Are bailiffs allowed to be threatening, or shout and swear when they come knocking? I've just had a really intimidating experience with some large men in too-tight suits, and it's really shaken me up.
In practice, a bailiff should not be threatening in any way that they relate to you. However, it's one of the most common complaints about them. If you experience such behaviour, you're perfectly entitled to call the police.
There are several types of bailiff (pdf). Each kind has different powers to enter premises and seize goods, depending on the judgement that has prompted their arrival at your door.
County court judgments
Powers of entry are subject to case law. Only peaceable entry is allowed; bailiffs cannot force entry, unless the bailiff has already gained peaceful entry and validly levied distress and the client is deliberately trying to stop the bailiff from re-entering. Bailiffs can, with the court's permission, force entry to commercial property where there is no living accommodation attached.
High court judgments
The rules are the same as for county court judgments, except that enforcement officers don't need the court's permission to break into commercial property. The enforcement officer must make enquiry as to the presence of the goods first.
There are also a range of professional bodies that bailiffs belong to and these organisations have codes of conduct that the bailiff should adhere to. They represent the interests of their members, but also have complaints procedures which could be used by clients with complaints. Below, you'll find information about these bodies, kindly supplied by the Citizens Advice.
The Association of Civil Enforcement Agents (ACEA) members have undertaken to abide by decisions reached at any stage of its complaints procedure and to comply with any recommendation made.
A complaint should first of all be addressed to the member firm and dealt with by its internal complaints procedure. A complaint should be dealt with within 14 days and the reply accompanied by ACEA's leaflet which explains how it may become involved if the client is not satisfied with the response of the bailiff's firm. There are a number of matters which are outside the remit of ACEA. The areas outside of ACEA's remit are:
- Complaints about the amount of debt being collected. Problems with fees however, can be dealt with
- Allegations of violence, which should be addressed to the police
- Cases already subject to court proceedings
The High Court Enforcement Officers' Association (HCEOA) represents all the enforcement officers in England and Wales. It has an internal procedure, which is not published, for reporting complaints against its members. A client should in the first instance make a complaint to the firm in question and if s/he is not satisfied, s/he can write to the HCEOA, which could, as a final resort, expel the enforcement officer from that organisation.
The Enforcement Services Association (ESA) is a trade body which represents certificated bailiffs in England and Wales. It mainly deals with smaller firms, individuals and partnerships. It has an internal complaints/disciplinary procedure which could lead to an award of compensation and to the bailiff being expelled from the association.
Question answered by CAB