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rBailiffs and Mental Health: Everything you need to know

When it comes to bailiffs and mental health, there are certain rules that a bailiff should follow. For example, if you’re alone at home, they cannot visit you. But it’s crucial that you inform the bailiffs of your mental health problem before they take action.

Let us explain the process…

Riana Johnson
Last updated on 11 October 2023
Fact Checked

Table of Contents

1. Debt and Mental Health Problems
2. Mental Health and Debt Help
3. Enforcement Agents Processes
4. How Much Are Bailiff Fees?
5. Bailiffs and Mental Health: How Bailiffs Must Treat a Vulnerable Person
6. Beat the Bailiffs Vulnerability Letter
7. Can You Complain About Bailiffs?
8. Bailiffs and Mental Health: Can You Get Debt Written Off Due to Mental Health?
9. Bailiff FAQs
10. Debt and Mental Health Support
11. Glossary of Terms That you need to be aware of
12. Key Points


It is not surprising that many debtors start to develop severe mental health issues when dealing with debt and creditors. According to research, some debtors even consider taking their own life. Even though dealing with debt has a huge impact on your mental health, there is support available.

So, what about individuals already suffering from mental health problems? Are there certain laws that protect people with such issues from bailiffs?

Yes. The law guides bailiffs and mental health patients on what they should do when dealing with each other. This helps to protect mental health patients from any harm while allowing bailiffs to do their job.

Thus, this article will guide on exactly this and provide insight into the matter.

Debt and Mental Health Problems

Studies have frequently indicated a symbiotic relationship between mental health issues and financial instability. For instance, it’s found that those battling debts are more prone to suffer from a range of mental health disorders.

Also, note that debt does not only lead to mental health issues, but mental health issues also lead to debt. Because of illegal practices, some creditors have this impact on debtors. So, if this happens to you, report them to the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).

Mental Health and Debt Help

Acknowledging the problem is the first step towards seeking a solution. And thankfully, there are ample resources in the UK geared towards offering help.

Certain organisations provide counselling and actionable steps for individuals to tackle their debts while managing their mental health. They also offer advice on budgeting, liaising with creditors, and understanding your rights and options.

Some of these organisations that you can reach out to include:

  • National Debtline
  • StepChange
  • Mental Health Foundation
  • Mental Health and Money Advice

Enforcement Agents Processes

Bailiffs, or enforcement agents as they’re formally known, usually come into the picture when debts remain unpaid for an extended period. First, they send a ‘Notice of Enforcement‘, giving the debtor a window to settle or arrange for repayment. If unheeded, they could visit the debtor’s property.

A Notice of Enforcement requests you to:

  • Make the full payment
  • Agree to a Controlled Goods Agreement, which is a payment plan that’s secured against your assets. If you fail to meet the payment deadlines, bailiffs have the right to repossess your assets and sell them to recover the debt.
  • Expect visits from the bailiff within seven days and seize assets if you don’t agree to any of the above.

If the court uses enforcement agents, you will have to pay bailiff fees.

However, the relationship between bailiffs and mental health is delicate. Bailiffs have a duty to act responsibly and compassionately when the debtor has disclosed mental health concerns. It’s vital for anyone facing debt-related stress to be aware of these nuances.

How Much Are Bailiff Fees?

Bailiff fees can escalate the more prolonged the debt remains unresolved. Initially, there’s a fixed fee of £75 for the initial ‘Notice of Enforcement’. If they visit the property, it’s an additional £235 plus 7.5% of debt above £1,500.

And if goods need to be sold to recover the debt, it’s an extra £110. These fees can increase based on the amount owed (an additional 7.5% for debts above £1,500), adding more pressure to already strained individuals. You will also have to pay for storage costs.

Bailiffs and Mental Health: How Bailiffs Must Treat a Vulnerable Person

Navigating the world of debts, especially when facing mental health challenges, can be overwhelming. But there’s something crucial you should know: when it comes to bailiffs and mental health, the rules change.

There are other guidelines that bailiffs should follow when they recover money from vulnerable individuals. The rules are different when it comes to fees and what they can do.

When reaching out to debtors, bailiffs should adhere to the Mental Health Act. They should also ensure that their actions do not contravene The Equality Act. Thus, they should also follow the law by taking into consideration the rights of vulnerable people who are in debt.

