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What does a bailiff do?
A bailiff is sometimes also known as an enforcement agent, enforcement officer or High Court enforcement officer. They have the legal power to visit private homes, businesses and other locations to collect debts or serve notices, summons, court documents and other official documents. They can also evict tenants or squatters, reclaim property and seize goods if a person cannot pay their debts.
There are two types of bailiff roles:
- Court-appointed officers or bailiffs – work for the courts. They manage court assets and ensure court orders are obeyed.
- Civil enforcement agents – work for private firms on behalf of clients. They can collect money or seize goods. They can also do similar duties to court-appointed officers, e.g. serve court papers.
A bailiff’s main aim is to ensure people pay off their debts to make clients whole again by collecting payment or seizing assets. They must do it in a way that minimises conflict and stress. They also advise debtors and arrange repayment plans if debtors cannot pay in full.
Bailiffs will carry out many tasks, including writing to debtors, visiting debtors to collect a payment, applying for warrants and entering properties, seizing goods, selling confiscated goods at auction, serving court documents, arranging repayment plans, attending court, carrying out evictions, etc. The role will also encompass administrative work for record-keeping and computer work.
Bailiffs will work with many people. They usually work with other bailiffs, managers or office or departmental staff in larger organisations. They will also liaise with external stakeholders, including clients (individuals, businesses and the public sector), debtors, families and friends, recovery companies, solicitors, court staff, social services, the police, members of the public, etc.
Bailiffs commonly work in private offices or courts. Their role also involves extensive travel around the UK, as they need to visit debtors and collect payment if debtors ignore letters. They can work for different-sized companies, from large organisations such as the Civil Service to small private firms. They can also be self-employed.
A bailiff’s responsibilities will depend on many factors, including who they work for and their type of roles.
Some examples of their day-to-day duties may include (this list is not exhaustive):
- Writing to debtors or calling/emailing them to ask for payment.
- Visiting debtors’ homes or businesses to ask for payments if they do not respond.
- Tracking people down using various investigative techniques.
- Finding out whether debtors do have the means to pay their debts.
- Collecting payment by card machines or cash.
- Attending court to apply for warrants to enter properties.
- Cataloguing goods to identify what would sell at auction.
- Seizing property and goods from those who cannot pay their debts.
- Serving summonses and notices.
- Delivering court documents.
- Arranging for seized goods to be sold at auction.
- Carrying out evictions.
- Offering money advice and support.
- Arranging repayment plans for debtors who are struggling to pay the full debt.
- Monitoring payments to ensure the debtor is paying in line with their plan.
- Keeping accurate records of any actions taken.
- Planning future work.
A bailiff can expect to work 35-40 hours a week. However, they can do more or fewer hours depending on the requirements of their role. If a bailiff is self-employed, they will set their own hours.
Being a bailiff is not a 9-5 job, and those looking at entering this profession must be committed to working unsociable hours. They will usually have to work early mornings, evenings, weekends and bank holidays on shift.
Most bailiff jobs are self-employed, but there are also employment roles. There are options for full-time, part-time, permanent and temporary work. There may also be options to work flexibly, e.g. job share, hybrid and remote.
Bailiffs travel as part of their role, which may involve visiting different sites locally, regionally or nationally. Overseas work opportunities for bailiffs are uncommon.
What to expect
There is no denying that being a bailiff can be challenging at times. However, there are many positives associated with the role, especially if an individual enjoys working with people, likes travelling and is target driven.
It is a rewarding role. Being owed money can be extremely stressful for some people, e.g. a landlord with many bills and a tenant who will not pay. Therefore, even though it can be upsetting for debtors, bailiffs are important as they help to make clients whole again by collecting money owed or seizing goods to sell.
Jobs are available nationally, and there are opportunities to be employed, self-employed or freelance. With more competence, bailiffs can earn decent salaries, especially when working for themselves.
Being a self-employed bailiff and having an opportunity to be your own boss can be attractive. It can give individuals the independence to take charge of their working day and overall career progression. The start-up costs can be relatively low too, but individuals must consider this when deciding whether to be self-employed.
Boredom will never be a problem for bailiffs, as their work can be varied. With every job, they can face different demands and challenges. They will also travel extensively, visit many sites and meet people from all backgrounds.
