If you’ve fallen behind with debt repayments, you could find a bailiff knocking at your door. But if they turn up on your doorstep, can bailiffs enter your house?

We know it can be scary to see a bailiff outside your house but it’s important not to panic. They do have a certain set of powers – but you also have some rights too.

We’ll take you through what you can do if a bailiff visits your home – and how to make sure you know your rights.

Should you let bailiffs enter your house?

In most cases, you don’t have to let bailiffs enter your house. Bailiffs can only usually come into your home peacefully – that means if you let them enter through your door. They can’t use force or climb through your windows.

Bailiffs can use force to enter your home in a few specific situations. These include if they’re collecting taxes for HMRC or for a criminal fine.

And even if a bailiff can legally use force to enter your home for some reason, they’ll need a warrant for this first.

If there’s only a child under the age of 16 at home, bailiffs shouldn’t enter your house – even peacefully. And bailiffs can only visit you between 6am and 9pm, so they shouldn’t come to your house at unsociable hours.

We recommend getting qualified legal and financial advice if a bailiff visits your home.

What are your rights with bailiffs?

To avoid a visit from the bailiffs, you should always aim to pay all of your debts and bills as they fall. In particular, make sure you always pay your priority bills in full. If you miss payments for income tax, VAT and other tax bills, bailiffs could come to your home.

If you have a debt management plan (DMP) and a bailiff visits you at home, you should contact your DMP provider. Creditors can still legally contact you while you’re in a DMP and they are able to pursue further action, such as authorising a bailiff to visit your home.

This is because a DMP isn’t a legally binding agreement. But if a creditor has agreed to your DMP, they’re unlikely to instruct a bailiff to visit you.

If you’ve fallen behind on council tax payments, some HMRC debts or debts to certain other creditors, it’s possible this won’t be included in your DMP. It’s worth explaining this situation to your provider to see what they can do.

Your DMP provider may be able to speak to the bailiffs on your behalf. If you’ve only just set up a DMP, it’s possible your creditors aren’t aware of this yet – which is why they’re pursuing the debt.

If you have an Individual Voluntary Arrangement (IVA), a bailiff can’t visit your property. This is because an IVA is a legally binding arrangement so it stops legal action for your debts.

Not sure what other rights bailiffs have? Our guide on bailiff and enforcement officers’ rights will help provide some answers.