Working with enforcement officers, also known as bailiffs, is among the most straightforward ways to reclaim your money when a debtor fails to repay it on time.
While some of these professionals work for the council, others are employed by private organisations, such as Able Investigations. Either way, they officially become your agents as soon as you hire them to collect your debt.
Be sure to know the rights and powers of bailiffs before seeking out their services. For instance, can an enforcement agent legally force entry into a debtor’s house or business premises?
The law prohibits enforcement officers from breaking into a property unless they have a warrant that allows them to. In most cases, this happens when the debtor disregards paying a criminal fine or instalment previously agreed with the agents and refuses to let them in despite prior notice and visit.
This blog covers everything you should know when hiring bailiffs, including enforcement agent rules and how these High Court officers operate when reclaiming your debt.
Enforcement Agent Powers When Collecting Debts
Check out the steps enforcement officers can legally take when you hire them to recover your money.
Send a Notice of Enforcement
This is usually the first thing an enforcement officer will do once you hire their services. A notice of enforcement is a letter that informs the debtor they’ll be visiting to reclaim your money. And it must be sent a week before they stop by their house.
If the debtor agrees to repay the debt in instalments or repays it in full before the seven days elapse, there’s no need for the enforcement agent to visit them. However, if they refuse to pay back what they owe you, the bailiff will visit them on your behalf.
Peacefully Enter the Debtor’s Property
After sending the notice of enforcement, a bailiff can visit the debtor’s home or place of work if they’re self-employed.
Upon arrival, they must identify themselves, provide evidence (an enforcement agent certificate, a badge, or an ID card) to prove they’re telling the truth, and only enter if the debtor permits them.
If your enforcement agent lacks proof of their identity, the debtor will likely send them away. Then, they can’t force their way into their house, especially if a child below 16 is inside.
Note that enforcement agents aren’t allowed to threaten the debtor physically. They also shouldn’t enter their home if vulnerable and alone.
A debtor is deemed vulnerable if they:
- Are mentally or physically disabled
- Are expecting or have kids
- Are critically ill
- Are underage (below 18) or above 65 since they might be unable to understand or deal with enforcements agents
- Aren’t fluent in English and can’t read or understand it
When Enforcement Agents Can Force Entry
An enforcement agent can force their way into the debtor’s home when collecting a criminal fine, such as tax debts. But this is often a last option if they lack other peaceable methods to collect the debt.
Still, enforcement officers must have a writ or a warrant to enter a debtor’s property forcefully. At the same time, they’re required to get a locksmith to unlock the door instead of breaking it down.
When forcefully entering a property, it’s illegal for the enforcement officers to climb through the debtor’s window. They should also not give false identity to gain entry into their home or push past them.
When Should Enforcement Agents Visit Debtors?
Enforcement officers can visit debtors from 6 am to 9 pm unless they have a valid warrant allowing them to stop by their properties outside those times.
While some bailiffs work on weekdays, others visit debtors on weekends because they know their chances of finding them are higher.
Most enforcement agents will not visit the debtor on Sundays or religious and cultural holidays like Christmas.
Identify and Take Valuables They Can Auction
Enforcement agents also have the right to list valuable items they think could be sold to repay your debt. These exclude basic household essentials such as:
- The debtor’s mobile phone and landline
- Heating appliances
- Medical tools and equipment
- Beds and beddings belonging to the debtor or other house occupants
- Washing machines, refrigerators, cookers and microwaves
At the same time, enforcement officers cannot list items belonging to someone else or owned jointly, pets and assistant dogs, and goods the debtor hasn’t fully paid for.
In addition, before auctioning the debtors’ properties to pay you back, they must give them an opportunity to sign a controlled goods agreement, which allows them to commit to a specific repayment plan.
As a creditor, you might find collecting debts puzzling and draining, especially when you don’t know the legal processes involved. However, a certified enforcement officer can make the procedure effortless by helping you reclaim your money.
It’s best to familiarise yourself with enforcement agents’ rights and responsibilities to know what’s expected of them and make your working relationship more fruitful.
The enforcement agents at Able Investigations are experienced, professional, and fully aware of their legal responsibilities. Learn more about our enforcement service here.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I hire a private enforcement agent?
Many private debt collection agencies provide competent bailiffs for hire, and others are self-employed. Visit one of them to secure a professional to help you recover a debt owed to you.
What should I do if my enforcement agent cannot reclaim my debt?
If a bailiff fails to collect your debt, get a Third-Party Debt Order to freeze any money the debtor owns but is held by another party, such as a bank, individual or organisation. This prevents them from accessing the cash until the court decides whether they should repay the debt or not.
A Third-Party Debt Order works in most cases become it features the element of surprise. The debtor only knows about it after its issuance, so they don’t have enough time to transfer or withdraw their funds.
How many times should an enforcement agent visit a debtor?
An enforcement officer is allowed to visit a debtor’s property three times. If the debtor is away whenever they stop by despite receiving their notice, they could take legal action against them.
Can enforcement agents take debtors’ smartphones?
Enforcement officers aren’t allowed to take basic household necessities such as mobile phones to auction to reclaim a debt.