County Court - stopping bailiff action

 August 2016

Fact sheet no. 08 EW County Court - stopping bailiff action

Information:

what this fact sheet covers

This fact sheet explains the rules for county court bailiffs. The rules about other types of bailiffs are different. Contact us for advice.

This fact sheet explains about the powers of county court bailiffs, and gives you advice about stopping bailiff action. A creditor may be able to use a county court bailiff to collect a debt if you have missed a payment on a county court judgment (CCJ).

Use this fact sheet to:

  • understand the powers of bailiffs;
  • find out which goods a bailiff is allowed to take;
  • see how much a bailiff can charge; and
  • help you to take court action to stop bailiffs.

Warrant of control

Information:

changes to bailiff law

On 6 April 2014, the law on bailiffs changed. The information in this fact sheet is based on our understanding of the new rules. Some bailiffs may interpret the new rules differently. It is not yet clear how the new rules will be applied in practice. If you are unsure whether a bailiff's actions are legal, contact us for advice.

Bailiffs are also commonly known as enforcement agents. In this fact sheet we use the term bailiff.

Warning:

court fee

Your creditor has to pay a fee to the court for issuing a warrant of control. This fee will be added to your debt.

If you do not make payments as ordered by the court, your creditor may issue a ‘warrant of control’. This warrant authorises a county court bailiff to try to take control of your possessions to encourage you to pay what you owe. The bailiff should give you seven clear days’ notice that they are due to visit you to take control of goods. This is sometimes known as the ‘enforcement notice’. ‘Clear days’ do not include Sundays, Christmas Day or bank holidays. It is usually quite easy to stop the bailiff action. See the later section Apply to suspend the warrant of control.

When the warrant of control is issued, the bailiffs have a right to try to take control of your goods. This applies even if you move the goods or give them to someone else at any time, even if this is within the seven clear days' notice period.

Remember:

changes to bailiff law

This is our understanding of the new rules on bailiffs from 6 April 2014. Some bailiffs may argue that under the new rules, they can go anywhere they like to take control of your goods. They may say that this allows them to come into your home even if they have not been in before and that you should not refuse them entry. If a bailiff says things like this to you, contact us for advice.

You do not have to let the bailiffs into your home. The bailiffs should not force their way into your home unless:
  • you have let them in on a previous visit
  • they took control of your goods and you have broken the agreement you made with the bailiffs; and
  • they have given you two clear days’ notice.

If you have not let the bailiffs in before, keep your doors locked. It is also a good idea to keep windows closed. A bailiff is allowed to come into your property through an unlocked door, even if you are not in at the time.

Vehicles

Warning:

business premises

Bailiffs can break into your business premises, even if they have not been in before.

A bailiff can take control of goods outside your home, so if you have a vehicle, keep it in a locked garage. If you park the vehicle on your drive, the bailiffs could clamp or remove it.

You could park the vehicle away from your property, but if you park it on a public road and the bailiff finds it, they could force entry to your car and possibly clamp or remove it. Contact us for advice.

If I have already let the bailiff into my home

Extra advice:

exempt goods

The goods that bailiffs are not allowed to take include the following.
  • A cooker or microwave.
  • A refrigerator.
  • A washing machine.
  • A dining table and chairs for you and your household.
This is not a complete list of the goods that bailiffs should not take. If you unsure whether an item is exempt or not, contact us for advice.

County court bailiffs should not take:

  • clothing, bedding, furniture and basic household items that are necessary for the basic domestic needs of you and your family;
  • tools, books, telephones, computers, vehicles and other items of equipment that are necessary for use personally in your job, business or education (up to a total value of £1350); and

  • items you or someone else is physically using where taking the goods is likely to lead to a breach of the peace.

If a bailiff takes control of goods that are protected, you can make a court claim for the goods to be returned. Contact us for advice.

If you have already let a county court bailiff into your home, it is important to bear in mind the following points.

  • The bailiff will not usually take away goods on their first visit.
  • They may ask you to sign a ‘controlled goods agreement’. This allows you to keep using the items listed on the agreement. However, if you break the terms of the controlled goods agreement, the bailiff can return and take the goods by breaking in if necessary. They should give you two clear days' notice before doing this. If you don’t sign the agreement, the bailiffs may remove the goods straight away. Alternatively, they may lock up the goods on your premises. Contact us for advice.

Extra advice:

complaints

If you want to complain about a bailiff, contact us for advice.

Remember:

suspending a warrant

Even if you have signed a controlled goods agreement, you can still apply to the court for the warrant to be suspended.

A bailiff may not be able to take goods that are worth more than you actually owe. If they threaten to do this, contact us for advice.

Goods belonging to someone else

  • The bailiff should not take goods that belong to other people. If they threaten to do this, explain that the goods do not belong to you. Show a receipt or credit agreement as proof. If the owner hasn’t got a receipt, they can provide a sworn statement called a ‘statutory declaration’ instead. Contact us for advice.
  • If a bailiff takes goods belonging to a third party, the third party should write to the bailiff to show that they own the goods. The bailiff should pass this information onto the creditor. The creditor should then decide whether to accept or reject the third party's claim. If the creditor rejects it, the third party can apply to court to get the goods back. However, they will need to pay the court a deposit. The size of the deposit depends on the value of the goods that have been taken. Contact us for advice.
  • Bailiffs can take goods that are jointly owned by you and your partner, but they are only entitled to your share of the goods.

