Can debt collectors issue a warrant? This is a simple question with a relatively simple answer. But be sure to read our full guide on the subject to understand your rights and what can and cannot happen to you when you owe debt.

Can Debt Collectors Issue a Warrant?

We promised you a quick answer and here it is. For the most part, debt collectors cannot issue a search warrant to come inside property. However, this is not the end of the discussion or the key information you need to know. We recommend reading on to really understand the exemption to this rule – and your rights when dealing with debt collection agencies.

Understanding the Process of Debt Collection

To properly answer the question “can debt collectors issue a warrant” to enter and search your home, we need to explain the standard process of debt collection if the debtor fails to pay:

  1. The creditor or the debt collection agency that they employed to collect the debt will go to court to get a CCJ for the debt.
  2. The CCJ is granted or refused.
  3. With a CCJ, the creditor or debt collection company can then employ law enforcement officers, otherwise known as bailiffs, to collect the debt at the debtor’s home

The important difference is between a debt collection company and a bailiffs. They are not necessarily the same thing. A debt collection agencies are just administrators trying to get you to pay with no legal powers to enforce a CCJ. On the other hand, bailiffs and law enforcement agents can enforce a CCJ.


So, Can Bailiffs Issue a Warrant?

Bailiffs never come to a property with the primary goal of enforcing entry. These professionals are trained to diffuse situations and make a peaceful arrival. Bailiffs do not get warrants to search homes, but they are employed to enforce CCJs and collect debt. They have this legal power within their profession.

However, there is one exception to the rule. Some bailiffs can get a warrant to enter a home with force when they have been employed by Inland Revenue. These bailiffs can get a warrant to come inside and search your property just like the police do.

What Happens When a Bailiff Comes to Collect Money?

When a law enforcement agent turns up at your door with evidence of the CCJ for your debt, there really isn’t anything you can do at this stage to avoid paying for the debt or having your possession repossessed.

Asking for Payment

The first thing the agent will do is explain him or herself and then ask for full payment of the debt. If you cannot make the full payment, they may accept an amount at that time (yes, with a card reader machine they carry with them in their vans) and get you to sign a payment plan for the rest of the debt. But be aware, there is no legal obligation for a law enforcement agent to accept a lower amount or offer you a payment plan.

This is why it is crucial to agree a payment plan directly with your creditor or the collection agency before the debt goes to the courts (if they can prove you owe the debt and the debt is less than six years old).

Repossessing Belongings

If you cannot pay the amount of money they are demanding, the agent has the right to remove the debtor’s goods to equal value of the debt. These possessions are then sold at an auction (usually for lower amounts than their true worth) and the money raised is used to pay off as much of your debt as possible. If you have items repossessed, you can get them back if you make the required payment within a short period (usually one week).

Can Bailiffs Take Every Possession?

There are some things that bailiffs are not able to take. This includes items that the debtor may need to travel to work or do their job. Some examples include a vehicle and workers tools. However, if the vehicle is not used for work purposes, they may take it. Vehicles are usually one of the first things these agents choose to repossess because of their value. But they cannot take vehicles that are on financing schemes or registered in other names (maybe a partner).

Debt Collection Agencies Sometimes Lie

The debt collection industry is heavily regulated, but that doesn’t stop some collection companies from using underhand and illegal tactics. One common complaint that debtors tell us about is that debt collection workers turn up at their door and pretend they have the right to come inside. Some of them even say they have the power to remove goods. This is simply not true and a major offence.

Debt collection companies have no more legal powers to collect debt than your local butcher or baker. They are administrators chasing debts before they go to court. Once the debt has been issued with a CCJ for collection, the responsibility that they may claim to have is handled by professional law enforcement agents commonly known as bailiffs.

How to Complain About Debt Collection Workers

If you have experienced debt collection workers pretending that they have the right to enter your house or the ability to take your items if you don’t pay, you should make an official complaint.

You can complain directly to the Financial Ombudsman by providing as much evidence as possible. If you want to know the process of making a complaint, take a look at our latest post on how to complain to the debt collection ombudsman. Here you will find key information on how to make your complaint and you might even get compensation.

About the author

Scott Nelson

Scott Nelson is a financial services expert, with over 10 years’ experience in the industry, including 6 years in FCA regulated companies. Read more
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