Debt collectors, bailiffs/ messengers at arms are some of the most frightening people when it comes to debt. I remember when they were coming to my door and I’d taken advice from a charity about how to deal with bailiffs and debt collectors. Despite knowing the facts, I was still very afraid.
Like most people I felt ashamed and thought it was my fault so I deserved what I got. This plays into the mentality of the bailiff to bully people into a corner. If you knew the facts then it would make the process a lot easier
How to Deal With Debt Collectors / Bailiffs
A bailiff or debt collector make there money by retrieving money owed. They use a number of different techniques to do this, some can be pleasant and help with a budget and affordable payments, but most are fierce and difficult.
There are ways you can deal with debt collectors and bailiffs. Face to face is often the most difficult so telephone or post is often easier. Don’t think “I can’t afford anything”, realistically, everybody could afford £1 per week and that’s the lowest they will accept. If you are unemployed, with no assets like a house or car, then offering £1 per week is perfectly acceptable.
This is called a Token Payment Plan.
What Can A Bailiff Do?
A bailiff is allowed to:
- Get in touch to discuss the debt
- Try to come to an agreed payment plan
- If a bailiff is allowed into your house once, then they can come back and enter thereafter
- A bailiff will list your items which could be sold to pay for the debt
What Can’t a Bailiff Do?
A bailiff cannot:
- Place you in jail
- Sell assets which don’t belong to you
- Sell furniture to pay for the debt (fridge, freezer, sofa etc)
- Barge past you into your house
- Break down your door (unless it’s a council debt)
- Threaten or harm you
How Do I Deal With A Bailiff
There’s a step by step plan to deal with a bailiff / messenger at arms (in Scotland only). The best thing to do is communicate, either over the phone or through the door.
You should put the payment offer to them and hope they accept it. A bailiff can legally sell your possessions to recoup their money. If the bailiff is at your door then you can talk to them through the door. You can even open the door and legally they can’t simply enter without your permission, but it’s difficult to prove you didn’t invite them in.
If the bailiff agrees to the payment plan, ensure you stick to it! You only get one chance at a payment plan so if you default it’s really your own fault.
Can Bailiffs Charge What They Want?
No, there is an agreed pricing structure they must work to. If you think you are being over charged you MUST ask them for their pricing structure. If they won’t give you it then you can complain.
Bailiffs work for other companies so there is an agreed pricing structure.
Who Do I complain to About a Bailiff?
You should complain about a bailiff if they are overcharging, being abusive (verbally or physically), forcing their way into your house or lying or misleading you. I reported a bailiff for forcing his way into my property and when I pushed him back he said I had hurt him and phoned the police. Eventually the situation was resolved but I wish i’d never even opened the door.
You can complain to the company / organisation that hired the bailiff. Also, every bailiff will be part of a trade organisation, either civil enforcement or High Court. You can check each here:
You should complain to the trade organisation.
Example Token Payment Letter
You have to fill in the red sections with your specific information and then send the letter to the bailiff or debt collector. If you have lots of debts then you need to make pro-rata payment offers to each. So, you have £100 per month spare for debts. You pay the creditor owed the most money the same proportion. E.g. You owe the bank £2,000 of the £4,000 debt. The bank would be offered 50% of the £100 each month because they have 50% of the debt.
Offer Of Token Payment – Account Number: YOUR ACCOUNT NUMBER
Dear Sirs / Madam,
I received your letter regarding the outstanding debt of £XXXX and would like to negotiate a token payment plan.
My income monthly after tax is £XXX. My expenditure monthly, for things like food, electricity, gas, council tax etc is £XXX so I have £XXX left each monthly to pay towards debts.
I can afford to pay £XXX towards my debt every month. Would you accept this as a token payment plan and freeze any interest or charges on the debt to help me repay my debt as soon as possible?