Debt. No one wants to be in it, but unfortunately for most Australians, it’s a part of life. In fact, what you may not know, is that Australia’s personal household debt has recently been reported as the highest in the world! Many of us are managing our debts and paying them off as quickly as we can. Another group of us however, aren’t so lucky and are struggling to pay off their debts. If you have an outstanding debt, you might be sent a letter from bailiffs (also called ‘enforcement agents’) informing you that they will visit your home to collect payment – this is an intimidating legal action letter to receive, and not one that should be taken lightly. Ignore it, and you can expect a bailiff to visit your home 7 days from receipt of the letter.
So, what do you do if a bailiff attends your home? And what are your rights?
As Debt Specialists in Perth and Sydney, we’re here today to give you the facts. We hope it doesn’t happen to you, but if it does, at least you’ll be prepared.
What is a bailiff?
A Bailiff is an authorised officer of the Sheriff’s department who serves court documents and seizes and sells the judgment debtor’s personal property.
- Serve court documents (a summons to a court hearing)
- Seize and sell a judgment debtor’s personal property if you owe someone money
What powers does a bailiff have?
The powers of a bailiff are different depending on what the bailiff is authorised to do.
In terms of unpaid rent, a bailiff can evict any person who is not lawfully entitled to be on the property – This power may only be exercised between 9am and 5pm.
In terms of money owed, a bailiff can enter any place where it is ‘reasonably’ suspected the personal property is located.
A Bailiff can enter any place, if it is not a dwelling or the occupier consents, at any time of the day or night. Without consent, the Bailiff can only enter the place between 9am and 5pm.
If the obligated person unlawfully takes possession of personal property seized by the Bailiff, that person is guilty of contempt of Court.
What do I do if a bailiff comes to my home?
You hear a knock at the door to your home. Upon opening, you discover that it’s a bailiff. Other than trying to remain, calm, positive and friendly, what do you do?
Firstly, ask for proof that they are in fact a bailiff. Why? Because a debt collector is not a bailiff. Some collection agencies may threaten to send someone to your home if you refuse to pay them the amounts they request. As a representative of a Debt Collection Agency, they have no powers at all, so, you are not required to let them into your home or onto your property.
What you can do depends on why the bailiff is at the door.
For example, if the bailiff is there to:
- Serve a claim or other court documents. These documents may be served on you if you are the defendant, or on you to give to the defendant if you are aged over 18 and show a willingness to pass it on to the defendant.
- To enforce a property (seizure and sale) order, entry to your property may be sought if they have reasonable grounds for believing there is or may be personal property that can be seized under the order.
Don’t want them in your home? Under special circumstances, you may apply for an order suspending the judgment.
This application is made to the Court where the judgment was given. You can do this by completing and lodging Form No. 9 – Application for Suspension Order and supporting Form 2 – General Form of Affidavits. These forms are available from the Magistrates Court.
How do I find out more about my rights?
Still not sure about your rights, what you should do and what to find out more?
- Read more There are plenty of free and helpful resources available on ASIC’s MoneySmart website
- Get free legal advice You can contact a community legal centre or Legal Aid agency for free legal advice. They can help you understand your rights and explain what you can do if your credit provider is threatening to repossess your assets.
- Contact a financial counsellor A financial counsellor may be able to help you negotiate with your credit provider.
At Life After Debt® we have offices in Perth and Sydney; we can help you reduce unmanageable debt by assessing affordable, practical debt solutions once lending is no longer available to you. We do not lend money nor are we a broker, so we will never try to ‘sell you’ products.
Contact us today to receive honest and sympathetic advice, without judgement. Life After Debt is a phone call away.