THERE are times when many people in our midst are unable to pay their debts, whatever it may be for. And one day these people end up facing the bailiff, who is someone appointed by the court to collect
debt from the defaulter. But people also need to know how to deal with bailiffs if they contact or visit them, and what their rights and obligations are. While there are many issues facing people in their daily lives, facing
a bailiff for non-payment of your debts is another problem affecting many every day. Today, we look at some of the rights of a person when dealing with a bailiff and what he/she can do and not do.
SOME people avoid taking telephone calls while others even hide.
These are usually those people who are in debt and try to avoid facing the bailiff.
People know that bailiffs can seize their property but many do not know that a bailiff can make a seizure only if ordered by the court.
To name a few, unpaid debts can be arrears from credit companies like those selling items on hire-purchase, unpaid income taxes, rent owed, unpaid child maintenance or court fines.
According to the country's consumer watchdog, bailiffs practicing in Fiji must have a certificate from the court.
It can either be a general certificate authorising the bailiff to recover unpaid rent from tenants in Fiji or a special certificate which is only for a particular distress authorising the bailiff to remove tenants from a property for unpaid rent.
The Consumer Council of Fiji says a bailiff must have the legal authority to collect the debt on behalf of the creditor and those used by the court will act on either a "distress warrant" or a "liability order".
"Bailiffs do not have the right to force their way into your home to seize your goods. They only have a right to 'peaceful entry'," said the council's information unit. This means that they can't use force to enter your home, for example by breaking a window or a door.
"However, they can enter your property through an open door or window and can climb over fences and gates but can't break them down.
"You don't have to let a bailiff into your house.
"If all your doors and windows are securely closed, they won't be able to gain peaceful entry to your house unless you let them in."
The council's information unit said bailiffs were well aware of their limited powers and may use a variety of means to gain entry, like asking to use your telephone to check if an arrangement was satisfactory with their office.
"They can simply ask you if you would prefer to discuss matters inside.
"You don't have to go along with any of these tactics. You are still the owner of the house.
"Bailiff's order to recover debts does not have the power to have you arrested or imprisoned.
"However, if there's a court order, then it's advisable that you respect and follow the court order because failure to do so would be seen as contempt of court and you can be charged and taken to court."