Sheriffs Office will usually speak to a high volume of debtors each day about their debt and to try and get them to make payment. It can be upsetting to receive correspondence which states that you owe money, especially if you have no means of paying it back. There are many people who find debt a real struggle, and they may find every day a financial challenge. If you have debts or fines which you have failed to repay, you are likely to be on the receiving end of calls or letters from companies such as Sheriffs Office bailiffs.
It is obviously difficult to deal with the contact you receive from the bailiffs, but it is important that you deal with the situation, as quickly as you possibly can. If you have no knowledge of dealing with debt collectors or bailiffs, you may not know what to do next, and how to respond to their correspondence. If you understand what to expect, you will be able to prevent the situation from escalating. Throughout this article, we will take a look at who Sheriffs Office are, what they do and how to respond to their contact.
Who are Sheriffs Office?
The Sheriffs Office started life in the late 1970s. Originally they only dealt with High Court writs in Northamptonshire. In 2004 a change in legislation meant that the Sheriffs Office could operate throughout England & Wales through their networks of High Court Enforcement Agents. In 2012 they were featured in the BBC One programme “The Sheriffs Are Coming”.
They are members of the Civil Court Users Association, the Security Industry Association and the Chartered Institute of Credit Management. The are also members of the High Court Enforcement Officers Association. David Asker, who deals with corporate governance and compliance at The Sheriffs Office, is a Board Director of the High Court Enforcement Officers Association.
They often work with their sister company, the National Eviction Team. This company has evicted more demonstrators, protestors and travellers than anyone else in the country.
2 Marine Road, Colwyn Bay, Clwyd, Wales, LL29 8PH
Also Known As:
The Sheriffs Office Limited
The Sheriffs Office Ltd
The Sheriffs Office Group
The Sheriffs Office Bailiffs
The Sheriffs Office Debt Collectors
The Sheriffs Office Debt Collection
The Sheriffs Office Agency
Why Are Sheriffs Office Getting in Touch With You?
If you have never spoken to Sheriffs Office or have not even heard of them before, you may be wondering who they are, and whether they are a registered organisation. They are a legitimate company, and if they are contacting you about an outstanding debt, it is important that you don’t just ignore their calls and letters. They are ultimately contacting you to try and get payment for an outstanding debt, and these are some of the typical reasons they may be reaching out:
- You have outstanding debt which you owe to individuals, businesses or other organisations
- You have a tax bill you have failed to pay, or you have received tax credit overpayments from HMRC
- There are credit card or payday loans which you have failed to deal with
- You have defaulted on your court fines
The way it works is that the company, person, or organisation you owe the original debt to will pass the unpaid account over to Sheriffs Office, so that they deal with it instead. This is due to the fact that you have failed to reach an agreement with them, or you have just not responded to them at all. This means that the debt will not be directly with Sheriffs Office, but they will be chasing it on behalf of this company. These are some of the original creditors they will usually chase debt on behalf of:
- Utility companies, which may include Npower, United Utilities, as well as a range of other gas and electricity suppliers.
- Mobile and broadband companies, including O2, Virgin Media and EE, and many others.
- Local council debts, such as unpaid parking tickets or fines.
To make it worth their while, Sheriffs Office will usually purchase the debt in bundles, rather than individually and this means that they are looking after their own interests. They only pay a small amount to purchase the debt, and any payments they get thereafter, allow them to make a profit. Hence why they will be quite persistent to try and get in touch with you.
Can You Stop Sheriffs Office From Contacting You?
It is likely that you will find the agents from Sheriffs Office quite persistent. After all, they want their money, and they want it as soon as they can get it! You will probably receive several calls or letters from them, and if they don’t hear from you, they may come to your home to try and get the payment from you. You may think that you should just ignore them and they will stop contacting you, but they won’t. This is why you need to deal with the problem head-on.
Bailiffs such as Sheriffs Office will sometimes even be used for the purpose of serving court documents or giving out notices and summons. However, if they do decide to visit your home, it standard for them to give you a minimum of 7 days’ notice of the first visit to your home. The best way to stop them from coming to your door is by paying the debt. This is the most effective way to stop them from contacting you.
They are not permitted to just do what the want, these are some actions they can’t take:
- Try to send you letter that are similar to court forms, in attempt to scare you into paying up
- Calling you during unsociable hours, such as very early morning or late at night
- Contacting you at work, especially if you have specifically asked them not to.
- Use a form of jargon or technical language, in an attempt to try and confuse you.
If you want to find out how to contact Sheriffs Office, you will be able to get their details from their website or any correspondence they have sent you. If you get in touch with them quickly, it will increase your chances of reaching a suitable conclusion, and one which will hopefully prevent further charges or any visits to your home.
