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Proving who owns the items - bailiffs

Bailiffs can usually only take control of things that belong to you, or that you own jointly with someone else. In some cases, you may need to give the bailiff proof that something belongs to someone else.

This page tells you how to prove ownership of items.

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.

Stopping bailiff action

If you want to stop the bailiff action permanently, you must take action straight away.

Stopping bailiff action

What things can the bailiff take?

The bailiff can't just take what they want from your property. They can only take the belongings of the person who owes the money, and they can't take items that are exempt.

What things can the bailiff take?

Proving who owns things

If there are items in your home that don't belong to you, you should:

  • write a list of all the items that don't belong to you
  • make it clear to the bailiffs who the things belong to if they aren't yours
  • show them proof of ownership, for example, a bill or a credit card receipt or family letters
  • warn the bailiffs that they will be liable for costs if any goods are wrongly taken.

The inventory could be drawn up as a statutory declaration. A statutory declaration is a statement in writing, signed by you and witnessed by a magistrate, commissioner for oaths or a court officer. You should get advice from an adviser or solicitor before completing the statutory declaration. It must be set out in a specific way and must state that the person makes the declaration conscientiously, believing it to be true.

You could also ask the owner of the goods to swear a statement to say that the goods belong to them.

If you have a dispute with the bailiffs about ownership or you think they've taken goods they shouldn't, you can complain. The owner of the goods can also complain and ask the bailiffs for their belongings back. If necessary the owner can apply to the court to get their belongings back.

Hire purchase and conditional sale items

If the goods are on hire purchase or a conditional sale agreement, prove that you don't yet own them by giving a copy of the agreement to the bailiff.


You can get proof of ownership of a vehicle from the DVLA or HPI.

However, the vehicle registration documents don't always necessarily prove who owns a vehicle, because the registered keeper may not be the actual owner. If the registered keeper is not the owner of a vehicle, they can try to show this to the bailiffs with evidence such as a receipt showing someone else paid for the car or a statement showing someone else making car loan payments.

Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA)
Vehicle Enquiry Unit
SA99 1BL

Tel: for the date of the first registration of a vehicle: 0906 185 8585 (premium rate service) or Minicom 01792 782756
Tel: 0870 240 0010 (other enquiries)
Fax: 01792 782793

Dolphin House
New Street

Tel: 0845 300 8905
Fax: 01722 412 164

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