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Bailiff

A bailiff is responsible for enforcing court orders and the collection of money and assets to cover debt owed by individuals or businesses. There are two main types of bailiff:

  • county court bailiffs or high court enforcement officers are civil servants who enforce court orders
  • private and certificated bailiffs, who work for civil enforcement agencies, who are employed to enforce the collection of unpaid council tax and business rates, unpaid penalty charge notices, outstanding Child Support payments and unpaid fines from magistrates' courts. They work on behalf of clients, including local authorities, government departments and private landlords

Day-to-day duties may include:

  • writing letters to debtors requesting payment and helping them set up instalment payments
  • formally delivering court papers to debtors
  • collecting money and estimating the value of goods owned by the debtor
  • arranging the repossession of goods where loan payments have not been kept up.

Bailiffs work 37 to 40 hours a week. They need to be flexible in the hours worked, as early morning and evening work is common. They may work alone, on smaller cases, or in teams. There are opportunities for part-time work.

Salaries may range from £13,000 to £25,000 a year for certified bailiffs, but could reach up to £50,000 a year.

A bailiff should have:

  • exceptional communication skills
  • discretion, tact and diplomacy
  • the ability to be calm, assertive and persuasive
  • a high level of personal responsibility
  • life experience, to have empathy with debtors
  • an interest in finance and the law.

Certificated or private bailiffs work for private companies. County court bailiffs and high court enforcement officers are civil servants employed by Her Majesty's Courts Service (HMCS). The outlook for bailiffs is very stable. There are self-employment opportunities.

No formal entry qualifications are required to enter training. Employers will look for good numeracy and literacy skills and may expect a minimum of five GCSEs (A*-C), including English and maths. The Diploma in business, finance and administration and the Diploma in public services (available September 2010) may be relevant for this work.

Applicants need to show that they do not have a debt or criminal record. County Court Judgement (CCJ) and Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) checks are carried out. A certificated bailiff needs a Bailiff's General Certificate. Applications have to be made through the county courts.

Training for bailiffs is mainly on the job and varies widely between employers. There may be opportunities to attend short courses on specific aspects of the work such as conflict resolution.

County court civil servant bailiffs may be promoted to bailiff manager, move sideways into another civil service function or move into the private sector. The progression route in private companies is usually to senior bailiff, assistant manager and manager.

What is the work like?

Bailiffs, also known as enforcement officers, are responsible for enforcing court orders and collecting money or assets to cover debts that people or businesses owe.

There are two main types of bailiff:

  • county court bailiffs or high court enforcement officers are civil servants who enforce court orders. They deliver legal documents, such as summonses, to houses and businesses.
  • private and certificated bailiffs work for civil enforcement agencies and are employed to enforce the collection of unpaid council tax and business rates, unpaid penalty charge notices, outstanding Child Support payments and unpaid fines from magistrates' courts. They work on behalf of clients, which may include local authorities, government departments and private landlords. In all these cases, there will be some form of warrant of execution or court order, empowering the bailiff to seize property if full payment is not made.

A bailiff's day-to-day duties may include:

  • writing letters to debtors requesting payment
  • offering money management advice
  • negotiating arrangements between the debtor and client to repay the debt in instalments
  • formally delivering court papers to debtors
  • collecting money and estimating the value of goods owned by the debtor
  • repossessing goods and property
  • arranging for recovered goods to be sold off at auction
  • maintaining accurate records
  • taking responsibility for any money or items seized.

Bailiffs must at all times adhere to strict laws and guidelines regarding their activities. For instance, they must not seize the tools of a person's trade or use force to enter homes, unless they have been issued with a warrant by the courts to recover goods to cover a debt (levied goods).

Hours and environment

Bailiffs typically work between 37 and 40 hours a week. They need to be flexible in their hours worked, in order to make direct contact with people at home before they leave for work or when they return home. Early morning and evening work is common. They may work alone (on smaller cases) or in teams. There are part-time work opportunities.

Although bailiffs usually have an office base, they spend a large proportion of their time travelling to visit debtors. Smart business dress is usual. The work may involve lifting and carrying goods.

Salary and other benefits

These figures are only a guide, as actual rates may vary, depending on the employer and where people live.

  • Trainee or uncertificated bailiffs in private firms may earn around £13,000 a year.
  • A newly certificated bailiff in private firms may earn between £16,000 and £25,000 a year.
  • Salaries for bailiffs within the court service are typically around £20,000.
  • Fully certificated and experienced enforcement bailiffs could potentially earn up to £50,000 a year or more.

Pay structures vary widely. Some private firms offer a basic salary, plus some form of commission or performance-related incentives. Civil servants may receive a London allowance.

