Is there a difference between bailiffs and debt collectors?

Finding yourself in debt can be a worrying experience. It’s important at this difficult time to understand how the debt collection process works and what options are available to you. Many people do not realise that there is a clear difference between a debt collector and a bailiff, but the two terms actually relate to two very different roles.

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What Is A Bailiff?

A bailiff is a person who has the specific legal powers needed to collect certain debts from you. A bailiff can collect the debt by asking you to pay the sum due or by taking your possessions in order to sell them to cover the debt. They will normally come into the property and ask if your going to pay the money owed and if you say no they will then start to take an inventory of whats inside your house to start totting up the value.  Sometimes they will use pen and paper but they should take an Inspection app which can be sourced from sites like which will allow for a more suitable and professional list of contents.  Money raised by selling your possessions is used to pay off the debt and also to cover the bailiff’s fees.

Bailiffs are more properly called enforcement agents, but the term bailiff is still widely used. Usually, a bailiff will only become involved in a debt collection when the creditor has already tried other options for securing the debt repayment. A warning letter is normally sent in advance of a bailiff visiting you.

As explained by Citizens Advice, bailiffs can only be used for specific types of debts, including council tax, business rates, CCJs, child support and maintenance, parking fines, tax and national insurance payments, and court fines.

What Is A Debt Collector?

A Debt Collector has no legal powers to take anything from your home to cover a debt, unlike a bailiff. A debt collector typically works for a creditor and may visit you at home to discuss the payment of your debt. However, a debt collector can only ask you to repay your debt; he or she cannot force you to do so.

In order to tackle your debt problems, it might be necessary to consider an Individual Voluntary Arrangement (IVA). The Money Advice Service can help explain how IVAs work and whether this is a good option for you. IVAs involve working with an insolvency practitioner to pay all or part of your debts in a structured way with the agreement of your creditors. We invite you to discover more about this option.

However you choose to tackle your debts, it is vital to take action and seek professional advice as soon as possible.

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