During this cost of living crisis, it's no surprise that debt across the country is building up. While there is some government support out there, for the average working person, there are a few paths to avoid debt. However, for the majority with no financial support, debt can accumulate fast and can lead to multiple threats from debt collectors, also known as bailiffs.
It is important to note that bailiffs are typically only called in for extreme, ongoing cases. There has been a lot of acceptance of late bills this year, so do not panic if you're only a month behind. However, if you ignore your bills and do not communicate with the company you owe them to, you can expect to be in bigger trouble, sooner rather than later. It’s important to communicate your financial situation even if you can't make your payments; that way you’re seen in the best light possible, should matters go further.
What are bailiffs?
A bailiff is typically called when bills become high over an extended period of time. For example, if you’re not paying a parking ticket for six months or more, and it’s accumulated into a lot of debt that you clearly cannot and will not be paying off any time soon, it becomes a financial liability and bailiffs might get involved.
Typically a bailiff will be an external body that the company you owe will hire in order to carry out their debt collection. You can view a bailiff as a manager, overseer, or custodian of your debt - their job is to collect the company’s money in whatever way possible. Bailiffs will turn up at your door with a collection notice and demand payment be made in whatever way possible - including seizing your car. It’s important to know that you do have rights and shouldn’t be bullied in this process.
Bailiffs should contact you at least seven days before their first visit to let you know they're coming. They can't force their way into your home. They can't enter your property if there are persons younger than 16 present. They can't turn up between the hours of 9pm and 6am, and can't come through anything except the door. So there won’t be any surprise window visits. If you refuse to let a bailiff in, you could end up owing more money and they can also seize items such as your car - if you own it outright.
Before you allow a bailiff into your home check:
- Proof of identity such as a badge
- Which company they are from
- A telephone contact number
- A detailed breakdown of any amounts owed
Can a bailiff take a car on finance?
Of course, if a bailiff turns up on your doorstep, the first thing to do would be to pay them. However, if you can't, then paying them with goods in your possession is the answer. They can't take things such as a cooker or work tools or other people's possessions. If you don’t wish to give them your TV, you will have to prove it belongs to someone else. If you have items on finance, they can sometimes take these as they are a form of debt you haven’t paid. This means they could take your car in some circumstances.
A car on finance doesn't belong to the person who drives it, it belongs to the car manufacturer. This means that typically a bailiff can't collect it. However, in some circumstances, they can and will sell it back to the car manufacturer to collect your debt against it. If you own your car outright, it's typically the first thing they will repossess as it sits outside the home and is easily accessible. The only time a car can't be taken is if it's needed to get to work and is worth less than £1,350, has a blue badge, or is a mobility vehicle, or is in fact your home, such as a campervan.
If you are served a 7-day notice
If you've been notified that a debt collector/bailiff will be coming to your home in the next seven days, then there are things you can do to prepare for the occasion.
Find evidence and proof of what's in your name in and around the home. Having evidence to hand to demonstrate that the car isn’t in your name can save a lot of hassle. But they have to be legally in someone else's name - you have to prove they purchased it rather than you just sold it to them 10 minutes ago for £1.
Another thing you should do is figure out how you’re going to pay off your debt. Focus on what you can afford to pay back each month and present this to the bailiffs with a downpayment. It may be satisfactory enough to get them off your back straight away, so none of your possessions are taken.
Take a look at the latest car finance options available to you if you have bad credit.
ChooseMyCar Staff Writer
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