If they’re trying to make you pay debt, which doesn’t belong to you, you will be able to request that they prove it, and provide you with evidence to support the claim. The Financial Conduct Authority’s guidelines will be able to provide you with more information on this (see section 7).
Do Sheriffs Office Have a lot of Powers?
They are an enforcement agent/bailiff and as such, Sheriffs Office have legal powers which allows them to collect your debt. They are not the only ones though, you also have powers, so don’t let them try to tell you otherwise.
As they are bailiffs, they will be able to visit your home, if they need to collect the debt and haven’t been able to achieve it any other way. If you don’t comply with them and you refuse to pay off the debt you owe, or come to an arrangement to pay it, they may have the right to enter your home. In this case, they may end up removing goods from your home to make up the value of the debt. If they are unable to get items from inside, they may take goods from outside, and this may include your vehicle.
If you receive a visit from Sheriffs Office and you advise them that you can’t or won’t pay, they may end up taking some goods from your home, which you may think of as a necessity, such as your TV or games consoles.
When you have more serious unpaid debts, such as criminal fines, income tax or stamp duty, the bailiffs may be able to force into your home, but this would usually be a last resort. If it is just normal debt, bailiffs would not be able to do the following:
- Force their way past you and into your house
- Enter if there are only vulnerable people at home or those who are aged under 16
- At unacceptable times, such as before 6am or after 9pm
- Attempting to enter via the window or any other way apart from the door.
How to Cope with a Visit from Sheriffs Office
Unless you have debts which would be deemed as very serious, such as unpaid tax bills etc, you do not need to let the bailiffs into your home. It is likely that they will try to tell you that they are in fact, allowed access, but this is untrue. The only way they can force entry into your property is if you have unpaid court fines, tax debts, and they must have paperwork to reflect this. If this is the case, they would have the right to get a locksmith to try and gain entry into your property. They would not, under any circumstance, be allowed to break down your door.
If someone from Sheriffs Office comes to your door to try and get you to pay your debts, you should ensure that they have the required identification. These are some forms of ID that they must be able to provide:
- An ID card, badge, or certificate which clearly states who they are
- Details of the company they are representing (such as Sheriffs Office)
- A breakdown of what you owe, together with evidence to support this
- Proof of whether they have permission to force entry, such as a warrant or writ
You will not need to let them into your home to provide these documents, you can ask them just to pass them through the door, and you can have a look to check all is in order. You should ensure that all the relevant details are on the documents, including name and address, and these are accurate.
In cases were they don’t have any right to force entry to gain access to your property, you have the right to ask them to leave, and inform them that you will contact the Sheriffs Office head office instead. If they are trying to chase you about debt that does not belong to you, you may inform them that you plan to contact the head office.
You can’t just ignore the debt, as if you do, Sheriffs Office will just keep trying to pursue the debt, and this means that if you are unable to prove that it is not your debt or you have already paid it, they will keep contacting you.
Sheriffs Office Have Taken Your Goods – What You Do Next?
If you have allowed a bailiff from Sheriffs Office to access your property, you may have already had some of your possessions removed. This can be a worrying situation, but if you deal with it quickly, you will be able to get your goods back.
The simplest way to get your goods back is to either pay the debt before they are sold, or reach an agreement to pay it back using a repayment plan.. You could also just buy the items back, and this can go towards the debt. This is obviously not an ideal situation to be in, which is why it is best to speak to them before it gets to this stage.
If the Sheriffs Office enforcement agent has failed to follow the correct legal procedure, you may also be able to get your goods back by going down this route. You would need to have proof of this though. You can contact Citizens Advice to get a better insight into this and what to do next.
Key Actions to Take if You Have Been Contacted by Sheriffs Office
If you have been contacted by Sheriffs Office, these are some of the things you should do to sort the situation out.
The worst thing you can do in this situation is ignore the calls, letters or other correspondence you have received from Sheriffs Office. Either speak to them or reach out and contact them to discuss the situation, and how you would like to move forward. Enforcement agents such as Sheriffs Office have the right to charge an extra fee just for having to deal with your debt. These fees include:
- Compliance – £75. If they have had to send an enforcement notice asking for payment, they will be able to charge you a compliance fee.
- Enforcement – £235 (or 7.5% over £1500). This is a charge for visiting your home or business to remove your goods.
- Sale of goods – £110 (or 7.5% over £1500). If they have had to remove and sell your possessions, they may charge a sale of goods fee.
Even if you don’t owe the debt, you should respond to their correspondence anyway, before they have the opportunity to send someone to your home. Make sure you figure out what the debt is and ensure they have the right to chase you for the debt.
