Being chased for someone else's debt? Here are your rights

A reader from personal finance site loveMONEY explains how she is being targeted by debt collectors, who are looking for the previous owner of her home. Paula Higgins from Homeowners Alliance speaks to a bailiff lawyer for some advice.

Love Money
Last updated: 7 March 2018 - 12.24pm

I bought my house last summer. Since then I have had a serious problem with debt collectors and bailiffs looking for the previous owner.

It's been really stressful, infuriating and at times quite scary, and there is very little information out there about what to do when it's not your debt.

I have tried everything I can think of to stop the problem but it has had little effect.

My main concern is that it seems that for some types of debts the bailiffs will have right to enter the property to remove goods with a locksmith – including for some of the debts he has.

If I am here to speak to them directly I can stop them, but if I am not in or away, they could do just that.

In my exasperation, I have even asked Twitter for advice and got loads of responses from people who have had it happen to them so clearly it’s not that uncommon a problem.

[Read more: Mortgage debt timebomb is about to explode

Help from the loveMONEY Expert Panel

Paula Higgins, chief executive of the Homeowners Alliance (pictured right) offers her views on this distressing situation that could easily happen to any of us.

"I’m sorry to hear about the trouble you’re having and I can understand why you’re feeling exasperated.

I spoke with John Kruse, an expert in bailiff law about your situation. 

As you are probably aware, debt collection agencies have no legal powers other than to write and (very rarely) to send a door to door collector.

John suggests sending them a copy of the new Council Tax bill and/or details of the sale and that really ought to deal with the problem. The debt collection agencies have no legal power of entry at all.

Regarding bailiffs’ rights of entry, and despite whatever notices from the bailiff may say, there is no right to force initial entry and no right to enter a third party's premises except with a court order (at the hearing of which the bailiffs would have to convince the court that there was evidence that the debtor had left goods behind in new resident’s home). 

Such an application is very unlikely because it will cost the bailiffs money up front and I can't imagine that they would ever risk it. 

Again, in all cases, providing the bailiff company or the original creditor with details of the change of owner ought to be enough to sort the problem out. 

It’s advisable to put this in writing to the company/creditor with supporting documents. Just telling the bailiff on the doorstep is almost always less successful – and more stressful!

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The views expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect those of BT. 

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