What to do if bailiffs attend your property
Your tenant is being pursued by bailiffs looking to seize goods for outstanding payments - do you need to worry about your property?
When making the call on whether to request bailiffs to recover rent arrears, you will undoubtedly take many factors in to consideration. You'll need to assess whether the tenant is likely to have goods to the value of the claim, make an application to court, and ensure the bailiffs are aware of any furniture or non-essential white goods you own at the property.
Whilst you're probably aware of all of these, what you may not be prepared for is your tenant having bailiffs attend for an entirely unrelated financial issue. In this instance, you could be left unprepared for what happens next...
If your tenant doesn't provide the bailiff with a valid inventory detailing which goods in the property belong to you as the landlord, the bailiffs are within their rights to take the goods on the assumption they belong to the tenant. You may decide you want to be present for the bailiff appointment – but remember that if you’re visiting the property at the time and park on the driveway, you could be asked to prove ownership of your car, for example by showing your V5 vehicle log book issued by the DVLA.
Here's what you should know about bailiffs’ rights and responsibilities, and what to do should the situation arise.
- Bailiffs cannot break and enter. They can however enter a property through unlocked doors. On arrival bailiffs are required to show you or your tenant proof of who they are and the purpose for visiting the property. They’ll also need to tell you or your tenant which company they’re from and give you a telephone contact number for the head office.
- If you have let your rental as a furnished property, the bailiff will have the right to remove the furniture, unless you or your tenant can immediately prove the furniture belongs to the landlord. This can be done with a full inventory that should have been done when you set up the tenancy. If the tenant cannot show immediate proof of ownership the bailiff would be within their rights to seize the goods and take them to their office. You would then have 28 days to prove ownership; essentially that they don’t belong to the debtor and should be immediately returned to you as the rightful owner. Failure to prove ownership within that timeframe would result in the bailiff selling the goods at auction.
- It's important to note that bailiffs cannot seize essential household items, tradesman’s tools or items that are subject to hire purchase or rental agreements. If you believe any goods you have at your rental property fall into these categories you should be safe in the instance of a bailiffs visit.
- Good communication with tenants is essential. If they are in rent arrears it is possible they could be in other financial difficulties with utility companies or other debtors. By keeping in close contact with them you can negate any uncertainty or risk of bailiffs seizing property that belongs to you. If you have furniture in your rentals and are worried about the possibility of bailiffs seizing your property you should talk with your tenant, ensure they have an up to date copy of the inventory handy and point them in the direction of financial advice.
- If you are present during the bailiff’s visit, make sure you have proof of ownership of any items which are on the property – both personal and those which have been supplied to the tenant. It’s a good idea to save full inventories and other evidence (such as your vehicle logbook) securely online so you’re able to access them when you need to.
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