If bailiffs say they'll sell your belongings

This advice applies to England. See advice for See advice for Northern Ireland, See advice for Scotland, See advice for Wales

Bailiffs (also called ‘enforcement agents’) could take and sell your belongings if you don’t arrange to pay a debt or if you break a ‘controlled goods agreement’.

Your things will usually be sold at an auction. The bailiffs have to get the best price they can, and the money will go towards paying off your debt and any bailiff fees. You’ll still have to pay off any debt not covered by the sale.

If you act quickly you might be able to get your things back before the bailiffs sell them.

Get your belongings back before they’re sold

You’ll get a ‘notice of sale’ if the bailiffs decide to sell your belongings. This tells you when and where the auction will happen.

To get your things back before the auction, you'll need to either:

  • pay off your entire debt and the bailiffs’ fees

  • negotiate a payment agreement with your creditor - they might let you pay off your debt gradually

Tell the bailiffs if you want to pay off your debt but need more time. They might agree to delay the auction - they’d rather get the money directly from you than by selling your things.

There are some things bailiffs aren’t allowed to sell, so it’s worth checking what bailiffs can take.

Make sure the bailiffs give you enough time

The bailiffs have to give you the notice of sale at least 7 days before the auction. These 7 days don’t include:

  • the day you get the notice of sale

  • the day of the auction

  • Sundays and bank holidays

So if you get the notice of sale on Monday 1 September, the bailiffs can’t sell your things until Wednesday 10 September.

You could get less time if the bailiffs are selling something that might lose its value - for example food that might go off.

If the bailiffs don’t give enough notice

If the bailiffs tell you about the sale less than 7 days before, they no longer have the right to sell your things.

Contact the bailiffs and tell them they haven’t given you enough notice of the sale. Say that as a result your things should be classed as ‘abandoned’. This means you can go and pick them up from the bailiffs.

If the bailiffs sell your belongings

The notice of sale will tell you where and when the auction is - it has to be public.

Before the auction the bailiffs have to send you a written estimate of how much they think your things are worth. Tell the bailiffs if they’ve undervalued your things - it could affect how much they sell for.

After the auction the bailiffs have to send you a list of:

  • what they’ve sold

  • how much it sold for

  • any fees they’ve added

It’s worth checking what fees bailiffs are allowed to charge.

If the sale covers your full debt, the bailiffs have to give you any money that’s left over.

If the sale doesn’t cover your full debt, you might be able to make a complaint. The bailiffs are only meant to take your things if they think they’ll sell for enough to pay off your debt.

When the bailiffs tell you how much they’ve sold your things for they’ll also tell you about any fees they’ve added.

If your belongings don’t sell

The bailiffs have to give your things back if they can’t sell them within 12 months. You won’t have to pay any bailiff fees.

The bailiffs will send you a ‘notice of abandonment’ with instructions on how to pick up your things. They have to give you at least 28 days to do this - if you don’t pick them up in this time your things may be destroyed or given to charity.

If your things don’t sell, you’ll still have to deal with the debt - it’s best to try to negotiate payment with a creditor or the bailiffs.

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