Money Wellness
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category icondebts
calendar icon20 Jan 2023

The rules bailiffs have to follow if you’re vulnerable

There are rules about how bailiffs (also known as enforcement officers) have to treat you if your circumstances mean that you’ll find it especially hard to deal with them. This is referred to as being ‘vulnerable’.

In this blog we’ll explain what counts as vulnerable; how bailiffs are required to treat you; and what to do if and when bailiffs contact you.

This information applies to England and Wales. In Scotland, the equivalent of bailiffs are called sheriff officers, and they work slightly differently.

What counts as 'vulnerable'?

There are lots of vulnerable groups of people who might find dealing with bailiffs particularly difficult. For example:

  • people who are disabled or very ill
  • people with mental health problems
  • parents – particularly single parents – of small children
  • someone who is pregnant
  • people below the age of 18 or over the age of 65
  • people who have limited English
  • people who are unable to read

A vulnerability doesn’t have to be a long-term issue. You can also be vulnerable because of something that has happened to you recently, like being the victim of a crime, losing your job loss or suffering a bereavement.

The rules bailiffs have to follow

If you are a vulnerable person, bailiffs must:

  • never enter your home when you’re alone
  • give you more time before they visit, take any of your possessions, or add any fees onto your debt. This will give you the opportunity to seek debt advice
  • never take away anything that you need for health reasons, or try to scare you by telling you that they will
  • take any extra steps necessary to help you understand them when they communicate with you. For example, if you are partially sighted they may need to send you letters in large print

The rules if there are children at your home

Bailiffs aren’t allowed to:

  • come into your home if no one over the age of 16 is there. If the only people at home are under the age of 12, the bailiffs shouldn’t even ask them questions
  • take away anything in your home that is for your children, such as toys or a pram

What should I do if bailiffs contact me?

You’re not on your own – we can help. Please call us on 0161 518 8285 or email us at [email protected] as soon as you can. In the meantime, you need to let the bailiffs know if they should be treating you as a vulnerable person.

If the bailiffs write to you, they will usually include a phone number. It’s best to contact them by phone if possible so you can speak to them quickly. This will make it less likely they visit your home or add on any fees to your debt.

If you find it difficult to speak on the phone, ask a friend, family member or carer to make the call for you if possible.

If bailiffs visit your home, you do not have to let them in; if you do, they may be able to force entry on a future visit. If possible, you should still try to speak to them, but do this through a letterbox or a window. (They are allowed to enter your home through any doors or windows that have been left open, so be very careful.)

Keep a note of all the times you speak to bailiffs, the name of the person you speak to, and any action you agree on.

Here’s what you should say:

I am vulnerable because [briefly explain why].

Please do not visit [again], as this will cause me extra distress.

If it’s reasonable to be concerned that a visit or another letter from a bailiff could actually make your physical or mental health worse, tell them that.

If you’re not able to call the bailiffs, or if speaking to them by phone or in person doesn’t resolve the situation, you can write to them instead. You should include the information above in your letter. If you don’t feel confident writing the letter yourself, contact us and we can help.

Avatar of Rebecca Routledge

Rebecca Routledge

A qualified journalist for over 15 years with a background in financial services. Rebecca is Money Wellness’s consumer champion, helping you improve your financial wellbeing by providing information on everything from income maximisation to budgeting and saving tips.

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