This advice applies to England. Change country
Belongings a bailiff can take
If a bailiff gets into your home, they will take control of some of your belongings. There are some restrictions on what a bailiff can take control of.
This page tells you what belongings a bailiff can and can't take.
If you’re dealing with bailiff action that began before 6 April 2014, different rules may apply. You should get advice from your local Citizens Advice Bureau.
Check bailiffs are following the right process
Bailiffs have to follow a set process to take control of your belongings, including giving you certain information about what is happening at different stages. If they don't, you can make a complaint.
What can the bailiff take?
The bailiff can take:
- things that belong to you, except exempt items
- jointly owned things
- goods which were bought with personal loans. For example, bank loans or finance company loans, credit cards, or a mail order or budget account or storecard
- cash, cheques, bonds, stocks and shares, and pawn tickets that belong to you
- items that you're wearing or carrying, such as jewellery, but only if you hand them over or agree to them being taken.
Things the bailiffs aren't allowed to take
Bailiffs are allowed to take your vehicle, even if it is parked on the public highway. To do this, they are allowed to clamp it. They're not usually allowed to take it if it's parked on private land other than at your home or business premises.
There are certain things that bailiffs aren't allowed to take. These are known as exempt items and include the following:
- items or equipment such as tools, books and computer equipment that are necessary for your work, study or education, up to a total value of £1350, unless your debt is for unpaid business rates, in which case items you use for work are not protected
- household equipment that can serve your "basic domestic needs"
- anything that belongs to a child, such as toys
- anything that you are paying for on hire purchase or a conditional sale agreement
- assistance dogs, sheep dogs, guard dogs or domestic pets
- any animals, food or hazardous materials that are on the public highway and would cause a risk to other people if moved
- any vehicle displaying a valid disabled person's blue badge because it is used for the transport of a disabled person
- a vehicle which is used for police, fire or ambulance work
- a vehicle displaying a British Medical Association or other health emergency badge because it is being used for health emergency purposes
- any goods that are also your home, such as a houseboat, static caravan, campervan or tent.
What are essential items for "basic domestic needs"?
The kinds of items that are essential for "basic domestic needs" include, but aren't limited to, all of the following:
- a cooker or microwave
- a refrigerator
- a washing machine
- a dining table to seat you and everyone else who lives in your home
- beds and bedding for you and everyone else who lives in your home
- clothing for you and everyone in your home
- a landline telephone, or a mobile, or an internet phone if there is no landline at your home
- any equipment that you need for medical purposes, safety or security
- equipment that provides lighting and heating facilities
- anything that is needed to care for a child under 18
- anything that is needed to care for a disabled person or older person.
The following items would probably not be considered essential for "basic domestic needs":
- a television, DVD player or blu-ray player
- a stereo or music player
- a computer that isn't used for work or study
- designer clothing, if you have enough other clothing available
- non-essential kitchen equipment such as a mixer or foor processor.
Sometimes it isn't clear which items are essential and which are not. The bailiff must discuss the needs of you and everyone else in your household with you, and reach agreement about which items should be classified as essential. The bailiff is not allowed to decide what is essential and what isn't without talking to your first.
Goods bought on a hire purchase or conditional sale agreement
In most situations, bailiffs can't take anything that you're paying for on a hire purchase or conditional sale agreement. This is because the item doesn't belong to you until you've made the final payment.
What happens next
When a bailiff has decided which of your belongings should be taken into control, you will be given a list containing the details of all the objects, called an inventory. The goods themselves will treated as controlled goods, meaning they are now under the control of the bailiffs and you're not allowed to sell them, remove them from wherever they are stored, or pass them onto someone else. You will be given a notice explaining this, called a notice after entry or taking control of goods. You may still be able to get your belongings back at this stage, providing you follow the right procedures that are set out in the information the bailiff gives you.
You may be able to negotiate more time to find the money to pay what you owe by entering into a controlled goods agreement with the bailiff. This is where you agree that you won't get rid of or give away any of the goods the bailiff has taken control of while you pay back what you owe. If you break the agreement at any point, the bailiff can come back to take these belongings and use force to get in if necessary.
You should check the wording of any notice carefully. Bailiffs' notices have to follow a certain format, and you can complain if they don't.
Notice after taking control of goods
If all your belongings are exempt
If the bailiffs have entered your home, and all your belongings are exempt from being taken, they may look elsewhere. This could include seeing whether you have a vehicle that's parked on a public highway, or entering your business premises to find belongings that can be taken.
If a bailiff believes you have belongings stored somewhere else, such as a storage unit or a friend's house, they may ask the court for a warrant to search those premises. In practice, this warrant will only be granted if there is a strong reason to believe you have belongings elsewhere.
If the bailiff couldn't take any belongings on their first visit, but they believe you have since brought items into your home that could be used to pay what you owe, they can return to your property. This also applies if the bailiff found goods of value but couldn't take them because someone was using or wearing them. You must be given two clear days' notice that a bailiff intends to come back.
If the bailiff can't find any belongings to take control of, they will refer your case back to the creditor, who will have to look at other ways to get their money back.
If you're not happy with what the bailiff has taken control of, you should complain.
You can also complain about the behaviour of the bailiff or if you think the process of taking control of your things wasn't done correctly.
- What should happen when a bailiff gets into your home?
- How much can the bailiff take?
- How bailiffs take control of your belongings
- Can you get your belongings back?
- Follow-up visit by bailiff - what to expect
- Complaining about a bailiff
- Stopping bailiff action
- Can the bailiff force their way into your home?
- Get advice