Skills and personal qualities

Bailiffs need to have:

  • exceptional communication skills
  • the ability to deal discreetly with a variety of people
  • tact, diplomacy and good negotiation skills
  • a calm yet assertive manner when faced with confrontational situations
  • good judgement and the ability to use initiative
  • a good understanding of legal guidelines, so they act within the law
  • basic numeracy skills for calculating repayments and assessing the value of goods
  • attention to detail and good organisational skills for maintaining and managing records
  • a reasonable level of physical fitness
  • self-motivation, as most bailiffs work in relatively small teams and are often accountable for their own workloads
  • a high level of personal responsibility, particularly when handling cash and high value goods
  • a mature attitude to better enable empathy with individuals in difficult personal circumstances.

Interests

It is important to have an interest in:

  • finance and the law
  • helping a wide variety of people.

Getting in

Certificated or private bailiffs work for private companies. County court bailiffs and high court enforcement officers are civil servants employed by Her Majesty's Courts Service (HMCS). In both areas, there are job opportunities in most cities and large towns. The outlook for bailiffs remains fairly stable. There are also opportunities to work on a self-employed basis.

Jobs for private bailiffs are advertised in national and local papers and on financial and legal recruitment websites. Vacancies for court service bailiffs are advertised on the Civil Service recruitment website and the HMCS website.

Entry routes

There are no formal entry requirements to enter training as a bailiff. Personal qualities, such as strong people skills, are more important.

Good numeracy skills are needed for calculating and helping clients prepare budgets. Literacy skills are equally important for drafting correspondence and reports. As a result, employers may expect a minimum of five GCSEs (A*-C), including English and maths. Normal Civil Service recruitment procedures apply to candidates for bailiff positions in the courts service.

Employers require applicants to show that they do not have a debt or criminal record and will require a County Court Judgement (CCJ) check. To work with vulnerable adults, applicants need to undergo checks through the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB).

A full driving licence is usually essential.

Those applying to become a certificated bailiff, which is required if collecting rent arrears, council tax or parking fines, need a Bailiff's General Certificate. The application for this is available from county courts and applicants would need:

  • to prove to a county court judge that they are a fit and proper person, without a criminal or debt record, and possess sufficient knowledge of the law
  • to provide two references
  • to obtain a security bond of £10,000, which may be used to pay compensation if a judge finds that the bailiff has acted unlawfully.

Speaking a minority language may be desirable in some communities. Any experience of working in areas like consumer advice, credit management or debt recovery can be useful. Qualifications in law, guidance or public administration may also help.

The Diploma in business, finance and administration and the Diploma in public services (available September 2010) may be relevant for this area of work.

Training

Training for bailiffs is mainly on the job and varies widely between employers. County court bailiffs would receive induction training on starting their job, followed by continuous in-house training from HMCS.

There may be opportunities to attend short courses on specific aspects of the work, such as conflict resolution, in order to progress in the role. This training may also include working towards certification to gain the Bailiff's General Certificate. One way to gain the necessary legal knowledge is to study for the Enforcement Services Association (ESA) exam.

Bailiffs can become members of the ESA. They must pass the ESA's written examination. All members are required to comply with the ESA's code of practice.

Bailiffs can also join the Association of Civil Enforcement Agencies (ACEA). They must satisfy the ACEA that they have received adequate training or sufficient experience as a certificated bailiff with a recognised company who will support their application. They must also comply with the ACEA code of practice.

Certificated bailiffs must reapply for the Bailiff's General Certificate every two years.

Getting on

There are various promotional opportunities. County court civil servant bailiffs may be promoted to bailiff manager, move into another civil service function, such as credit management or move into the private sector.

In private bailiff companies, promotion is usually to senior bailiff, assistant manager and then manager.

Further information

Association of Civil Enforcement Agencies (ACEA), 513 Bradford Road, Batley, West Yorkshire WF17 8LL. 01924 350090. Website: www.acea.org.uk

Civil Service Recruitment. Website: www.civilservice.gov.uk/jobs

Enforcement Services Association (ESA), Park House, 10 Park Street, Bristol BS1 5HX. 0117 907 4771. Website: www.ensas.org.uk

Her Majesty's Courts Service (HMCS), 102 Petty France, London SW1H 9AJ. 0845 456 8770. Website: www.hmcourts-service.gov.uk

Skills for Justice, Centre Court, Atlas Way, Sheffield S4 7QQ. 0114 261 1499. Website: www.skillsforjustice.com

Contains public sector information licensed under the Open Government Licence v1.0.

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