What can a bailiff (enforcement agent) legally take?

October 29, 2018

It’s definitely a stressful situation when bailiffs are involved in collecting debt, but if you understand which items they can remove and the limits of their powers when they visit, you’ll be in a much stronger position.

Non-payment of debt including council tax, court fines, and County Court Judgments (CCJs) can result in bailiffs, also known as enforcement agents, visiting your home, but they should give you seven days’ notice of their first visit.

If you don’t let the bailiffs in, they may remove possessions from outside your home with a view to selling them for the benefit of creditors. Items could include bicycles, garden machinery, and your car or motorbike.



When can bailiffs enter your home to seize goods?

There are strict rules surrounding when bailiffs can visit – it’s only in rare circumstances that they can force entry into your home. If you owe income tax or Stamp Duty, or have failed to pay a fine imposed for a criminal act, for example, they are allowed to force entry but this is typically a measure of last resort.

They must tell you who they are and you should ask to see their identification. If you let them into your home they’ll make a list goods that can be seized if you fail to pay the debt, although goods aren’t usually taken at this time.

You’ll be asked to sign a Controlled Goods Agreement, and the bailiffs can then return to seize the goods listed for sale at auction. On this visit, they can force entry into your home if necessary.

So what can the bailiffs legally take from your home?

Which items can bailiffs take?

Bailiffs can take goods they deem of value, and that are likely to sell relatively easily at auction, with a view to paying off the debt as far as is possible. It’s important to mention that essential household goods cannot be taken – these include your fridge, washing machine, cooker or microwave, beds and bedding for all occupants of the house, dining table and chairs, and clothes. They also shouldn’t take any tools that you require for your work.

Bailiffs generally target high value non-essential items, including:

  • Jewellery
  • Artwork
  • Electrical goods such as games consoles and televisions
  • Furniture
  • Vehicles, unless it’s a Motability vehicle or there’s a blue badge displayed in the window
  • High value ornaments
  • Garden machinery

What can you do if bailiffs are trying to collect your debt?

Seek professional assistance

In this situation professional input can be invaluable in negotiating with bailiffs to reach a payment agreement, and ensuring that you understand your rights. It can be very intimidating to deal with enforcement agents without professional support, particularly as they’re typically relentless in collecting debts.

Consider declaring formal insolvency

If you enter into an official debt procedure such as an Individual Voluntary Arrangement (IVA) or a Debt Relief Order (DRO), you’re protected from legal action by creditors. These procedures also freeze further interest and charges being applied to the debts, and allow you to repay at a rate that’s affordable.

Although it’s never too late to negotiate with bailiffs for an affordable payment plan, it helps to obtain professional assistance in this respect. UK Debt specialise in helping people escape debt and can provide valuable advice and guidance when dealing with bailiff visits. Please call one of our licensed insolvency practitioners to arrange a free same-day meeting – we’ll quickly be able to assess your situation and explain all your options.

Joanne Wright

Head Adviser at our Manchester Office

Tel: 0800 001 4247
Email: enquiries@ukdebt.org.uk

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