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Can Debt Collectors Issue a Warrant? UK Collection Laws

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Scott
Scott Nelson Profile Picture

Scott Nelson

Managing Director

MoneyNerd’s founder, Scott Nelson, has a decade of financial industry experience, including 6 years in FCA regulated loan and credit card companies. Troubled by a lack of conscience in the industry, he founded MoneyNerd to give genuine advice to those in debt and struggling financially.

Learn more about Scott
&
Janine
Janine Marsh Profile Picture

Janine Marsh

Financial Expert

Janine Marsh is an award-winning presenter and a valuable member of the MoneyNerd team. With a wealth of experience as a financial expert, she's been featured on BBC Radio 4, BBC Local Radio, and BBC Five Live, and is a regular on Co-op Radio.

Learn more about Janine
· Feb 6th, 2024
Could you legally write off some debt? Answer below to get started.

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can debt collectors issue a warrant

For free & impartial money advice you can visit MoneyHelper. We work with The Debt Advice Service who provide information about your options. This isn’t a full fact-find, some debt solutions may not be suitable in all circumstances, ongoing fees might apply & your credit rating may be affected.

Are you worried about a letter from a debt collector? Wondering what it means and if you should pay?

You’re not alone. Every month, over 170,000 people visit our website for help with debt problems. 

In this article, we’ll help you to:

  •  Understand if a debt collector can issue a warrant in the UK.
  •  Learn how to deal with debt collectors.
  •  Discover the process of debt collection.
  •  Find out what happens when a bailiff comes to collect money.
  •  Explore options to manage or write off your debt.

We know it can be scary when debt collectors get in touch. Some of our team have had the same worry too.

But we’re here to help. We’ll explain everything in a clear and simple way, so you can feel more confident about what to do next. Let’s get started.

Could you legally write off some debt?

There are several debt solutions in the UK, choosing the right one for you could write off some of your unaffordable debt, but the wrong one may be expensive and drawn out.

Answer below to get started.

How much debt do you have?

This isn’t a full fact find. MoneyNerd doesn’t give advice. We work with The Debt Advice Service who provide information about your options.

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.

So, Can Bailiffs Issue a Warrant?

No, bailiffs can’t and don’t issue warrants. Bailiffs are only used to enforce a CCJ but there are some key things that you need to be aware of.

Bailiffs can’t force entry to your property – if you don’t want them in your home, don’t let them in.

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, a High Court Enforcement Officer (HCEO) can force entry if they have been issued the correct writ from the High Court. Your creditor will need to go back to court after getting a CCJ in order to get permission to use HCEOs, and the court must agree that this extreme response is justified by the debt that you owe.

» TAKE ACTION NOW: Fill out the short debt form

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. 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.

How a debt solution could help

Some debt solutions can:

  1. Stop nasty calls from creditors
  2. Freeze interest and charges
  3. Reduce your monthly payments

A few debt solutions can even result in writing off some of your debt.

Here’s an example:


Situation

Monthly income £2,504
Monthly expenses £2,345
Total debt £32,049

Monthly debt repayments

Before £587
After £158

£429 reduction in monthly payments

If you want to learn what debt solutions are available to you, click the button below to get started.

Get Started

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 strict rules on what bailiffs can’t remove from your property. These items include:

  • Anything that belongs to someone else – this includes things that belong to your children
  • Pets or service animals
  • Vehicles, tools, or equipment that you need for your job or to study up to £1,350
  • A mobility vehicle or any vehicle with a valid Blue Badge
  • Anything permanently fitted to your home – kitchen units, etc.

Bailiffs also can’t take things that you need to live. These items can be anything that you use for your ‘basic domestic needs.’ They can take some of these things, but must leave you with:

  • A table with enough chairs for everyone in your home
  • Beds and bedding for everyone in your home
  • A phone or mobile phone
  • Any medicine or medical equipment that you need to care for someone
  • A washing machine
  • A cooker or microwave, and a fridge.

Even if you have very few possessions, bailiffs must follow these rules.

If you think that a bailiff has taken something that they shouldn’t, you need to complain immediately. I go through the complaints process below.

You can also contact a debt charity for some advice. I have listed several charities that offer free advice at the bottom of this page.

Can I Avoid Bailiffs?

If you are facing financial hardship – or know that you will be in difficulty if you do pay your debts – you might need to consider a debt solution.

There are several different debt solutions available in the UK, so I recommend speaking to a debt charity as soon as possible. Their advisors will be able to look at your finances in detail and help you work out which debt solution will work best for you.

