Council tax bailiffs
Council tax is usually collected by private firms of bailiffs on behalf of your local council. They try to take your goods away and sell them, usually at auction, to raise money to pay the debt. The process they have to follow is called ‘distraining’ or ‘levying’.
register of bailiffs
Check that the bailiff is certificated. There is an on-line register of certificated bailiffs. See the section on How to complain later in this fact sheet.
Bailiffs who call must be ‘certificated’. This means they must have a certificate from the county court allowing them to act as bailiffs. You can complain to the county court about a certificated bailiff.
You should get a letter from the council telling you how much you owe and warning you that a bailiff will call if you do not pay the debt within 14 days. It will also tell you who to contact at the council if you have a query. Contact the council and try to make an arrangement to pay what you can afford immediately. If the council agrees then they can stop bailiffs being called out and save you extra fees.
Do I have to let the bailiffs in?
- Don’t open the door to them as they may try to push past you. If they get inside, they may have the right to enter again and may break in to take your goods.
- Don’t leave windows open or doors unlocked – bailiffs can legally get through these.
- A bailiff cannot break in to take goods they have only seen through a window so if you do not let them in they will not be able to take anything from inside your home.
- Bailiffs may try to break into sheds, garages, greenhouses and so on even though this is illegal. Keep valuables safe. They may be able to take cars, motorbikes and other vehicles parked near your home.
- Politely but firmly refuse to let the bailiffs in. Offer what you can afford to pay. If the bailiffs accept your offer, ask them to return to their car and go out and pay them. Make sure you get a receipt.
- Some bailiffs clamp vehicles but they may not be allowed to do this. If this happens, contact us for advice.
- If the bailiff leaves papers for you to sign and return, you do not have to do this. You don’t have to sign agreements posted through your door either. Contact us for advice.
be careful about letting the bailiff in
Some bailiffs may leave you a phone number, and arrange to come round to 'have a chat'. Don't let them in, even if they say it's only to use the toilet or make a phone call.
letting bailiffs into your home
If the bailiffs have not been into your home before to collect this debt, they have no right to come in. They cannot break in. You can choose not to let them in. Bailiffs cannot get the police to help them break in.