In debt? Know your rights
Filed under: Debt
Money Advice Trust, the charity behind National Debtline, wants consumers to stand up for their rights against bailiffs - many of whom use underhand tactics to gain entry to people's homes.
In the UK today, bailiffs are commonly used to collect council tax arrears or to enforce a court judgment. They are also used to collect parking fines and penalties, tax debts, and child support arrears.
What many people fail to realise about bailiffs, though, is that they cannot insist on taking your belongings - as long as you refuse them entry to your property.
Once a bailiff has gained entry by peaceable means, however, they can return to take your goods and break in if you don't let them in.
Joanna Elson of the Money Advice Trust said: "The rules and regulations around bailiffs can be quite complicated and so it is not fair to expect your average person in the street to know all the specifics. However there are some rules of thumb that are very useful to be aware of, and one of those is to not let the bailiffs in your property."
To keep them out, you are completely within your rights to lock all the doors and windows. It is also vital to keep your wits about you and avoid falling for the confidence tricks they use to gain entry.
These include asking to pop in to use the toilet, claiming to be from the local council and wrongly insisting that having a warrant means that you have to let them in.
Other tips for dealing with bailiffs include refusing to sign anything, recognising that bailiffs cannot generally take goods that are rented or hired and calling a debt advice charity for more information about your rights - even if the bailiffs are knocking at the door at the time.
Elson added: "The most important thing is to get some free advice immediately. Organisations such as National Debtline and CCCS can talk you through your rights over the phone, even while the bailiff is waiting outside."
The best approach, however, is to contact one of these organisations - which do not charge for the services they provide - and start solving your debt problems before the bailiffs arrive.
Solutions they can help you with include bankruptcy and debt management plans, under which you make affordable payments that are split between your creditors every month.