What is a Bailiff?
A bailiff is a legal enforcement officer who holds the jurisdiction to seize possessions and property of individuals who are unable to pay their debts. Bailiffs typically repossess assets such as homes and vehicles, with 16,142 vehicles being repossessed in the US in 2020 alone. When debts aren’t repaid, assets are taken to make up the value of what borrowers owe.
In the United States, a bailiff has a more general meaning, too. The title also refers to a court officer (e.g. sheriff, marshal, constable) who maintains order in a courtroom, known as ‘peace officers’ in states such as New York.
- A bailiff has the authority to seize your possessions and property should you fail to pay your debts as agreed.
- Repossessions in the US have to be conducted according to state laws.
- In 2020, there were 16,142 vehicle repossessions in the US.
- Homes, vehicles and other assets can be repossessed.
- If the seized assets’ value equates to less than the value owed, you will still owe the remaining value.
- Taking out a loan could help you cover urgent costs, preventing a bailiff turning up at your door. You could consider a payday loan, cash advance, guarantor loan, or asking a loved one for help.
Why Would A Bailiff Knock On My Door?
A Bailiff could be sent to seize goods from your home, repossess your home or enforce arrest warrants if you have not paid your creditors and this has been transferred to the courts to deal with.
If you have failed to repay your creditors and they have been unable to resolve this, your creditor may pass this onto the courts. The court then employs bailiffs to seize what is owed through repossessing your assets.
Hence, it is so essential to repay your debts. While defaulting on a payment may not feel important, it can result on repossession of your property.
How Would A Repossession Happen?
In the US, repossessions have to abide by state-wide laws which refer to repossession of goods if a debtor breaches a contract which involves security. In this context, security refers to something promised as a guarantee to repay a loan. If the borrower then defaults, the security (e.g. a car, home, boat) will be forfeited. This process will see a bailiff knock on your door and explain the situation, and tell you your rights and what you owe.
All US states have implemented Article 9, with some variation, of the Uniform Commercial Code which allows the repossession of securities if a debtor defaults, and the repossession can take place peacefully.
Some states have additional legislation that refer to cars. These laws offer defaulters opportunities to redeem their purchase after it has been seized, given that they repay their debts in full, usually within 10 days. Failing this, the debtor will be told that their property is going to be sold.
Is There A Grace Period?
Usually and technically, no, there is not a grace period when it comes to repaying debts and avoiding bailiffs.
While some lenders may be flexible, grace periods are non-compulsory and in no way prevent your property from being seized or sold.
How Can I Prevent Bailiffs From Knocking On My Door?
You can prevent being hit with repossession by paying your debts fully and on time. If you have entered a contract whereby you have offered a security, then you have placed yourself in a position whereby you could be visited by bailiffs.
However, if you find yourself in a situation where you cannot pay off your debt, and want to avoid a visit from bailiffs, then you have a few options.
Get A Loan
There are various forms of loans that can help you pay off debts if you find yourself in a pinch.
Family And Friends Loan
When you need a bit of flexibility, it may be best to stick close to home. By asking a loved one for a bit of financial support, you will be able to honestly and fully explain your situation, and ask them for some temporary support. This is beneficial as a loved one may be more willing to let you pay them back as and when you can. This form of loan is also typically accompanied by no-to-low interest rates, making it a cheaper way of paying off debts than attaining a high street loan.
The main perk of payday loans is how quick and simple they are to acquire. Within 24 hours of applying, you could have your money in your account, and many application processes for payday loans are carried out completely online.
Given that you are struggling to pay off your debts to begin with, it could be the case that your credit record isn’t the shiniest. If this is the case, you could apply for a no-credit-check loan, which means that your loan won’t hinge on a perfect credit record.
If you are in employment, you could approach your employer and ask for some financial support. Many employers aim to help their workers where they can. If you are struggling to repay your debt, your employer may be willing to grant you your paycheck early, which could be your saving grace and prevent your property or assets from being seized.
Who Can I Talk To About A Bailiff Visiting Me?
If you are being approached by bailiffs, or warned that you are going to be, it may be best to speak to a lawyer and/or a financial adviser to help guide you through the process and how to best deal with it.
Being threatened with asset seizure is a serious matter and you should deal with this immediately to prevent your circumstances worsening even more.
If My Property Is Repossessed, Does That Mean My Debts Are Paid?
If a bailiff repossesses your assets, it does not necessarily mean that you don’t owe your creditor anything. It will, in most cases, depend upon the value of your property.
For example, let’s say you owe $500,000. You have failed to pay any of this back and are now visited by a bailiff. You own a studio apartment that is worth $400,000. The bailiff may seize your apartment and sell it, as this was the security in your contract. Even so, they are still in deficit of $100,000 – called ‘the deficiency’, that you will need to pay back.
However, the value that the property is sold at must at least sit at fair market value.