Dealing with creditors and debts can take a toll on your mental health, but there is support available, and you never have to suffer in silence.
But what about when dealing with bailiffs? Is their appropriate respite available for people who are facing enforcement action and have mental health problems? The law says yes!
We discuss everything you need to know about having to deal with bailiffs when you have mental health problems, right here!
Debt and mental health problems
Debt and mental health are strongly linked. The Royal College of Psychiatrists state that 50% of all people in debt suffer some form of mental health problem. And 25% of people with a mental health problem have debt.
This means that debt doesn’t just cause declining mental health, but mental health issues can cause debt too. Some creditors cause these issues because of illegal practices; you should report their behaviours to the FCA.
It’s a two-way street!
Enforcement agents processes
Before we discuss how mental health problems can give you a break from bailiffs, we first need to explain the typical process used by an enforcement agent.
If you have been taken to court about your debt, the court may have given your creditor legal permission to enforce the debt, including the use of enforcement agents, commonly known as bailiffs.
The bailiff will send a Notice of Enforcement in the post to your address, which asks you to either:
- Make a payment in full.
- Agree to a Controlled Goods Agreement, which is a payment plan secured against your valuables. If you fail to repay, the bailiff will come to repossess your goods and sell them to pay the debt off.
- Expect them to visit you and seize goods within seven clear days if neither of the above is agreed upon.
When enforcement agents are used, the debtor must pay a number of fixed bailiff fees.
The following fees apply for all bailiffs, including council tax enforcement agents, unless they are from the High Court:
- £75 for the initial letter
- £235 enforcement fee if they have to visit your house + 7.5% of debts above £1,500
- £110 sale fee to collect and sell your items + 7.5% of debts above £1,500
- Potential other costs to store possessions
The financial costs can be eye-watering, which is why it is recommended to agree on solutions with creditors before it gets to this stage – if possible.
How bailiffs must treat a vulnerable person
Bailiffs must follow other guidelines if they are recovering money from vulnerable people, and the rules change regarding fees and what they can do.
But first, who is classified as a vulnerable person?
You may be determined as a vulnerable person if you are either:
- A single parent or have young children at home
- Seriously ill
- Of elderly age (>64)
- Of young age (<18)
- Not fluent in English
- Recently injured
- Recently unemployed and now receiving DWP benefits
- Mourning the death of a loved one
- And if you have mental health problems!
If you suffer from mental health problems, you should inform the enforcement agent company immediately. Their contact details can be found on any letters you received or their web page. You may need to provide evidence, such as a doctor’s note.
If the enforcement agents do not accept your evidence of a mental health illness, you can complain or ask Citizens Advice agents to communicate with them. This has proved successful for vulnerable people in this situation.
When you are deemed a vulnerable person, the bailiff must treat you differently.
They cannot visit your home when alone, and they should give you additional time to search for solutions.
By law, the enforcement agent must also make sure you receive debt advice before taking any action. You can get this type of advice from a charity or Citizens Advice. And just as important, the bailiff cannot charge vulnerable people with some fees, saving the debtor money.
In some circumstances, the bailiff is not able to recover debts from vulnerable people, and it will be passed back to the creditor.
If they break any of the above legal practices, you can report them.
Can you get debt written off due to mental health?
There are no laws to say a company or creditors must write off your personal debt if you have a long-term mental health problem. However, in limited cases, the creditor may decide to write off smaller debts owed by vulnerable people. This will be at their discretion.
Nevertheless, you should still communicate your situation with the companies you owe.
By explaining your present circumstances, they may offer a more affordable and appropriate repayment agreement.
To do this, you can download our letter templates; fill in a few details of the template that’s right for you – and pop it in the post.
What happens if you don’t pay bailiffs?
If you do not pay bailiffs in full or as part of a Controlled Goods Agreement, they can start repossession action. They will give notice of when they plan on turning up at your door and seizing possession of valuables to be sold at auction to repay.
Can bailiffs force entry?
Bailiffs could force entry into your property in rare cases only. For example, if you do not keep to an arrangement to repay gradually via a Controlled Goods Agreement, and the goods secured against the agreement are inside your home, they can force entry.
They can also use reasonable force to enter to collect HMRC debt and magistrate fines. Forcing entry is not the same as breaking down your door. They may use a locksmith.
In any other situation, such as collecting council tax debt, they can only enter your house through open or unlocked doors.
What are bailiffs not allowed to do?
Bailiffs are not allowed to physically harm you or force entry in most situations. They also cannot enforce a debt in the standard process when the debtor is classed as vulnerable, such as having mental health problems.
They may have to provide more time or give the person an opportunity to search and use debt advice services.
Can you refuse to let bailiffs in?
You can refuse to let bailiffs in, but it is not always a good idea. There are limited situations when the bailiff can use reasonable force or use a locksmith to come in, which may add fees to your overall debt. And if they have to return another day, you can be charged the enforcement fee of at least £235 again.
This is why it is best to come to an agreement when they first contact you.
Debt and mental health support
Whether there is cause for concern regarding your mental health or not, there is plenty of local and national debt advice services and government agencies that can help.
These services will offer support as you deal with bailiffs and explain related rules and guidelines in simple terms.
They can even help you arrange documents to prove you are a vulnerable debtor.
Act and take control by giving them a call soon!