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Taking court action over bailiffs
In certain situations, you can take court action over the behaviour and actions of bailiffs.
This page explains when and how you can take court action over bailiffs.
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.
Problems with bailiffs following the right process
A bailiff may not have followed the right process if any of the following apply:
- didn't give you a required notice at any stage of the process
- visited your home outside the hours of 6am to 9pm, unless they had a court order allowing them to do so
- forced their way in when they weren't allowed to
- got into your house through an open window
- got into your house when only a child under 16 was present
- took goods from somewhere that isn't your home or business premises, without a court order allowing them to do so
- didn't take control of your goods properly
- took belongings that were exempt from being taken
- took too much away
- damaged your belongings while they were in storage
- harassed you
- if you're vulnerable and they didn't treat you properly
When can you take court action over bailiffs?
You can take court action over bailiffs in the following situations:
- you want to get your goods back because you believe the bailiff didn't follow the right process and wrongly took away or sold your belongings
- you've suffered a financial loss because of something the bailiff did wrongly
- you disagree with the bailiff's fees and charges.
You can also apply to the court for a decision where there is a disagreement over how much money any joint owners of belongings sold should receive.
In all these situations, it's a good idea to complain to the bailiff's firm and your creditor directly before you decide to take court action. Complaining directly can often be a quicker, cheaper and easier way of solving a problem than going to court. If you complain to your creditor, they may agree to stop the bailiff action.
Bailiff didn't follow the right process
If the bailiff didn't follow the right process and have taken your goods away, you can take them to court to get your belongings back. If you want to do this, you must make an application to the court and include evidence of how the bailiff didn't follow the right processes.
If you're successful, the court can make an order for you to get your belongings back and in some cases, you may also be able to claim compensation if you've suffered material losses as a result of the bailiff action. For example, if the bailiff took a car that should have been exempt because you needed it to run your business, and you then lost out on income as a result, you may be awarded damages for this.
Bailiff's fees and charges are wrong
If you think the bailiff's fees and charges are wrong, you should discuss this with the bailiff firm first. If you can't reach an agreement on the fees and charges, you can apply to the court to make a decision about how much should be charged.
The court will consider the following kinds of cases over fees:
- a dispute about the amount of fees and expenses charged by a bailiff
- where either you, your creditor or the bailiff wants the court to assess how much should be charged in fees and expenses.
You can apply to the court to assess the amounts charged, and must include the following evidence:
- evidence of the amount of fees or expenses you're disputing, for example a copy of the bailiff's bill
- evidence that the fees or expenses aren't correct, for example a copy of an agreement saying you settled your debt before it was necessary to start the next stage of the process
- evidence that the bailiff has charged you more than once for any action
- evidence that you're vulnerable and therefore should not have been charged fees without the bailiffs first giving you the chance to get help to deal with the situation
- if the dispute is over the percentage fee for any stage, evidence of the amount of money recovered and your own calculation of what the percentage fee should be.
Disputes over jointly owned goods
Where there is a dispute over jointly-owned goods, the court can decide how much of the proceeds raised should go to the joint owner of the goods. An application for the court to make a decision in a dispute over jointly owned goods can be made by you, the joint owner, the bailiff or your creditor. Whoever makes the application, a copy of the notice of application must be sent to all the other parties on that list.
The application to the court must include the following evidence:
- evidence that the bailiff had the power to act, such as a copy of an enforcement notice
- a copy of the itemised list of all the goods that were sold or disposed of
- a copy of the statement of the amount of money received for each item
- a copy of the statement of total proceeds received for the goods
- a copy of the statement showing how the proceeds were shared out between the bailiff's fees, paying the debt and any joint owners of goods
- evidence that the share of proceeds paid to the joint owner wasn't correct, such as a document showing the joint owner's share of ownership of the item.
How to apply to the court
It's always a good idea to get legal advice before you start any court action. If you decide you want to go ahead with taking court action against a bailiff, you must apply using form N244, which is available from the Court Service website at www.justice.gov.uk.
There is a fee of £155 but you may be able to get this waived or reduced if you're on a low income.
There will be a hearing, where the court will decide whether your belongings should be given back to you or the fees should be changed. However, when you make your application, this won't necessarily delay or suspend the bailiff action, so it's a good idea to apply for a stay of enforcement at the same time. If the court grants a stay of enforcement, the bailiffs can't sell your belongings before the hearing takes place.
If the court agrees your belongings were taken wrongly, it will make an order requiring the bailiff to give the goods back. You may also be awarded damages for any actual financial loss you experienced as a result of your belongings being taken.
If your court action is unsuccessful, the court may order you to pay costs.
Claims over goods owned by someone else
For court action where someone else is claiming they own goods that were taken to pay your debt, this is known as a third party claim. The person taking the action will have to pay the court a deposit of the value of the goods taken plus the cost of keeping them in control. For third party claims, the bailiff action will be suspended until the hearing has taken place.