Bailiffs are Ministerial Officers in charge of the delivery of exploits and execute court orders such as the confiscation of goods.

A ministerial officer is a person appointed by the King (in practice by the Public Federal Service Justice) and entrusted with specific public service tasks. Notaries and bailiffs are ministerial officers in Belgium.

This system where a self-employed (self-remunerated) person is empowered by the State to use force is not applied all over the European Union but only in Czech Republic, Estonia, France, Greece, Netherlands (except for taxes), Poland, Romania, Slovakia and UK (partially). In those countries, bailiffs are strictly controlled. In Belgium, the control of bailiffs is lax and leaves room for abuse.

See proposition of law DOC 54 0702/001 – 2. Acknowledged abuse: (freely summarized from Dutch-French) ”It is evident that a small number of bailiffs accounting for a large part of amicable bailiff debt collection have a very peculiar interpretation of the Law. Some don’t mind acting bluntly illegally where others act more subtly however abusively with the view to boost their personal income.”

A citizen chooses freely his notary public. However, when confronted with a bailiff, the latter is chosen by the creditor (in debt matters) with the view to maximize income. This situation may drive some bailiffs to ignore their duty of neutrality and independence.

In other countries, bailiffs are civil servants: Austria, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Spain, Sweden. Outside the EU: Argentina, Brazil, Chile, China, Egypt, India, Korea, Norway, Switzerland, UAE, Ukraine, etc.

If you are confronted with an unpleasant bailiff, send a complaint to the Belgian Consumer Mediation Service. If not a consumer, send it to the Public Federal Service Justice with copy to the Public Federal Service Economy.

Updated 11/04/2016

Definitions provided under this section refer to the Belgian situation; unless specified otherwise. The texts are meant to summarize concepts in daily language and should not be considered as comprehensive or definite. We welcome suggestions for modifications or additions at