The stress has really been mounting up recently. Payday is just around the corner but as soon as the payment hits your bank account, almost all of it will go straight back out again.
Income tax for HMRC. Council tax to the local authority. Rent and utilities to your landlord. And the worst of it – hefty payments towards clearing the massive build-up of debt on store cards and finance purchases, topped off with a heavy load of interest.
Your credit report is in tatters and you’re dreading the day that court action might be taken. You had a threatening letter recently telling you that the debt collectors are on their way. What will they do? What can they do? Can debt collectors come to your house in Scotland?
It is important to know your rights and responsibilities when it comes to dealing with debt collectors. In this article, we’ll define what a debt collector is, whether they can come to your home, what powers they have, what you should do if they come to your home, and what to do if you run into issues with them.
What are debt collectors?
When a creditor has exhausted most of their methods for collecting the debt you owe them, they might employ the services of a debt collector to get the ball rolling on repayments.
The role of the debt collector is simply to contact you – via phone, email, letters, or in person – to get you to pay the debt you owe your creditor.
Sometimes, your creditors may sell the debt you owe to a debt collection agency, meaning you are indebted to the agency. In this case, the debt collector will be acting on behalf of the agency to claim back the debt, rather than your original creditor.
Can debt collectors come to your house in Scotland?
Debt collectors can and do visit people’s homes to encourage them to pay back their debt, but it is generally not the first course of action for a creditor or debt collection agency.
Sending a debt collector to your home is one of the most costly options for creditors when trying to collect debts. It is far more cost-effective to send a letter, email, or pick up the phone. They are trying to make as much money as they can, so sending out a debt collector in-person is eating into their profits.
Sometimes, creditors and debt collection agencies will send you warnings informing you that they will be sending debt collectors to your home, even if they have no intention of following through.
Whilst there is a good chance that debt collectors may not visit your home, it’s important to always be prepared in case they do ring your doorbell.
What powers do debt collectors have?
Debt collection agencies in the UK are licensed and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), meaning they have to abide by a set of guidelines for how they can operate. Their debt collectors have to follow certain rules of conduct.
Since debt collectors have to follow certain protocols, it is easier to learn what their tactics are and to know what your rights are so you can stay calm and in control.
Debt collectors are allowed to visit your home, email, phone, or write letters to you to request you repay your debts. They have no legal recourse to force payment, so their rights end at sending you reminders for payment.
Debt collectors should not be confused with sheriff officers (as they are referred to in Scotland – bailiffs in England). Sheriff officers are appointed by the sheriff court via a court order. Debt collectors are appointed by independent agencies so do not have the same level of power.
If you have watched the likes of “Can’t Pay, We’ll Take It Away” on Channel 5, you might be having panicked visions of angry men thumping on your door, geared up to take all your possessions when you are out and unsuspecting. This programme features bailiffs with the legal power to do so, whereas in Scotland, the sheriff officer cannot force entry when you are not present, unless they are enforcing an eviction.
Debt collectors are not allowed to:
Enter your home without permission – you don’t even have to answer the door to them.
Visit you during “unusual hours”, this being before 8am or after 9pm.
Refuse to show you their ID.
Refuse to leave your home if you ask them to.
Create fake court orders.
Contact or harass you on social media.
Imply that non-payment is criminal activity and that legal action will be taken against you.
Contact you excessively, phoning multiple times a day.
Visit your workplace.
Speak about your debt with others, such as your neighbours, work colleagues, or flatmates.
Pretend to be a sheriff officer (bailiff).
Seize any property inside or outside of your home.
Threaten you verbally or physically.
As you can see, the list of restrictions on debt collectors is much larger than their list of rights. This should put some of your anxiety at ease if you are expecting a visit from a debt collector soon.
What should I do if a debt collector comes to my home?
If a debt collector comes to your home, it’s important that you don’t do anything that you are not 100% comfortable with. If you don’t want them to enter your home, do not let them. Calmly ask them to leave and they must respect your wishes.
When debt collectors are sent to your home, whilst they don’t have many rights to force payment, you should still reach out to your creditors or debt collection agency to ask them to stop sending future debt collectors to your home.
You can write to your creditor and request that they limit their communications to either phone, email, or post.
Even if you are comfortable with a debt collector visiting your home, it is wise that you don’t organise payment in-person. It is sensible to pay creditors directly rather than via the debt collector so you can be sure that you have a proper paper trail of receipts and updated invoices as evidence if you run into future issues.
By sending the debt collector away, you can give yourself more time to review the details of your debt arrangement with a professional. If you enter negotiations with or simply repay the debt collector, you could find yourself in a tricky situation where you commit to a payment plan you cannot afford.
What should I do if I experience problems with a debt collector?
If you believe your debt collector has broken the rules of acceptable conduct, you can take action.
The first thing you should do if you experience problems with a debt collector is to keep a trail of evidence. Keep records of their phone calls, emails, letters, and note the details of their visits to your home and their name. This will all help you make a case for harassment if they have stepped over the line.
Many banks, building societies and credit card companies will be members of trade bodies like Credit Services Association which have a code of conduct, so their debt collectors must also follow this code. Creditors must listen to and acknowledge your concerns if you are having issues. You can complain to your creditor directly in writing about the conduct of their debt collectors.
As a final resort, if your creditor does not take action against a rogue debt collector, you can apply to the Financial Ombudsman Service to report them and seek help.
So, can debt collectors come to your house in Scotland? The answer, in short, is yes, they can. It’s important to recognise, however, that debt collectors have no legal power to enter your home or force repayment, and are bound by strict regulations to prevent them from harassing, intimidating, or threatening you.
If you have already, or are expecting a visit from a debt collector, this is a clear sign that you need to seek debt help. At Scottish Debt Experts, our Glasgow-based team of debt advice and solutions experts are happy to help you through your debt struggles. We have a range of debt solutions like a Trust Deed or Debt Arrangement Scheme (DAS) to allow you to prioritise, condense and pay back as much of your debt as possible in manageable instalments so you can get back on track and restore your credit rating.
You can reach us by phone or email and we will arrange to call you back within 24 hours. Email us at email@example.com or call us at 0141 483 7477 between 9am-5pm Monday to Friday.
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