn’t true.
The Government has made sure that what bailiffs are legally allowed to do is heavily legislated, and there are plenty of protections in place to protect people in debt from bailiffs using underhand tactics.
If you know your rights and make sure you act entirely within the law, you can prevent bailiffs from seizing your belongings and wages – or stall them so you have time to seek expert independent advice.
Here are 3 things you can do to protect yourself and your belongings from bailiffs.
1. You do not have to tell them where you work
When you owe debts like council tax arrears, the first thing your creditor will do is pass if you cannot pay is pass your debts to a bailiff company. The bailiff will go to court to take out a ‘liability order’’ against you. This gives the bailiffs the right to take payments for your debts directly out of your wage packet!
Bailiffs will not hesitate to arrest your wages or possessions, which could put you in further trouble financially. However, they can only do this if they know who pays your wages. Our straight-forward advice – don’t tell them where you work.
You are not obliged to give the bailiffs any information, so don’t help them take your money away.
It is possible that bailiffs may find out how you where you are working through other means – they might even ask your neighbours! If you are on good terms with your neighbours, ask them not to give away any gossip.
This will hold off bailiffs for a while, but will only be temporary. Make sure you seek expert advice as soon as you find out you have a liability order taken out against you.
2. Take control of your finances
Debts are like your mum’s phone calls – you can’t get away with ignoring them forever! It is always best to grab the bull by the horns and deal with debt before it spirals out of control.
When a liability order has been taken against you will be contacted by post informing you the details of your outstanding debt. As soon as this happens, contact the an independent debt advisor and see if you can organise an affordable payment plan. This could allow you to pay your debt in regular instalments on your own terms, rather than the money being seized directly from your wages.
You will need to provide a comprehensive budget that details all your income and outgoing expenditure. If you need help calculating this, please seek expert advice so you can make sure your payments are as affordable as possible.
3. Don’t help them do their job
While you should always be polite and respectful, you should always remember that a bailiffs purpose is to collect the debt from you any way they can.
You are not obliged to help a bailiff in any way unless they have a specific court order that allows them to go above and beyond their usual restrictions.
So, make sure you:
- Don’t give out any personal details, such as your bank details, where you work or your phone number. They will use this information to find new avenues to extract your debt from you.
- Don’t leave anything in your front garden. While bailiffs usually need an exceptional attachment order to seize your possessions, there are some cases where they can take bicycles, motorcycles and even cars from outside the front of your property without a court order. Keep these possessions in a secure location if you are worried about them being taken.
- Don’t let them in your house. Unless the bailiffs have a specific court order, you do not have to let them into your house. Once you let them in, they do not need permission to re-enter, so just don’t let them in. If a bailiff tries to force their way into your home without the proper authority, make sure you complain to the Society of Messengers-at-Arms and bailiff about this misconduct.
- Don’t open the door. It is usually advised that you talk to bailiff through the letterbox, an open window or the open door with the chain on. It is well within your rights to do this and will help you feel more protected against potential intimidation.
The above information will certainly help you protect yourself from the bailiff for as long as possible.
However, it won’t get them off your back forever.
If you want to stop bailiffs, make sure you get in touch with a debt advisory service as soon as possible to help you stay on top of your debts.