I have linked a few charities that offer these advisory services for free below.

Debt Management Plan (DMP)

A DMP is an informal debt solution that lets you pay off your debts via a single monthly payment.

Because it is informal, it is not legally binding so you are not tied into a DMP for a minimum number of payments.

Individual Voluntary Arrangement (IVA)

An IVA is a formal agreement between you and your creditors. You agree to pay a monthly sum that is distributed amongst your debts, and your creditors agree not to contact you during your IVA.

IVAs typically last for 5 or 6 years, and any outstanding debt is wiped off when it ends.

Keep in mind that IVAs are not suitable for everyone. You need to owe several thousand pounds to more than one creditor to be eligible. You also need to demonstrate that you have some disposable income every month.

Trust Deed

IVAs are not available in Scotland. Instead, you will need to opt for a Trust Deed.

Trust Deeds work in the same way as an IVA – you pay an agreed sum each month that is shared amongst your creditors, they can’t contact you, and any leftover debt at the end of your Trust Deed term is written off.

Debt Relief Order (DRO)

A DRO is a good option for those facing financial hardship with no assets and little income.

For 12 months, you make no payments, but your creditors freeze your interest and don’t contact you.

If your finances haven’t improved during this year, you may be able to write off your unsecured debts.

Bankruptcy

If you have debts but no realistic possibility of ever paying them off, you may need to declare bankruptcy.

Bankruptcy has an unfair stigma attached to it as it may be your only way of getting a financial fresh start. That said, it is a serious financial situation that should not be taken lightly.

Sequestration

Sequestration is the Scottish version of bankruptcy.

If you have little income and no valuable assets, you may be able to apply for a minimal asset process bankruptcy (MAP). A MAP is a quicker, cheaper, and more straightforward version of sequestration, so worth considering.

Thousands have already tackled their debt

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Natasha

I’d recommend this firm to anyone struggling with debt – my mind has been put to rest, all is getting sorted.

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Will Debt Collectors Or Bailiffs Affect My Credit Score?

Yes, debt collectors and bailiffs can affect your credit score, but not in the way that many people think.

Once you have missed a few payments or defaulted on an account – which negatively impacts your credit score, too – your debt might be sold to these collectors, it will appear as a second collection account on your credit file, and the original entry may be marked as ‘sold’ which doesn’t look good!

If they don’t add a second entry to your credit file, the entry for your original debt can be changed to add the debt collection company’s information. 

While it is unlikely that they will do this for smaller debts, they have the legal right to.

These collection accounts will negatively impact your credit. They are visible for 6 years and will impact your ability to get credit or use some credit products during this time.

This is because companies use your credit file to see if you are a ‘high-risk’ customer – someone who might have difficulty paying their bills on time. If you continue not paying until you have a CCJ against you, you have had such trouble paying back your debt that someone had to go to court about it.

Understandably, companies are going to be reluctant to give you credit!

After 6 years, it is no longer visible on your credit report, and you should find it easier to get credit again.

You also need to be aware that any debt solutions that you use will also be visible on your credit file for 6 years, and your credit score may be affected. However, once these 6 years are over, your debt solution will no longer be visible, and you may find it easier to get credit again.

How to Complain About Debt Collection Workers

If you think that the debt collector chasing you has been unreasonable or behaved inappropriately, you can make a complaint. You can also make a complaint if you feel that they have broken any of the Financial Conduct Authority’s (FCA) guidelines.

Make your first complaint to the debt collector’s company or agency so that they have the chance to sort out the issue themselves. If you feel that they have not taken your complaint seriously enough or have not addressed your issue properly, you can escalate matters.

You can make any secondary complaint to the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS). They will investigate and, if your complaint is upheld, the debt collector’s company or agency may be fined. You could even be owed compensation.

Could you legally write off some debt?

Answer below to get started.

How much debt do you have?

This isn’t a full fact find, MoneyNerd doesn’t give advice. We work with The Debt Advice Service who provide information about your options.

The authors
Scott Nelson Profile Picture
Author
MoneyNerd’s founder, Scott Nelson, has a decade of financial industry experience, including 6 years in FCA regulated loan and credit card companies. Troubled by a lack of conscience in the industry, he founded MoneyNerd to give genuine advice to those in debt and struggling financially.
Janine Marsh Profile Picture
Debt Expert
Janine Marsh is an award-winning presenter and a valuable member of the MoneyNerd team. With a wealth of experience as a financial expert, she's been featured on BBC Radio 4, BBC Local Radio, and BBC Five Live, and is a regular on Co-op Radio.
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