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Dealing with potential consequences of debt

If you can’t repay your debts, you may have to deal with the potential consequences, so it’s important that you’re prepared.

Dealing with bailiffs

Bailiffs will take possessions from people who owe money. They will sell the possessions and use the money to pay back the debt.

You don’t usually have to let bailiffs in and they can’t use force. However, if you don’t agree to pay them, they can charge you more fees or take things from outside your house, such as your car.

Bailiffs can take luxury items (e.g. a TV or games console) but not essential items (e.g. your clothes or fridge), and they can’t take someone else’s belongings.

They will charge you for the visit, but you can make a complaint if you think you were overcharged.

Before you pay a bailiff or let them in, ask for ID and a breakdown of their charges, and make sure you get a receipt for everything they take.

You should get advice or contact your creditor immediately, because you may be able to prevent further action by negotiating or making a payment.

Dealing with court action

Your creditor must send a warning letter before taking you to court. Contact them immediately to see if you can come to an affordable agreement to repay what you owe. Remember, your creditor will generally want to avoid going to court as much as you do, as this can be costly for them.

If you do have to attend court, make sure you turn up and put your case to the judge, especially if your home is at risk.

Some lenders will send letters that look like court papers to scare you. If you’re not sure about a letter, take it to a debt advice agency.

Dealing with energy supply disconnection

If you don’t pay your gas or electricity bill within 28 days of receiving it, you risk getting disconnected. However, your energy company must first send you a warning letter.

Households where all the members are of a pensionable age shouldn’t have their energy supply cut off between 1 October and 31 March.

If you’re having difficulty paying your energy bills, tell your supplier as soon as possible. It won’t cut you off if you agree and stick to a realistic payment plan or install a pre-payment meter.

Further information


Our Information guides are short and easy to digest, giving a comprehensive overview of the relevant topic. Factsheets are longer with more detail, and are aimed at professionals.

You can download other guides in our series from publications

For more information: Call Age UK Advice: 0800 678 1174

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