Goods on hire purchase or conditional sale

There are different legal views about whether bailiffs can take control of goods on hire-purchase or conditional-sale agreements. If a bailiff threatens this, contact us for advice.

What if there are no goods to take?

If the bailiffs come into your home, they may decide that your goods are not worth enough to cover the cost of them coming with a van to remove and sell them. If this is the case, the bailiff may return at a later date to try to take control of your goods. They have 12 months from the date of the enforcement notice to take control of your goods. If you made a payment arrangement with the bailiff after they sent you the enforcement notice, the 12 monthperiod starts from when you broke the terms of the repayment arrangement.

Fees county court bailiffs charge

Under the law, county court bailiffs are allowed to charge you the following fees if they start the type of action described.

  • £75 for being instructed by the creditor, carrying out initial checks, investigations and receiving payments.
  • £235 to cover visiting and entering premises and taking control of your goods.
  • £110 to cover attending to remove your goods for sale, valuing them and arranging for them to be sold.
  • The cost of storing goods which the bailiff has removed.
  • The cost of hiring a locksmith, if one is needed.
If your debt is over £1,500 or if your goods are sold at auction, further fees can be charged. Contact us for advice.

Information:

court fees

When the creditor applies to the court to take bailiff action against you, they have to pay a fee. This fee can be added to what you owe before the bailiff visits you. This fee changes from time to time. Contact us for advice.

In practice, county court bailiffs use a different set of fees. For example, they are likely to charge 'reasonable expenses' for removing your goods and certain percentage fees for valuing and selling them. There is no definition of what 'reasonable expenses' means. The bailiffs should give you information about how much you owe before and after they visit you. If you are unsure whether they have charged you the correct amount, contact us for advice. If they have charged you too much, you may be able to challenge the fees through the County Court.

What paperwork should bailiffs give me?

Under the law, bailiffs have to leave you paperwork telling what they intend to do or what they have done. For example, bailiffs should give you a notice telling you:

  • that they intend to visit you;
  • when they have taken control of your goods; or
  • when they intend to re-enter your premises after a previous entry.
  • There are strict rules about the information this paperwork must contain. If the bailiffs do not give you the correct paperwork, you can complain or consider taking legal action against them. Contact us for advice.

If bailiffs do not follow the correct procedures

If a county court bailiff does not follow the correct procedures when taking control of your goods, you can complain. Put your complaint in writing. You can usually send it to the delivery manager at your local county court hearing centre. You may also be able to make a court claim against the bailiff for any loss you have suffered. Before taking either of these courses of action, contact us for advice.

Apply to suspend the warrant of control

This application must be made on form N245 which is available from your local county court hearing centre. The court cannot refuse to accept the application just because the bailiff has not yet visited or managed to get in. However, the bailiff can continue to call round until the court agrees to suspend the warrant.

Information:

parking penalties

You cannot apply to suspend a bailiff's warrant if they are collecting a parking penalty charge for a local authority. Contact us for advice.

Filling in the N245 application form

Information:

court fees

There will be a fee to pay with your application. If you are on a low income or certain benefits you may not have to pay the fee. See Do I have to pay a court fee? at the end of this fact sheet.

Use our online tool Your budget to work out your budget. Make sure you include all your income and outgoings from your budget on form N245. If you are a couple, it is usually best to include your total household income and outgoings. Make sure you have included details of all payments you make on your debts. This will make it clear to the court that you can only afford to pay the amount you have offered. Contact us for advice if you have any problems filling in the form.

What happens next?

Send or take your completed N245 application form to the county court hearing centre that sent the warrant to you. You will have to pay your fee to the court when you give them the application, unless you don’t have to pay on the grounds of hardship. Keep a copy of the completed form. The court will send the creditor a copy of your application form.

If your creditor agrees to your application

They will notify the court. The court will then send you details of what has been agreed and how to pay.

If the creditor does not agree to the offer of payment on your application

The court will work out how much you should pay from the information you have provided on the form.

If the creditor objects to the warrant of control being suspended at all

There will be a short hearing for the district judge to decide what to do. You must go along and explain your circumstances in person. Take a copy of your budget with you.

If the court orders you to pay more than you have offered

Information:

court forms

You can find most court forms using the court form finder on the HM Courts and Tribunals Service website. You can fill in application forms online and print them off to sign and send to court.

If you do not agree with the amount the court orders you to pay, you can ask for a hearing to explain your offer to a District Judge. You need to use a general application form called an N244, which is available from your local county court hearing centre and ask for the court to reconsider the offer you have made. The hearing will be sent to your local county court hearing centre. There should not be another fee to pay at this stage. You must submit your N244 application within 14 days of receiving the order to pay. You should go along to the hearing, taking a copy of your budget with you.

Do I have to pay a court fee?

See our fact sheet:

Help with court fees.

You may be able to get help with court fees, but you need to pass two tests to qualify.

 

Before bailiff action

If the creditor has not already applied to use bailiffs, you may be able to avoid this by applying to vary the payments on the CCJ. There are different ways to do this, depending on when and how the decision about how much you should pay was made.