Want to know whether the company you owe money to - or the people collecting debts on their behalf - can break into your home? We explain whether this is allowed and what you can do about it.
Whether a company that you owe money to can authorise someone to come into your home to chase you for payment or take your possessions depends on who you owe money to and what type of company they're using to collect your debt.
Most companies, banks and building societies will first employ the services of a debt collection company and only resort to using bailiffs if this fails. However, courts and councils can hire private bailiffs to reclaim debts on their behalf as a first step.
Under OFT guidelines a debt collection company should "only come into your home if you have invited them to".
This means they cannot force their way in, either by breaking in or by pushing past you when you open the door.
They must also "leave your property if you ask them to".
Consequently, if they come knocking and you don't answer the door, or answer but don't let them in, there is little that they can do about it.
Of course, ignoring debt collection companies isn't advisable, so if you don't want them to call on you at home you should write to them and ask they communicate with you by phone (if you'd prefer to receive calls) or in writing.
In most cases a bailiff cannot enter your property without your permission.
However, they can enter your home without your consent if they can do so without breaking in or causing damage. This is called “gaining peaceful entry” and means that if you leave a door unlocked or a window open that they can come into your home.
In some rare cases, bailiffs working for a magistrate’s court can legally break into your home, but only if:
You have unpaid criminal fines
However, even in these limited cases they should only break into your home as a last resort and after other reasonable measures have been pursed.
Providing you don't owe money for unpaid fines or tax you should simply make sure that your property is securely locked (windows and doors) both when you're in it and when you go out.