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What can bailiffs take?

Some bailiffs have the power to take items from your home or business. What they can take is very much dependent on what type of bailiff they are and who they’re working on behalf of. Although some bailiffs do have the power to take items, what they take can vary.

What is a bailiff?

Bailiffs are agents instructed to retrieve debts on behalf of either a creditor or the courts. Different types of bailiffs have varying degrees of power.

A high court enforcement officer (HCEO) or a debt collector. All enforcement agents must be fully certified with a Bailiff General Certificate from the county court, or with someone who is certified whenever they attempt to collect a debt. A HCEO is appointed by the court and collects debts on behalf of the courts. They will usually collect debts such as CCJs, VAT income tax, national insurance, court fees and unpaid council tax.

A debt collector is employed by a private company. The most significant and most important difference between debt collectors and enforcement agents, is that a debt collector has no special legal powers to collect a debt, whereas an enforcement agent does. A debt collector has no power to seize goods without your agreement.

What can they take

What HCEOs can take either from a business or residential premise is limited and only items which can be sold at auction will be taken. Although it might seem as though items are taken on a whim, enforcement officers won’t take items punitively, only luxury possessions which they believe can sell at auction will be taken. These are luxury items such as televisions, consoles, tablets, jewellery.

What can’t they take

Enforcement agents can take items if they are making a return visit with after firstly making a ‘controlled goods agreement’, or if they have a ‘writ’ from the courts. In a case like this, where enforcement agents have the right to take goods, there are only certain assets they are allowed to take. The following items are excluded:

  • Items that belong to other people – this includes things that belong to your children
  • Vehicles, tools or computer equipment you need for your job or for study, which together are worth less than £1,350
  • Anything you’re paying for on finance, for example a car bought using hire purchase or a conditional sale agreement
  • A Motability vehicle or a vehicle displaying a valid Blue Badge
  • Things needed to live

Stop bailiffs taking things they shouldn’t

If a bailiff attempts to take something they shouldn’t, you have every right to complain, so it’s important to know your rights. However, you must provide evidence showing why the item shouldn’t have been taken in the first place. Even if the item has previously been listed on a ‘controlled goods agreement’ if you can prove that it shouldn’t have been there in the first place the bailiff cannot remove it.

Items which are on finance and are still owned by the company you made the original agreement with are known as ’third party goods’. If bailiffs remove or clamp a car which is being for on finance, the third-party company you have the arrangement with will need to be the ones who complain.

If you need to prove that items are worth less than £1,350 you can use receipts or by looking at online websites. For vehicles that are needed for work, showing proof of employment and that it’s essential for getting into the office or travelling whilst on the job should be sufficient evidence to stop a bailiff.

In summary

High court enforcement officers working on behalf of the courts, have the power to take possessions from your home or business. Debt collectors who are working for private firms have no right or power to take any possessions at all. Although items can be taken, what a HCEO can take is limited and there are strict rules in place regarding the process of taking goods.

How we can help

If you’re worried about impending visit from bailiffs, knowing where you stand and the best way to deal with the situation is critical. We are here to provide support and advice on the most efficient ways of handling the situation. Importantly, we can also get to the root of the problem and find the best solution for you or your business.

Authored by Lisa Hogg

Lisa Hogg

Director & Licensed Insolvency Practitioner