Bailiffs, Sheriff or Marshal an officer of the law

Bailiff is an officer of the law who works on behalf of the courts. Bailiff can also be used to repossess your home or to enforce certain arrest warrants


A bailiff is an officer of the law and may be constable, sheriff or marshal who works on behalf of the courts. Bailiff can also be used to repossess your home or to enforce certain arrest warrants.


The bailiff needs to have a warrant before they can act. The issue of a warrant will specify how much you owe. How a warrant is issued and whether it can be stopped is dependent on the type of your debt.


If the bailiff is enforcing a debt which has gone to either the county court or High Court, you can apply to the court to have the bailiff's action suspended. You will need to fill in an N245. This form can be obtained directly from local county court or downloaded from the court service web site. You will need to complete the form and make an offer of payment. Instructions on how to complete the form are contained on the form itself. You should then send the form (along with the relevant fee) to the local county court. In the High Court you will need to apply for a Stay of Execution.


If the bailiff is collecting other types of debt you should contact the creditor and ask that they withdraw the bailiff and try to come to an arrangement to pay.

Gain Entry

Bailiffs cannot use force to gain initial entry into your home. They can only use peaceful method. However, Bailiff can walk through an unlocked door or climb in through a window as long as they cause no damage. Forcing their way past someone at the door is not acceptable. Once the bailiff has gained peaceful entry, they can force open internal doors, cupboards and will be able to return to the property in the future and if peaceful entry is denied they have the power to break in. The bailiffs acting for the inspector of taxes can apply for a warrant to force entry on a first visit.

Seize Goods

Bailiffs can seize goods for payment of arrears on all kinds of debt such as council tax arrears, child support arrears, debts in either the county court or High Court, national insurance, VAT, unpaid rates, parking fines, speeding tickets, tax etc. There are several types of bailiff and it is important to find out what debt the bailiff is collecting as the rules and the law are slightly different in each case.

Once the bailiff gains peaceful entry they can seize any goods which belong to the debtor and will make a list of all the goods they have seized. The goods can immediately be removed and in particularly a vehicle. The bailiff may leave the goods on the premises and ask you to sign a Walking Possession Agreement. A walking possession agreement means that the bailiff is now in control of the listed goods but is leaving them on the premises for you to look after and continue using. If you sign the walking possession the bailiff can usually charge an additional fee. You will have a short period of time to come to an agreement to pay the arrears (usually 5 days) before the bailiff can return with the intention of removing the goods to sell at public auction. The bailiff can also take goods which are jointly owned by the debtor and another person and when the goods are sold they pay the other person their share of the money.

Not allowed

The bailiff is not allowed to take goods that do not belong to the debtor or are subject to hire purchase or conditional sale agreements. There are also some general exceptions: tools, goods, vehicles and other items of equipment which are necessary for personal use if self-employment, for business or profession and also clothing, bedding, furniture, household equipment and provisions as are necessary for satisfying the basic domestic needs.


If the bailiff does something wrong or act beyond their powers there are various avenues for making a complaint.

1. Complain to the bailiff's firm.

2. Complain to the creditor if the bailiff is acting as the creditor.

3. The creditor should have a formal complaints procedure and codes of practice.

4. Take the matter to the bailiffs' professional or trade organisation. Your local free advice centre should be able to assist you to make a formal complaint. They can award compensation and have the power to discipline the bailiff including exclusion from membership.

5. Taking county court action against the bailiff. The bailiff may settle without actually attending the court. is not authorised to give advice under the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000. The general information and material provided and published on this website is for interest, understanding and for common knowledge purpose only. The details provided should not be taken as any kind of advice and cannot and should not be used to solve any kind of financial problems. You must take proper advice from authorised firm or financial advisor. We do not recommend or endorse any kind investment, advisor, product or services. We do not offer or imply any kind of advice, financial or legal. It is your responsibility to take appropriate action suitable to your needs.