It is a good role for less academic individuals, as it does not require a degree. However, individuals will usually need some level of education, such as GCSEs.
Even though there are positives to being a bailiff, there are challenges and cons, e.g.:
- Health and safety risks – bailiffs will face many hazards, e.g. lone working, violence and aggression from people, aggressive animals, manual handling, driving, use of tools to access properties, slips, trips and falls, work at height, confined spaces, etc. Individuals must understand the risks and how to protect themselves and others.
- Physical demands – being a bailiff is physically demanding. They will be on their feet for most of the working day, and the role involves extensive travel and often work at unsociable hours. Some work requires good physical fitness and strength. Bailiffs will work outdoors in all weather and wear protective equipment, which can be hot and uncomfortable.
- Mental demands – being a bailiff is also mentally demanding. They will deal with debtors who are sometimes stressed, upset and angry when asked to pay or if seizing goods. Therefore, it can be challenging. In some cases, debtors can be verbally abusive or get violent. There may be debtors who are vulnerable and have children, so the role can also be emotionally demanding.
- Frustrations – it can be frustrating being a bailiff sometimes, as people can ignore demands and visits and make it difficult to get payment. Some jobs are performance-related, so if payment is not received, it can mean less money earned for bailiffs.
- Checking and tracking – bailiffs usually wear body-worn cameras to monitor their conduct and adherence to certain standards. Vehicles are also typically tracked, and phone use is monitored. There is a positive to this, as monitoring can check a bailiff is safe when visiting homes and businesses.
Every career choice has pros and cons, and individuals must know what to expect before deciding whether it is for them. Bailiffs can face many hazards, and the role is physically and mentally demanding. However, there are many positives too, and those who become bailiffs enjoy their work as they help people pay their debts and make clients whole again.
When considering whether to be a bailiff and the type of role, individuals should look at the pros and cons. They should also ensure they have the right personal qualities to carry out the role and responsibilities required.
Personal qualities needed to be a bailiff
Some of the personal qualities a bailiff requires will include (this list is not exhaustive):
- Knowledge of public safety and security.
- Knowledge of the law and enforcement, including court procedures and government regulations.
- A good level of physical fitness, stamina and endurance.
- Assertive and confident.
- Tact, fairness and diplomacy.
- A lot of patience.
- Tenacious, determined and motivated.
- Discrete, sensitive, understanding, respectful and confidential.
- Approachable, honest, trustworthy, reliable, ethical and professional.
- Commercially aware to assess the value of goods.
- Excellent communication skills, both verbal and written.
- Basic maths skills.
- Negotiation skills.
- Investigation skills.
- Thinking and reasoning skills.
- Judgement skills.
- Customer service skills.
- Being thorough, accurate and having attention to detail.
- The ability to learn relevant laws.
- The ability to give financial advice.
- The ability to accept criticism.
- The ability to handle conflict and diffuse escalating situations.
- The ability to develop relationships.
- The ability to be flexible and adapt to change.
- The ability to work with different kinds of people from all walks of life.
- The ability to work well under pressure and remain confident and calm in stressful situations.
- The ability to use IT equipment, e.g. computers and hand-held devices, and relevant software packages.
- The ability to work well with others in a team and alone using their own initiative.
Qualifications and training
There are many routes to becoming a bailiff. Individuals could enrol on a private training course, do an apprenticeship or apply directly. They could also do work experience to help them enter the role.
Undertaking a training course can help individuals become bailiffs.
Some example courses that may be useful are as follows (this list is not exhaustive):
- Debt collection training (Chartered Institute of Credit Management).
- High Court enforcement officer training (the High Court Enforcement Officers Association).
Various private training providers offer bailiff, enforcement and debt recovery training. It may also be worth enrolling on low-cost online short bailiff courses to see if this career is of interest. That way, if not, it will save an individual a lot of time and trouble.
Courses do not guarantee a role as a bailiff. However, it will demonstrate to employers and companies that they are keen on the job and may give individuals a competitive edge. Always check the entry requirements before applying.
Individuals could do an apprenticeship to help them get into the role, e.g. credit control and debt collection specialist advanced apprenticeship. Individuals usually need five GCSEs, grades 9 to 4 (A* to C), including English and maths, or equivalent.
