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Making a controlled goods agreement

This advice applies to Wales

Bailiffs (also called ‘enforcement agents’) won’t usually remove your belongings the first time they come into your home. They’ll make a list called an ‘inventory’ of anything that belongs to you they could take to sell and pay off your debt. This is called ‘taking control’ of your belongings.

If a bailiff clamps your car this means they’ve taken control of it - they don’t need to come into your home.

You can stop them taking control of your belongings by paying off your debt in full - it’s best to do this if you can afford to.

If you can’t afford to pay in full, making a ‘controlled goods agreement’ with the bailiff stops them removing the belongings they’ve taken control of. You’ll have to agree a repayment plan to pay off your debt - usually by making regular payments.

If you don’t keep to the payments the bailiff will come back and could remove your belongings to sell and pay off your debt.

Before dealing with a bailiff, check the extra rules they should follow if you: 

  • are disabled or seriously ill
  • have mental health problems
  • have children or are pregnant
  • are under 18 or over 65
  • don’t speak or read English well
  • are in a stressful situation like recent bereavement or unemployment

The bailiff should tell you to get advice to work out what you can afford before arranging a controlled goods agreement. You could also have more options if you've already agreed a payment plan you can't keep to.

You’ll need to follow 3 steps to make the controlled goods agreement.

1. Check the inventory

The bailiff needs to write down any belongings they take control of on the inventory.

They have to include details so it’s clear what’s been included - ask them to write the model, make and colour of anything they put on the inventory.

Make sure they don’t write down anything they shouldn’t - check the rules about what bailiffs can take control of.

Tell them to cross off anything you don’t think they’re allowed to take. If they’ve added something that doesn’t belong to you, write ‘not mine’ next to it.

2. Agree a repayment plan

You’ll need to come to an agreement with the bailiff about what regular payments you can afford to make.

Think about how much you could afford to pay. For example, you might be able to pay £25 a month after paying your other essential costs. Make sure you leave enough money to pay for essential things like food, rent, mortgage and energy bills.

If you have time you could use our budgeting tool to help you work out your budget. You’ll need to enter information about how much you earn and spend - it’s useful to gather together bank statements and energy bills before using the tool.

The tool will help you understand how much money you could have left over to pay. The tool takes about 30 minutes to complete - it’s best to use it before the bailiff visits.

Make an offer to the bailiff you think you can keep to - don’t let the bailiff force you to make bigger payments than you can manage. Show the bailiff a budget sheet to prove how much you can afford to pay.

Ask to pay in weekly or monthly payments, depending on how you manage your money. If the bailiff won’t agree to this you can complain.

Don’t let the bailiff rush you. If you feel pressured you could go into another room and call a friend or family member if you want help and support. If you think you were forced to agree to a payment plan you can’t afford this could be harassment - you should complain.

3. Check the controlled goods agreement is valid

Before you sign, make sure the controlled goods agreement shows:

  • your correct name and address
  • the total debt you owe - check the amount is correct
  • any fees that have been added - check what fees bailiffs are allowed to charge
  • the repayment plan you’ve agreed to - this needs to show how much you’ll pay and how often you’ll pay it
  • any of your belongings the bailiff has taken control of - these also need to be listed on a separate document called an ‘inventory’

You can refuse to sign if you don’t think you can keep to the repayment plan, or if you think the bailiff has listed items they shouldn’t. The agreement won’t be valid until you’ve signed it.

If you don’t sign the agreement the bailiff has the right to remove your belongings and sell them to pay your debt. It’s unlikely they’ll do this - it’s worth trying to negotiate the most affordable payment plan that you can.

Ask the bailiff to give you a signed copy of the controlled goods agreement and the inventory.

Keeping to your controlled goods agreement

It’s really important to keep to the repayment plan in your controlled goods agreement. If you miss a payment the bailiff can come back and remove the belongings listed in your agreement. They’ll try to sell anything they remove to pay off your debt.

If you’re worried about keeping to your controlled goods agreement

If you’ve signed the agreement and you’re worried about whether you can keep to it you should contact your local Citizens Advice. An adviser can help you negotiate a new payment plan based on what you can afford.

If you miss a payment the bailiff can issue you with a ‘notice of intention to re-enter’ as soon as you miss a payment. This means you have 2 full days after the day they give you the notice before they can try to come into your home and remove your things. For example, if you got the notice on Monday, the bailiffs can’t come back until Thursday.

Contact the bailiff if you think you’ll miss a payment or if you want to change the amount and number of payments you make. It’s important you contact them before you miss a payment if you can.

Check the controlled goods agreement to find the bailiff’s company’s contact details. Explain why you think you’ll miss the payment, for example if you’ve got less money because of an unexpected bill or if you’ve lost your job.

Contact your nearest Citizens Advice if the bailiffs won’t let you change your repayment plan or if you think you’ve been forced into a controlled goods agreement you can’t keep to.

If you’ve broken your controlled goods agreement

If you break your controlled goods agreement the bailiff is allowed to come back to your home to remove any belongings that were listed on the agreement.

They have to give you a ‘notice of intention to re-enter’ before they try to come in. This means you have 2 full days after the day they give you the notice before they can try to come into your home. For example, if you got the notice on Monday, the bailiffs can’t come back until Thursday.

Check the notice has your correct name and address and explains how you’ve broken the agreement. If the information on the notice isn’t right you should complain to the bailiff’s company straight away and ask them to delay visiting until they’ve given you a valid notice.

Even if the notice is valid there could still be time to stop them trying to come in. Contact the bailiff’s company and try to make a new offer to pay back the debt. Explain why you’ve broken the agreement and ask them to give you more time to pay.

Contact your nearest Citizens Advice if you want help or if the bailiffs refuse to give you more time to pay.

If the bailiff tries to come into your home

If the notice of intention to re-enter is valid, the bailiffs are allowed to use ‘reasonable force’ to try to come into your home.

They aren’t allowed to break down your door - if you don’t let them in they’ll normally have to come back again with a locksmith. The locksmith will let them in by unlocking your door.

It’s unlikely they’ll do this - it’s still worth trying to make a new offer to pay the debt with the bailiff’s company.

It’s best to contact your local Citizens Advice for help if the bailiffs say they’re getting a locksmith to force entry to your home.

If you let the bailiff in

If you let the bailiff into your home they’re allowed to remove your belongings and sell them to pay off your debt. They can only remove items listed in the controlled goods agreement they made with you, and they need to give you a receipt for anything they take.

Check the bailiff has signed the receipt and that it includes everything they’re taking.

Complain about the bailiff if they damage anything or take anything they shouldn’t.
There could still be time to make a payment offer to stop bailiffs selling your things after they remove them.

Check how to get your belongings back before they’re sold.

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