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Vehicles and bailiffs
Bailiffs are allowed to take vehicles and items stored inside a vehicle, but they have to follow certain rules.
This page tells you when and how a bailiff is allowed to take your vehicle.
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.
Hiding your car
If you don't want your car to be taken, the best thing to do is to park it on private land, such as a friend's driveway or a car park. A bailiff can take your car if it is parked on a public highway, but they can't take a car parked on private land belonging to someone else without a court order. Remember to get permission from the land owner or pay any parking fees that apply for parking your car on private land.
If you want to stop the bailiff action permanently, you must take action straight away.
Can bailiffs take a vehicle?
Bailiffs are allowed to take your vehicle when collecting a debt. There are some exceptions to this, which are:
- a vehicle which is necessary for your work, study or business, and where there is no alternative public transport you could use instead, as long as it is not worth more than £1350 - this rule does not apply if your debts are for business rates or taxes
- a vehicle which you're paying for on a hire puchase or conditional sale agreement
- a vehicle which is displaying a disabled blue badge and is used for transporting a disabled person
- a vehicle that is used by the emergency services, such as a car displaying a genuine "doctor on call" badge
- a vehicle which is also your home, such as a motorhome.
Where can bailiffs take a vehicle from?
A bailiff can only usually take a vehicle from these three places:
- your home
- your place of trade or business
- the public highway.
The bailiff can't usually take your vehicle if it is parked on private land, other than your home or place of trade or business. This means that if your car is parked in one of the following places, the bailiff is unlikely to be able to take it:
- a car park, whether this is private or publicly owned
- the driveway of a family member or friend
- a garage away from your home
- a storage unit away from your home
- a piece of land belonging to someone else.
The exception to this is where the bailiff has got a court warrant allowing them to take your belongings in that location. A bailiff is only likely to be able to get a court warrant if they have watched these premises and discovered you're parking your car there regularly. They're unlikely to get a warrant if they've just noticed that your car is somewhere else.
If a bailiff has begun to take control of your vehicle in a place where they're allowed to, you can't drive it away in an attempt to stop them taking it.
Cars on hire purchase
If you're still paying for a vehicle on a hire purchase or conditional sale agreement, the bailiffs shouldn't take it. This is because the vehicle doesn't belong to you until you've made all the payments on the hire purchase agreement. You can prove the vehicle is not yours by showing the bailiff your hire purchase agreement.
The process the bailiff must follow to take control of a vehicle
If the bailiff has taken control of your vehicle, they must follow a certain process, as follows:
- properly identifying the vehicle and checking it belongs to you, such as by getting proof from the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA)
- securing the vehicle so that it can't be moved, usually by clamping, unless you voluntarily hand over the keys
- giving you a written warning, called a warning of immobilisation, which should be fixed to your vehicle in a prominent place, explaining how and why they have secured it
- leaving at least two hours before the vehicle is taken away, during which you can try to pay whatever you owe or come to an agreement for a payment plan with the bailiff
- removing the vehicle to storage if you haven't come to an agreement within two hours.
As with all belongings that a bailiff takes into control, you must be given an inventory which contains details of everything that has been taken into control. This must include information which identifies your vehicle, such as the registration number. If the vehicle is removed, you must also be given a notice which explains what has happened, called the notice after removal of goods.
Alternatively, the bailiff may leave the vehicle with you and ask you to sign a controlled goods agreement, in which you declare that you won't try to sell or get rid of the vehicle and agree to a payment plan. If you don't keep to the terms of this repayment plan, the bailiff can come back at a later date to take your vehicle.
Bailiffs are allowed to clamp your car. If they do so, they must leave a notice, called a warning of immobilisation, in a prominent place on the car, which includes the following information:
- that they have clamped or immobilised your car
- the date and time the car was clamped
- that your car has been clamped because you've failed to pay a debt you owe
- a 24-hour telephone number you can call if you have any queries
- the bailiff's reference number for this action.
Bailiff fees and charges
If the bailiff has properly taken control of your car, they can charge you an enforcement fee. Bailiffs can't charge you a separate clamping fee.
Other belongings inside vehicles
A bailiff can take other belongings that you have stored inside a vehicle, as long as they aren't exempt items.