Debt Collection Agencies and Bailiffs

When we fall into debt sometimes our debt is passed on to a Debt Collection Agency, while further down the line Bailiffs may become involved. Here we take a look at the role of Debt Collection Agencies and Bailiffs dispelling the myths regarding what they can and cannot do.

What is a Debt Collection Agency?

A Debt Collection Agency is a company that specialises in collecting unpaid debts on behalf of creditors. Usually the accounts they deal with are long term or the creditor has attempted to collect arrears from a debtor unsuccessfully so have passed on the debt to an agency. In some cases an agency will “buy” the debt from a company meaning that the money is now owed to the Debt Collection Agency not the original creditor, while in other cases the creditor still owns the account but engages an agency who will keep a fee once they have collected the debt.

If you are unsure as to whom you currently owe the debt to check where letters have come from and where they are asking you to send payments. If they request payments be sent to the creditor then they have not sold on the debt but if payments are requested to be sent to the Debt Collection Agency then they have bought the debt and the money is owed to them.


Most Debt Collection Agencies will negotiate with debtors in order to try to collect the money. They may demand payment in full in their first letter but if debtors contact the agency to discuss their circumstances more often than not the agency will try to reach agreement with the debtor.

My Debt Has Been Sold on I’m Panicking!

Firstly please don’t panic! When you are first contacted by a Debt Collection Agency you may feel intimidated and worried as sometimes their introductory correspondence can sound threatening and official. They will probably list what MIGHT happen if you refuse to pay not what WILL happen. Remember Debt Collection Agencies

  • Are not Bailiffs and do not have the powers of bailiffs
  • They may threaten to send an agent to your home but it is unlikely as it costs the agency much more money. The agency uses this as a way to get the debtor to call them to discuss their debt
  • They can’t do anything that the original creditor could do in terms of collecting the debt so don’t feel threatened

The first step to take when you receive a letter from a Debt Collection Agency is to make contact usually by telephone to explain your circumstances. Normally the agency will take into consideration what you have to say in order to come to a mutually beneficial solution.

Negotiate with the agency and support your requests with an itemised budget plus a list of any other debts and commitments you have. Once you come to an agreement as to how much you should pay in instalments ensure that you keep up the payments regularly and don’t miss any. If you stick to your agreement the agency may freeze the interest and any charges on the account too.

What are the Roles and Powers of a Bailiff?

Once a debtor has been taken to court the bailiffs may become involved. The bailiff’s role is to recover possessions from a debtor’s home in order to settle the debt they owe. This procedure is ordered by the court therefore the bailiff is working on behalf of the court although some bailiffs are employed by private companies.

Bailiffs cannot enter your home forcibly if it is all locked up but if the door is open, or maybe a window where they can gain access, they’re entitled to do so. There are circumstances when bailiffs can gain entry using force such as to collect unpaid fines from criminals or if you owe money to the revenue or tax people.

Bailiffs are used only as a last resort so hopefully it will not come to this point. If you are visited by a bailiff they must produce written evidence of your debt and also show some form of identification. Just because you open your door to the bailiff he or she is not at liberty to push past you or use force. Bailiffs can however charge you for further visits making your debt grow even bigger, while they may also take outdoor items such as cars or outdoor furniture.

If you can pay the bailiff it’s well and good but remember to get a receipt for the money you hand over. Bailiffs can’t take possession of goods you need for everyday living such as fridges or cookers.

Debt Collector Vs Bailiffs: The Differences

There is a deal of difference between a bailiff and a debt collector. Bailiffs are

  • Court representatives and may charge the debtor whose home they have to visit
  • May take possessions away without the owner’s permission
  • They may enter through an open door of a property without the debtor’s permission
  • They may remove items from the garden or take a car if they cannot gain entry
  • Do not collect debts from Payday Loans and Credit Cards unless there is a County Court Judgement for same

Debt Collectors

  • Cannot take away any property of possessions of the debtor
  • Can only discuss the payment of the debt if they visit your home
  • Must let the debtor know in advance if they are to visit their home
  • May not call late at night or harass you

How Do I Know a Bailiff is Coming?

Bailiffs have procedures to follow when they intend to visit a debtor. They are

  • The creditor sends instruction to the bailiff in the shape of a writ or warrant
  • The bailiff must then give you seven days written notice before visiting your home
  • If the debt remains unpaid then the bailiff may visit and gain entry to your home or remove items
  • Usually bailiffs will delay action if you make payments towards the debt

Bailiff Fees

The amounts bailiffs can add to your debt are written in law with the first charge being set at £75.00 and added when the enforcement notice is sent to the debtor. When the bailiff visits for the first time a fee of £235.00 is charged. Subsequent visits do not incur further charges. If bailiff’s return to remove goods because you still haven’t paid, another fee may be added. High Court Writs involve higher fees.

If you are concerned about debt please contact CAB who offer one to one advice.