Instructing an enforcement agent (still commonly referred to as a bailiff) is one method of civil debt enforcement. Different enforcement agents are used to collect different types of unpaid debt on behalf of creditors (including local authorities, government departments and private individuals). Some enforcement agents are officers of the court, others are self-employed, some are employees of a private debt collection company. The rules governing the regulation of bailiffs were completely overhauled on 6 April 2014.

This Library paper is predominantly concerned with civil enforcement in England and Wales It provides an outline of the different types of enforcement agents and their regulation. It also provides information on the recent Ministry of Justice review of the regulatory regime and the separate Justice Committee inquiry. Importantly, this Paper attempts to answer some of the most commonly asked questions about “bailiff” action.

It is important to stress that if an enforcement agent has already notified a debtor of their intention to visit their home, the debtor should seek proper legal advice as a matter of urgency. An outline of sources of advice is provided in Section 5 of this paper. A separate Library briefing paper, Legal help: where to go and how to pay (CBP3207), may also be of interest.

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