Opportunities are found on Government’s Apprenticeships, Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education and Indeed.
If individuals have some qualifications, they could apply for bailiff jobs directly. Individuals usually need GCSEs grades 9 to 4 (A* to C) or equivalent qualifications, including English and maths, for court bailiff roles.
Individuals do not always need experience, as employers will train them on the job if they have the necessary personal qualities and enthusiasm for the role. However, it would be beneficial to have a background in the police, prison service or military, or sales and customer service.
Relevant work experience, either paid or voluntary, can help individuals stand out and build their knowledge and skills.
To gain experience, they could get a job as:
- A regular or reserve in the military.
- A special in the police, a police officer or a police community support officer.
- A prison or probation officer.
- A security guard.
- An enforcement officer in other areas, e.g. parking and littering.
- Door security, close protection or maritime security.
- A field sales agent.
Individuals may be able to work with recruitment agencies on temporary contracts in enforcement, sales or customer service roles. They may also be able to apply for a job as a debt recovery agent in a contact centre.
Having any experience dealing with people in difficult situations can help. Individuals could volunteer with charities to help people with financial problems, housing or other challenging situations. There is information on volunteering and local opportunities on Do-IT, NCVO and Volunteering Matters.
Learning does not stop with experience or once someone becomes qualified. Attending relevant training courses and having additional certifications can help individuals enter the profession, enhance their employability and give them a competitive edge. Many colleges and accredited private training companies can provide relevant training courses.
Some examples of courses that may be useful for individuals looking at a career as a bailiff include (this list is not exhaustive):
- Equality and diversity.
- Work-related stress.
- Risk assessment.
- Violence at work.
- Lone working.
- Conflict management.
- COVID-19 awareness.
- Data protection and the GDPR.
- Complaints handling.
- Customer service skills.
- Time management skills.
- Resilience training.
Professional bodies and associations, such as the Chartered Institute of Credit Management (CICM), the Civil Enforcement Association (CIVEA), the High Court Enforcement Officers Association (HCEOA), National Bailiff Advice and other organisations, can also advise on reputable training courses. Some also provide memberships, events and support to help individuals become bailiffs and give those already in the profession the means to continue their professional development.
The type of training required will depend on who an individual works for and their specialisms. It is worth looking at several job advertisements to identify the training needed for roles. Jobs are on websites such as GOV.UK find a job service, Ministry of Justice jobs, Civil Service Jobs, Indeed, LinkedIn, Glassdoor, and many other sites. Also, look at recruitment agencies for enforcement roles.
More relevant training and competence (skills, experience and knowledge) will open up more opportunities for individuals. Refresher training is also advisable as it keeps an individual’s knowledge and skills up to date.
Bailiff General Certificate
Individuals must have a Bailiff General Certificate if they collect debts independently. They must work with someone who has this certificate if they do not have one of their own.
Individuals can acquire a certificate by:
- Demonstrating to the judge that they are a ‘fit and proper person’ and do not have a criminal record or debt.
- Having knowledge of debt enforcement law.
- Providing the court with a £10,000 bond which insurance can cover.
- Providing two references.
Once they get their certificate, they will be added to the Certificated Bailiff Register. They must renew it every two years.
Some companies will ask for a Security Industry Authority (SIA) licence.
To get a licence, individuals must:
- Have a ‘licence-linked’ qualification.
- Apply for an SIA licence.
- Prove their identity and meet other eligibility requirements.
- Pay a fee.
- Renew and pay a fee every three years.
There are additional responsibilities associated with being self-employed.
- Have the correct insurance, i.e. public liability, car/van and business. If employing anyone, employers’ liability insurance will be required.
- Register with HMRC.
- File tax returns.
- Register with the ICO to hold personal data (to comply with the Data Protection Act 2018 and the GDPR).
Further advice and guidance on being self-employed can be found on GOV.UK.
If an individual decides to be a self-employed bailiff, they will need to factor in certain costs, such as:
- Certifications and licences.
- Good-quality equipment and tools.
- Running a vehicle, including fuel.
Criminal records checks
Bailiffs will be required to undergo an enhanced criminal record check, as they will be representing the court.