Vulnerability isn’t just about mental health. It encompasses a range of situations, including physical disability, serious illnesses, and recent traumas. In the eyes of the law, if someone’s ability to repay debts is hindered by any of these factors, they’re deemed vulnerable. A list of Individuals that are classified as vulnerable include:

  • Seriously ill
  • Pregnant
  • A single parent or has young children at home
  • Disabled
  • Of young age (below 18)
  • Of elderly age (over 64)
  • Not fluent in English
  • Recently unemployed and now receiving DWP benefits
  • Recently injured
  • Mourning the death of a loved one
  • Mental health problems
Bailiffs’ Code of Conduct

Bailiffs don’t just knock on doors and demand payment. They follow a stringent set of guidelines, even more so when the debtor is vulnerable. Their primary responsibility isn’t just about recovering funds; they have a duty to treat everyone fairly and with respect.

  • More Time for Repayment: Recognising the additional challenges a vulnerable person might face, bailiffs are often willing to provide extra time for repayments.
  • Referring back to Creditors: In many instances, rather than pushing for immediate payment, bailiffs might refer the debtor back to the original creditor. This is done in order to facilitate a more detailed discussion on the debt, perhaps leading to a revised repayment plan.
  • Suggesting External Advice: Sometimes, the best course of action isn’t clear. In these cases, bailiffs might suggest seeking advice from external bodies specialising in debt management or mental health support.
The Power of Evidence

When presented with concrete evidence, like medical records indicating mental health challenges, bailiffs must tread lightly. This isn’t just a courteous gesture; it’s an obligation.

  • Proactive Approach: Rather than waiting for bailiffs to recognise the vulnerability, one can take a proactive stance. By presenting evidence early on, the entire process becomes more transparent and compassionate.
  • Acting with Extra Caution: Upon acknowledging someone’s vulnerability, bailiffs must adjust their approach. Harsh demands or pressure tactics aren’t just discouraged; they’re forbidden.
But What If…?

Sometimes, there might be potential pitfalls or unexpected turns. That’s only natural. Here’s a quick FAQ to address those pressing concerns:

  • What if the bailiff doesn’t recognise my vulnerability? Always communicate. A conversation can make all the difference. Present your evidence, and most bailiffs will understand.
  • Can they still take my belongings? Even if you’re deemed vulnerable, debts still need repayment. But remember, the process becomes more humane, understanding, and patient.
  • Are all bailiffs understanding of mental health issues?While the majority adhere to their guidelines, there might be exceptions. Always know your rights and be prepared.

There’s no denying that the link between bailiffs and mental health is intricate. But armed with knowledge, understanding, and proactive communication, the journey becomes more manageable.

And always remember, there’s help available, whether it’s in understanding your rights or managing your mental health.

Beat the Bailiffs Vulnerability Letter

Sending a vulnerability letter is a proactive step in managing interactions with bailiffs. Such a letter, backed by evidence like medical records or a doctor’s note, signals to the bailiffs that they must approach with care.

This can even halt or change their processes to better accommodate the debtor’s situation. In order to reach out to them, you can find their contact details on their web page.

Can You Complain About Bailiffs?

Yes. If the bailiffs refuse to accept the evidence you provide regarding your mental health issue, make a complaint or ask an agent from Citizens Advice to communicate with them. If you’re a vulnerable individual, bailiffs should treat you with care.

This includes:

  • Bailiffs don’t have the right to enter your house if you’re alone
  • They should also provide extra time for you to find a solution
  • They should ensure that you get debt advice before taking action

You can get such advice from a debt charity. Bailiffs also don’t have the right to charge you with particular fees, saving you money. Also, in some situations, bailiffs cannot recover debts from a vulnerable person at all. You can make a complaint to the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) if they break any of these rules.

The Foundation of Fair Treatment

Remember that every individual deserves respect. Bailiffs, despite their role, aren’t exempt from this principle. They must act within a structured framework, ensuring that they don’t infringe upon the rights of the debtor.

  • Recognising Unfair Treatment: unfair treatment includes undue pressure, misinformation, or failure to provide identification upon request. Any action that diverges from the expected code of conduct can be deemed unreasonable.
  • How to Respond: If you feel that a bailiff hasn’t acted fairly, note down specifics. Dates, times, and a detailed account of what transpired can be invaluable when lodging a complaint.
Channels for Complaints

The channels for complaints are as follows:

  • Direct Communication: Sometimes, raising your concerns directly with the bailiff or the company they represent can resolve issues. They might address your concerns or even offer an apology.
  • The Creditor: If the direct approach doesn’t yield results, reach out to the creditor who employed the bailiff. Inform them of your grievances and provide any evidence you might have.
  • Higher Authorities: Bodies like the local Financial Ombudsman Service or relevant trade associations such as the FCA can be approached. They oversee bailiff actions and can hold them accountable.

