Links & Tips
Over the years we have been asked lots of questions ranging from “what can a bailiff take” to “do my debts die when I die” Based on the questions we've been asked please find a series of articles and links to other websites which you may find of interest.
- Administration Order
- Bailiff Powers
- County Court Judgements
- Do My Debts Die With Me
- Financial Ombudsman Service
- Government Mortgage Rescue
- The Insolvency Service – In Debt Dealing With My Creditors
- Varying the amount to pay to a CCJ
- What Benefits am I entitled to receive
If you have a court judgment against you, which you can’t pay in full, an administration order may be a way to deal with the debt.
The debt must be less than £5,000.
You make one payment a month to your local court. The court will divide this money between your creditors.
Getting an administration order
To apply, fill in an application for an administration order (N92), and return it to your local court.
The court decides:
- how much of your debt you have to repay – for example, all or just part of it
- how much your monthly repayments will be
- how long the arrangement lasts
If you can’t pay all your debts the arrangement is known as a ‘composition order’.
There’s a court fee each time you make a payment. This can’t be more than 10% of your debt.
Example If you owe £5,000 the total fee can’t be more than £500.
- owe a maximum of £5,000, including any interest and charges
- owe money to at least 2 creditors
- prove you can afford your repayments – for example, give details of your income
- have a county court or High Court judgment against you, which you can’t pay in full
You must keep up your repayments or the court can:
- take money from your wages – known as an ‘attachment of earnings order’
- cancel the arrangement
Your administration order is added to the Register of Judgments, Orders and Fines.
It’s usually removed 6 years after the date the order was made.
If you repay your debts in full your entry is marked as ‘satisfied’.
You can also ask the court for a ‘certificate of satisfaction’. To do this, write to the court and send a cheque for £15 (made payable to Her Majesty’s Courts & Tribunal Service).
Bailiff powers when they visit your home – What you can do when a bailiff visits
A bailiff may visit your home if you don’t pay your debts – e.g. a Council Tax bill, parking fine, court fine or county court judgment.
This will happen if you ignore reminder and warning letters, saying that bailiffs will be used.
You can stop bailiffs from visiting by paying the money you owe. Talk to the person or business you owe money to as soon as possible to get advice on how to pay your debt.
Dealing with bailiffs
In most cases, you don’t have to open your front door to a bailiff or let them in.
Bailiffs are not usually allowed to force their way into your home – eg by pushing past you, or putting their foot in the door.
However, if you don’t let them in or agree to pay them:
- they can charge you more fees
- you could end up owing even more money
- they could take things from outside your home – eg your car
If you do let them in, but don’t pay them, they may take some of your belongings. They could sell the items to pay the debt and cover their fees.
Bailiffs are allowed to force their way into your home to collect unpaid criminal fines, Income Tax or Stamp Duty, but only as a last resort.
What to ask a bailiff
Before you pay a bailiff, or let them in to take your things, ask to see:
- proof of their identity – e.g. a badge or ID card
- a detailed breakdown of their charges
Paying a bailiff
You can pay the bailiff on the doorstep – you don’t have to invite them into your home.
Make sure you get a receipt, to prove you’ve paid.
If you can’t pay all the money right away, speak to the bailiff about how you could pay the money back.
Offer to pay what you can realistically afford in weekly or monthly payments.
The bailiff does not have to accept your offer.
Help or advice
You can get free help or advice on dealing with bailiffs from:
What bailiffs can and can’t take
If you let a bailiff into your home, they may take some of your belongings to sell.
Bailiffs can take luxury items – eg a TV or games console.
They can’t take:
- things you need – eg your clothes, cooker, fridge, furniture or work tools
- someone else’s belongings – eg your partner’s computer
You will have to prove that someone else’s goods don’t belong to you.
What bailiffs can charge
Bailiffs will usually charge you for visits to your home – this will be added to what you owe.
They can also charge you fees for coming into your home and taking your belongings.
You can challenge them and complain if you think they’re charging too much, or for something they haven’t done.
How to complain about a bailiff
You can complain about a bailiff if you think they’ve broken the rules, eg if they:
- threaten or harass you
- try to break into your home
- try to charge you incorrect fees
- take goods belonging to someone else
Who you need to complain to depends on whether the bailiff is a:
- private bailiff, working for a private company
- county court bailiff or civilian enforcement officer, working directly for the court
Complain about a private bailiff
Most bailiffs work for private companies, even if they’re collecting money for the council or the government.
Some bailiffs are registered as ‘certificated bailiffs’, and that will affect how you complain.
Search the certificated bailiff register using the bailiff’s name or employer to find out if they’re registered.
Fill in a complaint form to complain about a certificated bailiff.
Bailiffs who don’t have a certificate
Write to the bailiff’s company if you find out they’re not on the certificated bailiff register.
Write to the organisation you owe the money to, (eg the council) if you don’t get a response from them keep a copy of your complaint letter.
Complain to a trade organisation
You may also be able to complain to the bailiff’s trade association.
Check the membership lists on the trade associations’ websites:
Complain to the trade association if the bailiff is a member. Follow the complaints procedure on the association’s website.
