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Jointly-owned belongings and bailiffs
When a bailiff gets into your home they will take control of some of your belongings.
This page tells you whether bailiffs can take things that you own jointly with other people.
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.
Proving who owns the items
If some of the items in your home are jointly owned or don't belong to you, you'll need to prove it to the bailiff.
Can bailiffs take jointly-owned belongings?
The bailiffs are allowed to take belongings that are jointly-owned by you and someone else, as long as they are not exempt items.
Bailiffs should ask the other owner to make a written statement saying what percentage of the goods they own and provide proof of ownership.
If the goods are taken and sold, the money raised from the sale of that item will be divided between the owners.
Keeping joint owners informed
When a bailiff takes jointly-owned goods, they must keep the other owners informed at all times. This includes providing them with their own copies of the following notices:
- an inventory of the goods that the co-owner part owns
- a copy of the notice after taking control of goods
- a copy of the notice after removal of goods
- a copy of the notice before sale of the goods.
These notices have to include certain information.
As the person who is going through bailiff action, you must also be given separate inventories of the goods taken which only belong to you, and of the jointly owned goods taken.
Disputes over ownership
If you believe something is jointly owned, but the other person thinks they are the only owner, they can apply to the court to get their goods back. If the goods have already been sold, the owner would be entitled to all of the proceeds of the sale. If the goods were sold below their value, the owner would be entitled to receive the difference back from the bailiff, by applying through the county court.
When jointly-owned goods are sold
When jointly-owned goods are sold by bailiffs, the money raised from the sale is divided between the two owners. The co-owner will receive the cash value of their share of the goods, while your share will be put towards the bailiffs' fees and paying your debt.
If there is a dispute about how the proceeds of any jointly owned goods are shared out, either you or the co-owner can take court action for a decision on who should get what.
Giving jointly-owned belongings away
You might be tempted to give away some jointly-owned belongings to prevent the bailiffs from taking them. For example, you might want to give the jointly-owned item to the co-owner. For high court and county court judgement debts and magistrates court fines, your belongings are treated as being bound from the date the court issues a writ or warrant to authorise bailiff action. This means you can't give away any goods from the date the writ or warrant is made, even if you haven't received a notice of enforcement from the bailiffs yet. For other debts, if you gave something away before the date on the notice of enforcement, which is the date the bailiffs were instructed, the bailiffs can't take it.
However, once the bailiffs are involved you're not allowed to give away your belongings. If you do, the item will be treated as if it still belonged to you and the bailiff can take it. However, in practice, the bailiffs are unlikely to know whether you have given away your belongings or who you have given them to.
If you give away any of your belongings, it must be an unconditional gift. If you make a gift on condition that the person returns the item when the bailiffs have gone away, you could be held to be in contempt of court if you gave the item away to avoid bailiff action.
More about giving away items to avoid bailiffs taking them