Bailiffs and Mental Health: Can You Get Debt Written Off Due to Mental Health?

No, there are no laws that say creditors or a company should write off your debt if you suffer from a long-term mental health issue. But in some cases, the creditor might decide to write off a small portion of the debt of a person who is vulnerable. So, it’s a creditor’s decision.

Debts aren’t just about money. They’re about lives, futures, and mental well-being. Creditors understand this. As such, they occasionally make concessions for those whose mental health severely hampers their ability to repay.

  • Case-by-Case Basis: Not all situations warrant debt cancellation. It’s essential to understand that these decisions are often taken after careful consideration, looking at the debtor’s overall well-being, the feasibility of future repayments, and the debt size.
  • Initiating the Conversation: If you believe that your mental health is a significant factor, it’s vital to communicate this to the creditor. Be transparent, provide evidence, and help them see the bigger picture.
  • Seeking Mediation: If discussing this directly with the creditor feels overwhelming, intermediaries or counsellors specialising in debt management can step in. They can bridge the gap, ensuring that both parties find a mutually beneficial resolution.
Can you apply for Other alternative Debt Solutions?

If you’re struggling with debt while having mental health issues and your creditor is not willing to write off some of your debt, you can take up a debt solution. There are various debt solutions available in the UK. They allow you to write off a portion of your unaffordable debt.

If you want to know if you’re eligible, feel free to fill out our online form, and our Money Advisor Team will guide you. Note that while taking up the right debt solution can help you to write off debt, the wrong one will be expensive and even worsen your situation. So choose wisely with some guidance from a professional.

Some debt solutions you can take up include:

Facing debts can be daunting. Add to it the challenges of mental health, and it might seem insurmountable. But remember, there are paths, rights, and options available. Understanding them is the first step to regaining control.

Bailiff FAQs

  • What if I don’t pay bailiffs? Not addressing them can lead to further actions, including the potential sale of belongings.
  • Can bailiffs force an entry? In most situations, they can’t, only under specific circumstances, like unpaid criminal fines.
  • What are they not allowed to do? They cannot harass, threaten, or use physical force. They also can’t take essentials like clothing or bedding.

Debt and Mental Health Support

Debt and mental health challenges can feel isolating, but numerous agencies and services can offer guidance and support. From compiling evidence to approaching creditors and understanding your rights, these bodies offer a lifeline. Reach out, and don’t face the challenges alone.

So, if you want some guidance regarding bailiffs and mental health, feel free to reach out to:

  • StepChange
  • National Debtline
  • Citizens Advice
  • PayPlan
  • Christians Against Poverty

Glossary of Terms That you need to be aware of

  • Bailiffs: Court-appointed agents responsible for recovering debts.
  • Creditor: An entity or individual to whom money is owed.
  • Notice of Enforcement: A formal letter indicating the start of enforcement actions.
  • Vulnerable person: Someone with unique challenges, like mental health concerns, which merit special consideration.

Key Points

  • The connection between bailiffs and mental health is as follows: Dealing with bailiffs can be especially overwhelming for individuals grappling with mental health issues, emphasising the need for added protection and understanding in such situations.
  • A significant portion of UK citizens may qualify for a legal debt write-off, making it essential to understand one’s rights and available solutions.
  • There’s a prominent correlation between debt and mental health. Half of those in debt report experiencing mental health concerns, while a quarter of individuals with mental health issues are simultaneously navigating the challenges of debt.
  • Enforcement agents, commonly known as bailiffs, have a specific procedure they must follow. This begins with a Notice of Enforcement and, if not addressed, can escalate to the seizure of possessions.
  • Those with mental health concerns are often classified as ‘vulnerable‘. By notifying the bailiff’s company and providing substantial evidence, such as medical documentation, these individuals can receive more considerate treatment.
  • Although no legislation mandates the write-off of debts exclusively due to mental health challenges, creditors, understanding the delicate balance between mental health and financial pressures, might provide more lenient repayment options or even consider forgiving smaller debts.
  • If bailiffs do not adhere to stipulated norms or engage in unfair practices, individuals have the right and channels to lodge complaints, ensuring their rights are not infringed upon.

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