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Bailiff and enforcement agents advice

i England and Wales only

What can bailiffs take when they visit you?

Bailiffs must follow rules when collecting a debt. There are things they can and cannot take from your home.

This also applies to High Court enforcement officers, a type of enforcement agent.

What can bailiffs take from your home?

A bailiff looks for things you own to sell if you do not pay the debt.

They can only take goods that:

  • They have access to
  • They can remove
  • They can physically touch

They cannot take goods into control by seeing them through your window or letterbox.

They look for anything they can sell easily for a good price at auction.

This is usually things like:

  • Motor vehicles
  • Electrical goods
  • Jewellery
  • Furniture

They must leave you with basic household items

These include:

  • White goods like:
    • A cooker
    • A microwave
    • A fridge
    • A washing machine
  • A landline or mobile phone
  • Beds and bedding for everyone in the house
  • A dining table and enough chairs to seat everyone in the house
  • Things that heat and light your house
  • Medical or care equipment

What are bailiffs not allowed to take?

Some goods are protected and cannot be taken by a bailiff:

  • Goods someone else owns
    • They can take goods which you own jointly
  • Pets and assistance dogs
  • Things you need for your job or study like:
    • Tools
    • Books
    • Other equipment
    • Up to a total value of £1,350
  • Things you have on hire purchase, if the final payment has not been made
    • Some bailiffs may argue that they can take a hire purchase car
  • Fixtures in your property like:
    • Kitchen units
    • Fitted wardrobes
  • Goods you are currently using like:
    • Machinery
    • A motor vehicle
    • They can come back for these later

Can bailiffs enter your house when you are not there?

They can only do this if someone inside lets them in.

This is called making a ‘peaceable entry’.

It means bailiff either has:

  • Your permission, or
  • Has received authorisation to enter

For most types of debt, bailiffs can only enter the property when:

  • Somebody is home
  • That person is an adult
  • They are not classed as vulnerable

Make sure all entrances are firmly locked when you are out.

Ask anyone you live with not to let bailiffs in when you are out.

Can bailiffs take my car?

A vehicle is often the bailiff’s first target. They are:

  • Easy to find
  • Easy to sell
  • Often the highest value item someone owns

They use the DVLA and Hire Purchase Index to check you own it.

Bailiffs can include your vehicle in a 'controlled goods agreement'. This allows them to take goods.

They can:

  • Tow it away or
  • Clamp it

But only if it is parked:

  • At your home or
  • On a public road

They need a court order to take your vehicle if it is parked on someone else’s private land.

Some vehicles cannot be taken.

These include:

  • Those with a disabled badge
    • Or clearly used by a disabled person
  • A vehicle which is subject to a 'logbook loan'
    • If the last payment has not been made
  • A vehicle you need for your job
    • If it is worth less than £1,350
    • For example, if you are a taxi driver
  • A vehicle which is also someone's main home like:
    • A camper van
    • Caravan
    • Houseboat

Many bailiffs have car number plate recognition cameras. These spot vehicles if they are not parked at your home.

Can a bailiff take control of a hire purchase vehicle?

These are owned by a third party until the hire purchase is paid off.

  • Bailiffs should have no right to take them
  • But some argue they can
  • The current rules can be understood in different ways

What should I do if a bailiff is trying to take or clamp my hire purchase car?

Make a complaint stating the car belongs to the hire purchase company, not you.

You need to:

  • Complain immediately
    • Do this in writing
    • To the bailiff company
    • Keep a record of your letter
  • Send the same letter to the people that instructed the bailiff
  • Send the letter to the right regulator or ombudsman. This might be:
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What will bailiffs do with my goods?

The bailiff makes a list of what to take if you do not pay the debt.

Once goods are added, the bailiff has legally ‘taken them into control’.

It is against the law for you to:

  • Sell
  • Hide
  • Damage these items

They are called 'controlled goods'.

  • Only the bailiff can take and sell them
  • Until the debt has been paid off

The bailiff has four options to deal with your goods after the inventory has been made:

1. Leave them with you so you can keep using them

This is what usually happens.

But you must sign a ‘controlled goods agreement’.

  • This means you agree to make payments for the debt
  • The bailiff can come back and take the goods if you do not pay

2. Remove your goods straight away and sell them

They often threaten this.


  • It costs more money
  • It is not usually their first choice

3. Clamp your vehicle on a public road or at your property

They cannot do this on someone else’s property without a court warrant.

4. Lock up your goods on your premises

This is more common with business debts.

It is unlikely they will do this when they are taking control of goods at your home.

Can I hide my goods from bailiffs, or sell them?

In some cases it’s okay to sell or hide your goods, or to remove them from your home to avoid the bailiffs.

However your rights to do this vary at different points in the enforcement process, so it’s very important to check what stage you’re at before you consider doing this.

  • Before you’ve received the first 'notice of enforcement' letter (PDF) you can safely hide, sell or remove any of your goods
  • If you’ve received the notice of enforcement letter but the bailiff hasn’t visited you, you can hide or remove goods. In some cases, if you’ve sold goods in this period the bailiff can ignore the sale and take the goods as if you still owned them, even if the buyer now has them
  • If the bailiff has visited and made an inventory of goods which they’ve taken into control it’s now a criminal offence to interfere with these. It’s very important you don’t hide, sell or remove them

Can I hide my goods from bailiffs, or sell them?

In some cases it is okay to:

  • Sell or hide your goods
  • Remove them from your home

Check what stage you are at before you do this, as your rights change.

Stage 1: Before you receive the first 'notice of enforcement' letter

At this stage you can safely hide, sell or remove any of your goods.

Stage 2: You have a notice of enforcement letter, but the bailiff has not visited

You can hide or remove goods.

In some cases, if you sell goods in this period the bailiff can:

  • Ignore the sale, and
  • Take the goods as if you still owned them
  • Even if the buyer now has them

Stage 3: The bailiff visits and has a list of goods they have taken into control

It is a criminal offence to interfere with these.

Do not hide, sell or remove them

Worried about how to deal with bailiffs? We can help.

Contact from a bailiff might mean you need free and impartial debt help.

We can help.

Try using our debt advice tool. It is free to use and confidential.

mum at the table with bills

Worried about what bailiffs can take from you?

We're here to help. Use our free debt advice tool.

Get help now