Bailiffs are responsible for ensuring requests made by courts or companies are acted upon. This includes collecting debts, ensuring summons to court are carried out, and ensuring documents are passed on to relevant members of the public.
Bailiffs are also known as enforcement officers, bailiff debt collectors and enforcement agents. Bailiffs in Scotland are called Sheriff Officers or Messengers At Arms, while bailiffs in Northern Ireland have largely been replaced by registered debt collection agencies who contact individuals as an organisation, rather than sending a representative.
What is a bailiff?
There are two types of bailiffs: public bailiffs, and private bailiffs. Public bailiffs are civil servants, connected to the court in England and Wales. They’re guided by requests from the court, such as delivering court summons, visiting individuals to collect money owed (such as a council tax bailiff), and seizing property to account for debts. Private bailiffs work independently for companies to collect debts such as parking fines, delayed rent and more. They act with the same responsibilities and legal approval as public bailiffs.
Being a bailiff does not require a degree to get started.
Where you work will depend on whether you work within civil law, connected to the court, or for a private company. You’ll likely work in an office space primarily, tracking payments and keeping records, but you’ll be expected to travel to different addresses to deliver orders, seize goods, and request payments.
Both civil and private bailiffs carry out similar duties. You can expect to carry out the following tasks regularly:
- Arrange for seized items to be sold at bailiff auctions.
- Attend court to get permission for a legal bailiff eviction.
- Contact people who owe money to request that their debts be paid.
- Deliver court papers and court summons.
- Evicting tenants and securing households that are now empty.
- If letters or emails haven’t worked, visiting debtors to collect money.
- Keep track of debtors, and update senior staff as to their progress of payment.
- Offer financial advice for those struggling to pay debts, supporting the repayment process.
- Take physical possessions to recover owed money using a robust knowledge of what bailiffs can take (not items individuals need for work, for example).
A bailiff salary begins at £18,000 for a trainee. If you go down the apprenticeship route, your salary will be dependent on your age, and how far into your apprenticeship you are. The apprentice hourly rate for individuals aged 19 and under or in their first year is £4.81 per hour. If you are over 19 and past the first year, expect to receive minimum wage.
With experience and progression, you could earn up to £40,000 a year. This might be through taking on leadership positions like managing other junior bailiffs, or overseeing a particular area of bailiff work in your region.
If you choose to go down more senior routes or transfer to working directly for businesses, your salary might be even higher than this. This is especially true for a high court enforcement officer salary. Credit controller roles, which previous bailiffs sometimes transfer to, fetch salaries begin at £27,000 and range up to £35,000.
Being a bailiff does not require a degree to get started. Your options to join the profession are via an apprenticeship or direct on-the-job training with an employer.
If you choose the apprenticeship route, you’ll want to search for a credit control and debt collection advanced apprenticeship. You’ll need 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (or A*- C) including English and Maths in order to apply for this course. Choosing this route is especially appealing for many people, as you’ll not only leave with experience but a registered qualification.
Training and development largely happens as you progress in bailiff jobs.
Alternatively, you might choose to train directly with an employer. You’ll want some experience of working in a pressured environment with members of the public to prove that you’re capable of handling difficult situations. Examples of this include working in the military, healthcare, education and even customer service. This route is often more popular for individuals who have already been in work, as it does attract a higher rate of pay than the apprenticeship route.
Whether you go down the apprenticeship or direct application route, you’ll want to make sure that your training includes a Bailiff General Certificate. This is what certifies you to exert bailiff powers legally, without the support of another bailiff. To get the certificate, you’ll need to show that you do not have a criminal record or any debt of your own, that you have a working knowledge of bailiff law, two references, and you’ll need to give a £10,000 bond to the English or Welsh court, which can be covered by an insurance policy.
Training and development
Training and development largely happens as you progress in bailiff jobs. Whether you start as an apprentice or a trainee with an employer, you have the opportunity to rise through the ranks and manage newer bailiffs, as well as oversee different areas of bailiff work.
Most trainee bailiff jobs involve lots of observation of seniors, so you’ll learn a lot as you go. The same goes for trainee enforcement officers.
You’re unlikely to be able to access work experience shadowing a bailiff if you’re not already in training.
There are also several organisations bailiffs choose to join in order to access training and development opportunities. You can become a member of the Enforcement Services Association, which requires a written exam for entry, or the Civil Enforcement Association, who work collaboratively to shape policy around the profession. Both of these organisations will offer you opportunities to learn more about your profession, and explore ways to develop your career. Membership of these organisations also looks great on your CV and can help your application when applying for more senior roles.
The majority of the skills required to begin training as a bailiff link to managing stressful situations.
- An ability to stay calm under pressure, and record the worth of seized goods.
- Resilience in representing the requirements of the court or private organisations to individuals who may be distressed.
- A good knowledge of public safety, especially around court orders, or recognising when a situation escalates and requires police support, such as collecting debts from a distressed tenant.
- A good knowledge of the legal system, such as ensuring a home has been secured after tenants have been evicted.
- Having confidence in signposting to other agencies, such as sharing information on money support, such as tracking debts, summons and debts.
- Sensitivity to the circumstances of individuals.
- An ability to keep well-organised records.
You’re unlikely to be able to access work experience shadowing a bailiff if you’re not already in training. This is because you would be handling sensitive information without the security of an employment contract or a General Certificate.
The kind of work experience that will serve you well in applying to train as a bailiff will show an ability to work well under pressure, especially with members of the public. Knowledge of working within set laws or policies, representing a larger body such as a business, and following regulations would also be really beneficial. This could be military experience, working in education and with young people, or even working in customer service. The key is being able to demonstrate that you’re capable of remaining calm in situations where a client or customer is upset, without taking personal offence.
As you build up experience, you could take on a leadership role. This might look like leading a team of bailiffs or taking on more senior positions within your area or firm.
Where you work will depend on whether you work within civil law, connected to the court, or for a private company.
You might also find that your time learning about bailiff law inspires you to pursue a legal career or one in business. If you didn’t already have a degree, you might choose to start a degree in the following areas. Bailiff work would set you in great stead for university applications for the following courses:
Some bailiffs choose to take a more senior position after several years in the profession, and go on to train for high court enforcement jobs. This takes two years and includes both shadowing, on-the-job training, and academic study.
If you enjoy the credit management side of bailiff work, you might choose to move from the profession over to working in debt collection for a larger company, such as a law firm, or part of a finance department. These kinds of roles can also attract higher salaries, depending on what firm you work for.