Find out if you owe the debt
If you have received a letter which claims that the debt is yours, you should firstly check that the details are correct, and that they are accurate. It may be that the debt doesn’t belong to you, and instead, it is someone else’s debt and you are being asked to repay it. Mistakes happen, and this could just be an error. You need to establish whether you owe the debt.
In cases were you last made a payment over six years ago, or had contact with the original creditor, you might not be liable to pay all the debt. If you have been pressured into taking out the debt, and the creditor failed to carry out a proper check of your affordability, you might not be liable to pay the money.
Pay your debt
If the debt is found to belong to you, it is within the relevant time period, and Sheriffs Office are able to provide you with proof of this, you would be liable to pay back the debt. If you are financially able to, it is a good idea to clear the debt as this will stop them from contacting you about it. You can then carry on with your life, without having to worry about it. If you make a payment to the debt, make sure you ask for a receipt, just incase you need this in the future as proof of payment.
If you are not financially able to pay the full amount of the debt straight away, you may be able to come to an arrangement with Sheriffs Office to pay the debt in installments. You should speak to Sheriffs Office and explain your situation to them, and how you want to proceed. They are likely to accept that you pay the debt in installments, and they may not add any further charges or interest on.
How to Get Help in Dealing With Sheriffs Office
It is not always easy to ask for help, but if you are struggling to know how to deal with the contact you have received from Sheriffs Office, there is help out there. You should aim to speak to them as quickly as possible and try to reach an agreement. If you do owe the money, your best way out is just to pay the debt. However, we know this is not always possible for many people. If you need help in getting out of your financial situation, these are some organisations you can speak to.
An IVA is quite an extreme way to deal with your debt issues, and it allows you to write off some of your debts. In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, an IVA will allow you to combine all the debt you owe into one. You will then just make one monthly payment towards the whole debt, and this will usually be at a lower rate. If there is any debt outstanding after a period of time, you will be able to write this off.
You will also find that there are other forms of debt management available to use, and the best option will depend on your own individual situation. Some of the options available include debt management plans, consolidation loans, and bankruptcy. Obviously bankruptcy would be one of the decisions which would have the most extreme consequences on your ability to obtain credit in the future. You should always consider exploring your options here, as not all options will work best for everyone. You may even want to consider speaking to professional organisations to get expert advice on this.
If you are unsure about how to deal with Sheriffs Office or you are confused about the correspondence they have sent you, you may want to consider contacting Citizens Advice. They have experts on hand to help, as well as different resources that will help you prepare for a bailiff visit. They will be able to check all the letters, emails etc you have been sent and give you advice on how to handle the situation.
If you look at the Trustpilot reviews of Sheriffs Office, you’ll see that the comments are extremely negatively and it makes for rather bleak reading. Some of the common words and phrases you will find, include ‘bullies,’ ‘threatening,’ and ‘mistreated.; If you do not feel that Sheriffs Office have treated you properly, you will be able to make a formal complaint.
If you want to complain to the bailiff company you can use our free letter template which outlines exactly what you should say.
If Sheriffs Office fail to respond to this matter appropriately, you will be able to contact the Financial Ombudsman Service and take the matter further, if necessary.
Sheriffs Office – What Next?
It’s not particularly enjoyable to have to deal with debt enforcement agents such as Sheriffs Office. But the situation will be greatly improved if you have a good understanding of your legal rights and what they are not permitted to do. you can know what to expect. You should never ignore letters or calls from companies such as Sheriffs Office, even if you aren’t responsible for the debt. If Sheriffs Office visit your home, you won’t need to let the bailiff in, unless they can provide you with a court-certified warrant or writ. You can tell them that you will contact the company directly to deal with your debt.
Do I have any rights if a bailiff comes?
Bailiffs are not permitted to come to your home, outwith the hours of 6am and 9pm . They also need to give you 7 days notice of their pending visit. They must not use any force to try and get you out the way, so they can access your property.
Are there a maximum number of times a bailiff can visit?
A bailiff will be able to visit your home as many times as they want. The only restrictions are that it needs to be between 6am and 9pm.
What happens if I refuse entry to the bailiffs?
If you refuse entry to bailiffs, they may end up returning with a locksmith in tow, even when you’re not at home.
Can a bailiff break my door down?
Bailiffs do not have the right to break your door down. They must always use a locksmith. Also Bailiffs will only be able to enter your property through your door, not by any other means.
Can bailiffs remove my car, even if I need it for work?
Bailiffs will be able to take your car, even if you will require it to get to work. Even if you try to fool them by parking in another street, they are used to these tactics. They will not be able to remove your vehicle if it is on private property that is not yours.