Complain about a county court bailiff or civilian enforcement officer
Fill in a court complaint form. if you’re complaining about a county court bailiff or civilian enforcement.
Post the form to the court – you can find the address using court finder.
County Court Judgements
If someone takes court action against you, saying you owe them money, and you don’t respond, you could get a County Court Judgment (CCJ) or High Court judgment.
You have 14 days to respond to the court claim.
If you get a judgment, this means that the court has formally decided that you owe the money.
The judgment will come in the post and will explain:
- how much you owe
- how you should pay (in full or in instalments)
- the deadline for paying
- details of who you need to pay
Records of judgments are kept for 6 years unless you pay the full amount within a month – this can make it difficult to get credit.
If you don’t owe the money, you can ask the court to cancel, or ‘set aside’, the judgment.
If you do owe the money, you should arrange to pay what you can afford.
If you get a judgment don’t ignore it – you could be taken back to court and forced to pay.
Court judgments for debt in Scotland
The law is different in Scotland – see guidance from the Accountant in Bankruptcy (Scotland’s insolvency service).
Do My Debts Die With Me?
My debts will die with me is one of the most popular misconceptions. it is the responsibility of the person administering your estate is to ensure that all your debts are paid before any money is given to those who benefit under your will or the closest relatives where there is no will.
The simplest example is a situation where you die with no assets at all and just debt. In this case then your debts do die with you. You cannot pass on your debts to your family, and those who are owed money will not be able to recover anything from your estate. Of course if you have given assets away knowing you owe money or in the hope of evading your creditors in some way then the rules of insolvency still apply and your creditors can try and take action against your estate to undo the gifts and recover monies owed. If, however, you die penniless but leave behind a string of debts then your debts will die with you.
if you have assets, but not enough to pay everyone fully then your debts would not die with you as there are funds to pay some of your creditors. It is vital in such a circumstance to take proper legal advice from a specialist probate solicitor. The reason is that there are rules governing who gets paid how much and in what order. If debts are paid incorrectly, then individuals can find themselves personally liable to pay anyone who has lost out because of an error.
Similarly if instead of paying off debts, money is paid to those who benefit under the will instead, then there is a liability on the person making the payment to make good their mistake out of their own funds. The main point to note is that where there are assets in an estate then your debts do not die with you. The executors of your estate need to ensure proper advice is taken before anything is done to settle any bills or make any payments.
Your estate should only meet the debts from the money it holds. So once the estate money has run out, and provided everyone has been paid correctly and in the right order, then any other debts outstanding will die with you.
It is not down to those that could have benefitted under your Will or your family to pay the remaining debts. If they have received nothing, do not owe the money themselves as a joint debtor or guarantor and there is no money left then they do not have to make payments for your estate.
Financial Ombudsman Service
Government Mortgage Rescue
If you’re having difficulties making your mortgage repayments and are in danger of becoming homeless, you could get financial help to stay in your home. This is called the Mortgage Rescue Scheme.
It’s a last resort after you’ve tried all other options to make your repayments easier – talk to your lender first.
What you get depends on your circumstances. You apply through your local council.
The Insolvency Service – ‘In Debt? – Dealing with your creditors’
Reducing payments on county court judgments (varying the judgment)
If your circumstances have changed and you can no longer afford the monthly payments, you can apply for a reduction using an N245 form.
The N245 is completed in the same way as a county court claim form. It’s important that your figures show clearly what you can afford to pay.
You will have to pay a fee to the court with your application but if you can’t get to the court to make the payment, you can send a cheque or postal order made payable to HM Courts & Tribunal Service. If you’re on low income or certain benefits you may be exempt from the fee.
If the variation is accepted you will receive a form entitled “Judgment for Claimant” (by variation).
14 days or less
Sometimes changes can happen soon after the payment is decided by the court or you might not be happy with the payment. If less than 14 days have passed since the date of the postmark on the letter and you can no longer afford the payment you can apply to the court to look at your offer again. This is known as a ‘redetermination’ and there is no fee.
What happens next?
The re-determination will be carried out by a District Judge (DJ). If the order was made by the court staff, the DJ can decide to have a hearing or simply make a decision by looking at the papers. If a DJ made the original order without a hearing then the re-determination of the offer must be decided at a hearing.
If a DJ made the first order at a hearing, you can’t apply for a redetermination but you can apply for the monthly payments to be reduced or ‘varied’ with an N245 form (as explained above).
You can ask for a hearing when you write to the court to ask them to look at your case again.
If there’s a hearing, the case will automatically be transferred to your local county court so you can attend. You will be given a hearing date which you must attend. It should be in the District Judge’s chambers and you’ll need to take a copy of your budget sheet with you.
If the redetermination is accepted you will receive a form entitled “Judgment for Claimant” (by redetermination).
Don’t change your payment straightaway
If a you apply for a CCJ to be re-determined you’ll need to keep up with the payments set under the original terms of the CCJ until you receive notice that the redetermination has taken place and what the new payments are. If you miss payments on a CCJ, even if you’ve applied for redetermination, you’ll have defaulted on the CCJ and this will allow the court to take further action to reclaim the debt.