The organisation that holds criminal records will depend on the country within the UK, for example:
- England and Wales – Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS).
- Northern Ireland – AccessNI.
- Scotland – Protecting Vulnerable Groups (PVG) scheme.
Bailiffs will need a full driving licence (preferably with no points), as they will travel to different jobs. Some employed roles may provide a company vehicle. However, if an individual is self-employed, they will need access to a suitable vehicle and have insurance, etc.
Where do bailiffs work?
Bailiffs can work for the following (this list is not exhaustive):
- Government organisations, e.g. the Ministry of Justice and HM Courts and Tribunals Service.
- Local authorities.
- Enforcement and debt recovery companies.
- Debt collection agencies.
- Judicial companies.
They can also work as a self-employed bailiff..
Bailiffs typically work in offices and courts. They will also travel extensively as part of their role to various locations around the UK. Some may work from their home base.
How much do bailiffs earn?
A bailiff’s salary will depend on their role, qualifications, experience, geographical location, employment status, working hours and specialist area.
According to Check-a-Salary (these figures are a guide only):
- Bailiffs, on average, earn a minimum of £21,227.00.
- The average bailiff salary in the UK is £22,199.91.
- Bailiffs, on average, earn a maximum of £25,475.00.
Some bailiffs are also likely to get benefits on top of their salaries, such as paid sick leave, pension and generous holiday entitlement.
The salaries for self-employed bailiffs will be variable, but they can earn more than others. They will also need to consider expenses, e.g. tax, insurance, tools and equipment, PPE and vehicle, etc.
As an apprentice, the salary will depend on an individual’s age and how long they have been in their apprenticeship. Apprentices must earn at least the current National Minimum Wage (NMW). Some employers will pay more than this. However, it will depend on the organisation and role on offer.
Types of bailiff roles to specialise in
There are many different types of bailiff roles in which to specialise, for example (this list is not exhaustive):
- County Court and Family Court bailiffs – work for the HM Courts and Tribunals Service. They enforce civil and possession judgements and serve various legal documents. They will attend court regularly and can also execute arrest warrants for contempt of court.
- High Court enforcement officers – work for the High Court. They enforce High Court judgments by chasing payments, taking control of goods or repossessing property, i.e. enforcing the Writ according to the law.
- Certificated enforcement agents – were previously known as certificated bailiffs. They are certified by the County Court but do not work directly for them. The court orders them to take control of goods and sell them to recover debts. Their certification is renewed independently every two years. They work for private enforcement agencies, local authorities and High Court enforcement officers.
- Civilian enforcement officers – also known as Approved Enforcement Agents. They enforce magistrates’ court fines and warrants for arrests.
All specialist bailiff roles require differing knowledge, skills, experience and qualities. All bailiffs must have the right personal qualities and be able to deal with challenging situations. Any additional areas of expertise will depend on what a company is looking for and a bailiff’s intended specialist areas. Further qualifications and training may be necessary for specialised roles, e.g. High Court.
If bailiffs do not carry out their roles correctly, it can mean debts not being paid, clients not getting their money back, and complaints. In serious cases, incompetence could worsen escalating situations, leading to aggression, violence, harm and even fatalities. Therefore, whatever the type of role, bailiffs must have the necessary competence to carry out the work professionally and safely. They should also know the limits of their competency, i.e. asking for help when something is beyond their expertise.
Standards, laws, products and technologies are regularly changing. Therefore, bailiffs must keep ahead of the latest developments and changes to carry out their roles effectively and correctly. Continuing professional development (CPD) gives bailiffs the knowledge and skills to keep up to date with these changes, understand their responsibilities, and progress in their careers.
Joining a professional body or association can help prospective and current bailiffs enhance their skills and overall career. They may offer different levels of membership, CPD, support and access to industry contacts and networking events.
There is ample opportunity for career progression for bailiffs. With more qualifications and experience, they could lead a team of bailiffs or become an enforcement manager. They can also decide to specialise, be self-employed, or even get involved with business development.
Knowledge, skills and experience gained from working as a bailiff can also lead to a career in different areas. For example, they could move into security, sales or other enforcement roles. If they work in and around courts, they could gain additional qualifications and work in legal services.