How to complain about a bailiff
You may also be able to get compensation for how you have been treated. For this, you might need to take legal action against either the bailiffs or the authority that sent them. Contact your local advice agency if you are thinking of doing this. They should be able to help you work out if you’re entitled to legal aid, and how you should do it.
Clearly, no one, including a bailiff, is allowed to be violent to you. If a bailiff is violent when they visit, you should call the police straight away or as soon as possible afterwards. They can be charged with assault, just like anybody else.
What to do
Write a letter to the Bailiffs and the authority that uses them. Explain what happened and give details, for example, if you or other people in your home felt threatened by the bailiff's behaviour. Give times and dates of any incidents. Keep a copy of the letter, and make a note of the date you sent it.
Who to complain to
Complaints about the actions of a bailiff should be made to the bailiff firm and the legal body or authority that uses them.
If your problem is about county court bailiffs collecting a debt with a bank or a business, you make your complaint to the Manager of the county court.
If it’s bailiffs collecting Council Tax, complain to the Council.
If the bailiffs were sent to collect criminal fines, complain to the Clerk of the Justices of the Magistrates' Court.
It can be a good idea to send a copy of the letters you write and receive to your local Councillor or Member of Parliament (MP).
If your complaint is not dealt with after the first letter, write again explaining why you are not satisfied, and what you want done. If you don’t get a response to your first letter within a reasonable time (a month, say), write again, repeating your first complaint and adding that you have not received a reply to your first letter.
If you are not happy with the response to your second letter, you may decide that there is no point in writing again. But don't give up! You may have several other options.
If the problem is with bailiffs sent by the council, give the council a ring; some councils have procedures that say who you can take your complaint to if you are unhappy with the council's response. If they don’t, you could visit your local councillor. If he/she agrees that the council hasn't dealt with your complaint properly (or at all!), they can write on your behalf, or take your case up personally with the council department you are complaining about.
If this does not work, you should consider making an application to a local government ombudsman. A local advice agency may be able to help you with this. The ombudsman will investigate your case and may award compensation or order to council to issue an apology and put matters right. You will have to show the ombudsman that you have given the council a 'reasonable opportunity' to resolve the complaint, which means that you must wait at least 12 weeks between making your first complaint and contacting the ombudsman (see links on right).
If the problem is with private bailiffs, you should also consider making a complaint to the county court that licensed the bailiff. Bailiffs collecting council tax, business rates and road traffic fines must hold a county court certificate. A bailiffs' certificate is granted on the basis that the person is 'fit and proper' and knows the law, so if they have abused their position and acted against the law you should tell the court that issued it. Even if you don't go ahead with making a complaint, this is sometimes a useful thing to threaten when asking the bailiff to deal with your complaint seriously. See About Bailiffs and Enforcement Officers under 'Links to other websites' for further information. You can also check if the bailiff who visited you has a certificate and from which court - see 'Links to other websites'.
You could also complain to a bailiff's professional association (you can do this as well as taking any of the other types of action - though this may just make things complicated for you). You can only complain to an association that the bailiff is a member of - their letterhead should tell you this. This is likely to be the Civil Enforcement Association (you can contact them on 0844 893 3922). You can complain about a High Court Enforcement Officer to their professional body, the High Court Enforcement Officers’ Association - see 'Links to other websites'.