Being in unmanageable debt can cause real stress and worry, which, in turn, can have a profound effect on your mental health and relationships. So to add to this, the worries of debt collectors and bailiffs contacting you regularly can make a situation unbearable. It’s important that you know your rights and how to deal with debt collectors and bailiffs before the situation escalates.
The Difference between Debt Collectors and Bailiffs
Debt collection is the process of a creditor attempting to recover the money owed to them. Often, a creditor will enlist the help of a debt collection agency if they fail to recover the money themselves. You can find out more about the debt collection process here. It is unlikely that a debt collector will visit your home; all they can do is request payment or ask you to set up a payment arrangement. A debt collector cannot seize your belongings or force you to pay.
A bailiff does have more rights than a debt collector in terms of recovering what is owed. A bailiff will often visit your home and has the legal power to remove goods to sell to pay off your debt.
What Are Your Rights?
Creditors — Creditors have the right to contact you for payment and take court action against you if you do not pay. However, they do not have the right to contact you several times a day or at unreasonable hours. They must not threaten you with the sale of your home or possessions without a court order or use paperwork made to appear like official court documents. This is all deemed as harassment.
Collection Agencies — A collection agency cannot pursue you for payment any more than your creditors can. They cannot seize your possessions or enter your home without permission. If a collection agency is behaving in this way or tells you that court action is underway when it isn’t, you must report the person to their agency and contact citizens advice for further guidance.
Bailiffs — Often now known as Enforcement Officers, bailiffs still cannot enter your home without permission. If they threaten to enter your home without permission, you should make a complaint to their agency as well as the courts that hired them. If they cannot enter your home, they can legally seize possessions from outside your home, such as vehicles.
What to Do If You Are Being Harassed By Debt Collectors or Bailiffs
Debt harassment is very real. Just because you owe money does not mean that you should be subjected to unacceptable behaviours. Always make sure that you submit a formal complaint to the agency that the bailiff or debt collector works for, as well as your creditor. Your creditor may not be aware that the agency they have hired is behaving in this manner. If they refuse to act upon the information or the harassment continues, you can also report them to the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), who can take action against the firms that includes banning an individual from working within financial services or even suspending an entire firm for up to 12 months.
How to Avoid the Escalation from Debt Collection to Bailiffs
As soon as a debt collector contacts you, call your creditor immediately to arrange to pay back the money you owe. Many creditors would rather do this than end up having to go through costly court action and end up receiving less.
If your creditor doesn’t want to solve it directly, consider debt solutions as a next step. Be sure to get proper debt guidance and do your research as some debt solutions are legally binding contracts, which means that your creditors are not allowed to contact you while making payments into one.
Overall, just remember that debt isn’t the end. There are ways to get back on track and regain your financial freedom.
Laura Prescott, Chief Executive Officer at Debt Movement, is a qualified Insolvency Practitioner licensed to act in the UK with over 15 years of insolvency experience.
During her insolvency career, Laura has held a wide range of insolvency appointments, helping individuals in financial difficulty in addition to stakeholders of distressed businesses, with practical experience in managing large portfolios of personal insolvency appointments across the whole of the UK.
Over the last 15 years, Laura has gained extensive knowledge of operational processes in addition to developing strong relationships with regulators, creditors and their representatives.
Laura holds a BA Hons degree in Law, a Masters in Employment Law and is a member of the Insolvency Practitioners Association.