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ARE THERE ANY LIMITS TO WHAT BAILIFFS CAN TAKE?

Bailiffs are governed by strict guidelines governing not just where and when they can visit you, but also what they can and cannot seize when they do.

So, as with knowing where and when you can be visited, it also worth knowing which goods are most liable to be taken, and which must in all instances be left.

HOW DOES THE PROCESS ACTUALLY WORK?

No matter what you might have heard, bailiffs aren’t unreasonable and there is a sensible procedure that they follow. In the first instance, they will make an inventory of the goods they will remove if the debt isn’t paid – this process is referred to as the bailiffs ‘taking the goods into control’.

From that point on, only the bailiff can remove and sell these controlled good, and it would actually be a criminal offence for you to sell, hide or damage them. This control order will only be removed once the debt has been cleared.

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Bailiffs and Enforcement Agents are
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Once the control order is in place the bailiff can do one of the following:

  • Usually the bailiff will leave the goods under a ‘controlled goods agreement’ for you to use as long as your stick to your payment agreement
  • They might threaten to remove goods straight away, but more often than not this is with a view to obtaining a ‘controlled goods agreement’. Removing goods is actually not the most cost effective way to settle the debt, and bailiffs would usually prefer not to
  • They might clamp your vehicle, if it’s on your land or a public road. They can’t clamp it on anyone else’s property (e.g. a public car park, a neighbour’s drive) without a court order
  • With business debts it’s not uncommon for goods to be locked up on your premises. This is less likely to happen at your home.

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SO, WHAT CAN BAILIFFS TAKE, AND WHAT MUST THEY LEAVE?

Bailiffs do not take things punitively and will only take items that they can sell at auction to help pay the debt.

What’s more they are only allowed to take items they can find and remove. What this means is that if a bailiff sees goods through a letterbox or window, they cannot add those goods to a control order unless they can actually put their hands on them.

Given that the bailiff’s primary objective is to collect goods of value that can be sold at auction to settle a debt, they tend to focus on things like motor vehicles, electrical goods, jewellery and furniture. They are not however limited to these items.

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Bailiffs do not take things punitively and will only take items that they can sell at auction to help pay the debt.

There are however a few items that bailiffs must leave that are essential to day-to-day living, and include:

  • Key kitchen items such as cookers, microwaves, fridges and washing machines
  • Phones – both landline and mobiles
  • Any beds or bedding that would leave you short for anyone in the house
  • Any dining tables and chairs that would leave you short for anyone in the house
  • Anything that heats of lights the house
  • Any equipment essential to medical or care requirements

Other protected goods, which bailiffs are prohibited from seizing, include:

  • Anything that is not owned by you (although goods which you jointly own are at risk)
  • Anything that is vital for your job or studies, up to a maximum value of £1,350, including tools, books, and other equipment
  • Anything that is subject to a hire purchase agreement that still has payments outstanding
  • Any fixed or fitted items, which fitted wardrobes and kitchen units
  • Pets and assistance dogs
  • Anything that is in use when the bailiff visits – your car or any other machinery for example. This doesn’t mean however that the bailiff can’t or won’t come back for those items later on.

CAN MY CAR BE SEIZED?

Your car is more than likely going to be top of any bailiff’s list. More often than not cars are a person’s most valuable item. And what’s more, with cars usually being kept on public roads, they can be easy to find and seize. However, if your vehicle is parked on someone else’s private land, bailiffs won’t be able to touch it without a warrant.

Bailiffs will often seek to include your vehicle in a controlled goods agreement but, if the car is parked on a public road or at home, they might elect to simply tow it away or take control of it by clamping it.

There are occasions however where bailiffs are prohibited from seizing some vehicles:

  • Vehicles which are clearly used by a disabled person, or which display a disabled badge
  • Any vehicle subject to a hire purchase agreement or logbook loan that still has payments outstanding
  • Any vehicle vital for your job (e.g. a taxi), up to a maximum value of £1,350
  • Any vehicle which is also someone’s home – for example a caravan or houseboat
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Don’t assume that bailiffs won’t search for your car if they can’t find it at your home. Bailiffs often make use of automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) technology to scout for vehicles on their list as they make their rounds. They are however always obliged to confirm ownership of any vehicle before they seize it, and will do so by checking the DVLA and HP index.

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IS THERE ANYTHING I CAN DO TO KEEP MY GOODS FROM BAILIFFS?

Depending which stage of the process you are at, it might be possible to sell, hide, or remove your goods from your home. But you must be sure which stage you are at before considering this course of action:

  • It is fine to sell, hide, or remove your goods if you haven’t yet received the first ‘notice of enforcement’
  • If you have received this notice, but haven’t yet been visited by the bailiff, you can hide or remove goods, but sold goods still be seized as if they still belonged to you – the bailiff doesn’t have to recognise the sale
  • It is vital that you don’t sell, hide, or remove your goods once the bailiff has visited and a control order is in place – to do so would be a criminal offence.

GETTING HELP WITH BAILIFFS

The best way to ensure a difficult situation doesn’t escalate into an upsetting and traumatic one is to seek impartial expert advice as soon as you receive any written notification from a bailiff – don’t ignore the letter in the hope that it will all just go away.

Our advice can help you formulate a reasonable budget and repayment plan and put you on the front foot in your response to any debt collection organisations.

And always remember that bailiffs simply want to collect the debt, and if you offer a clear and agreeable path to achieving this, they will be keen to work with you and will be just as keen as you to avoid escalating the situation.

We are more than happy to help you ensure that you receive the advice and planning guidance you need. To discuss your situation, call us now on 01452 687 340 anytime between 8am – 8pm, Monday – Friday

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