Bailiffs and Vulnerable Persons – Dealing with Bailiffs

Covid-19 and Bailiff Action

Between 26 March 2020 and 23 August 2020 bailiffs weren’t allowed to come to your home.  If you’re vulnerable, bailiffs need to treat you with care.

Typically Bailiffs have 12 months to collect a debt, from the date they send their first letter to you – this letter is called a ‘notice of enforcement’.  They might have longer to collect the debt if coronavirus stopped them from visiting.

If bailiffs come to your home after 22 August 2020

Bailiffs should send you a letter before they visit, to check if you’re vulnerable because of coronavirus. They should also follow government guidance on social distancing.

Telling bailiffs about your situation

Make bailiffs aware as soon as possible if you’re in a situation that makes it hard for you to deal with them. They could class you as ‘vulnerable’.

If your vulnerable bailiffs have to treat you with greater care, including giving you more time to respond to letters or demands. They also shouldn’t enter your home if you’re the only person there.

You can be classed as vulnerable in lots of different situations, for example, if:

• you’re disabled
• you’re seriously ill
• you have mental health problems
• you have children or are pregnant – especially if you’re a single parent
• your age makes it hard for you to deal with bailiffs – usually, if you’re under 18 or over 65
• you don’t speak or read English well

You can also be classed as vulnerable if you’ve been through recent stressful or emotional circumstances. For example, becoming unemployed, being a victim of crime, or having someone close to you die.

If bailiffs visit your home, talk to them through a letterbox or an upstairs window.

When you talk to the bailiffs, you should:

• say you’re vulnerable
• explain why dealing with bailiffs is harder for you than someone in another situation
• ask the bailiffs to cancel any future visits because of the extra distress it will cause you
• make sure they know how a letter or visit could make your situation worse – for example, if you have a heart condition or a mental health problem.

Make creditors aware your vulnerable

As well as telling the bailiff you’re vulnerable, tell whoever you owe money to (your ‘creditor’). For example, if you owe council tax your creditor will be the council. Many councils and companies won’t use bailiffs if you explain that you’re vulnerable.

Try to make arrangements with your creditor to pay back the debt over a longer-term. Eg suggest installments. In some instances, the creditor may agree to stop bailiff action if they get a commitment from you to pay back the debt.

Make sure Bailiffs treat you right

Bailiffs should;

• Never enter your home
• Give you extra time to make a payment
• Make sure you can communicate with them>
• Give you time to get debt advice
• Never take or threaten to take anything that helps with your health

Proving you’re vulnerable if bailiffs don’t believe you

Bailiffs might ask for evidence that you’re vulnerable. If you can, it’s worth trying to prove your situation to them. Even if you’d rather not share these things, it can be worthwhile if it makes the bailiffs treat you better.

You could send them a copy of:

• a doctor’s note explaining any illness or disability
• a letter from the DWP or social services about any benefits you get
• a council tax bill showing the adults who live in your home

Send copies rather than original documents. It’s a good idea to ask for ‘proof of posting’ at the post office when you send your documents. Proof of posting is free and will let you show the bailiffs when you sent your evidence to them.

How to avoid Bailiffs?

Firstly, notice must be given to you in writing seven days prior to any visit. This allows you a few days to contact the company you’re in debt to or get advice about how to sort out your debt, which could prevent the visit from happening.

If a bailiff is at your door for the first time, you can refuse them entry and ask them to leave. Alternatively, you can attempt to arrange a payment plan with them directly, but it is advisable that you do this over the phone or through the letterbox.

Notice of enforcement

Received a notice of enforcement? call Refresh immediately on 0800 121 48 63 to discuss your options. We’re here to help and offer free, confidential advice. Our advisers are trained to offer you the best possible options for your situation.