What Can Bailiffs Take: Be Prepared with This Ultimate Guide!

an article image titled what can bailiffs take

Dealing with debt is often a challenging experience, one that can become particularly stressful when enforcement agents, also known as bailiffs, become involved. These professionals have specific powers granted by courts to help collect debts. Their role? To visit homes or workplaces to seize goods or property of value to help settle outstanding debts. They are a fundamental part of the debt recovery process, enforcing court orders and collecting fines, council tax arrears, and other types of debt. This article answers the question “what can bailiffs take”

But what exactly can bailiffs take from your home or business? This is a question that may loom large if you’re facing a visit from a bailiff. Understanding your rights and what a bailiff can or cannot do is crucial to navigating such situations. This article aims to provide a comprehensive guide on the powers and limitations of bailiffs, the items they can legally seize, and how you can protect your goods and belongings.

Remember, information is power, so read on to ensure you’re equipped with the knowledge you need to handle these situations in the most effective way.

Quick Links

Who Are Bailiffs?

Bailiffs, otherwise known as enforcement agents, are individuals legally authorised by either the County Court or the High Court to collect debts on behalf of creditors. They can work independently or be part of a bailiff company, and their primary role is to enforce court orders, collect debts, and in some cases, repossess goods.

Bailiffs have the legal right to ‘take control’ of a debtor’s goods, meaning they can seize and sell items of value to cover the outstanding debt. However, they must carry a badge and identification, showing their name, photograph, court identification, and contact information for their certification body. It’s always a good idea to ask for this identification if a bailiff visits your premises.

County Court Bailiffs and High Court Enforcement Officers

It’s important to distinguish between County Court bailiffs and High Court enforcement officers, as the powers they have slightly differ.

County Court Bailiffs are civil servants employed by Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service. They can enforce County Court Judgements (CCJs), collect money owed under fines and penalties, and serve court documents. They are regulated by court rules.

High Court Enforcement Officers (HCEOs), on the other hand, are private sector agents authorised by the High Court. They enforce High Court writs, including possession orders and writs of control for larger debts. HCEOs have broader powers than County Court bailiffs, such as being able to enter commercial premises to seize goods even if the debtor is not present.

In any situation, knowing who you are dealing with helps you understand your rights and the potential actions a bailiff can take. In the next section, we delve into what bailiffs can take from your home or business.

Freephone including all mobiles

What Can Bailiffs Take?

When dealing with bailiffs, understanding the rules around control orders and goods agreements is key. Once a control order has been issued by a court, bailiffs can take certain goods and items to settle a debt. However, it’s crucial to know that there are limitations on what bailiffs can take from your property.

Understanding Control Orders and Goods Agreements

A control order, also known as a controlled goods agreement, gives a bailiff the legal right to take and sell a debtor’s goods to repay a debt. If you’ve received such an order, it’s best to seek immediate legal advice.

The agreement typically contains an inventory listing the specific goods the bailiff can take control of if the debt isn’t paid by a specified date. The debtor can continue to use the items until the date specified in the agreement. But selling or disposing of the items listed in a control order before the bailiff returns can be a criminal offence.

General Rules on Property and Goods They Can Seize

In general, bailiffs can only take non-essential goods or items, which belong to the debtor. Essential items necessary for living and working are usually exempt. Bailiffs cannot seize goods belonging to a third party or those jointly owned, unless the co-owner also owes the debt.

Trustpilot reviews, image of trustpilot logo

Free Advice

Low Cost Liquidations

Nationwide Service

Specific Items Bailiffs Can Take

Items that bailiffs can take include:

  • Electrical goods such as TVs
  • Antiques and jewellery
  • Non-essential furniture
  • Luxury items
  • Vehicles (except if on hire purchase or used for work)


Vehicles can be taken by bailiffs, regardless if they are parked on a public road, private land, or a driveway. However, if the vehicle is on hire purchase or is essential for someone’s job or study, it cannot be seized.

Property of a Limited Company

If you own a limited company, bailiffs can take company goods. However, they can’t take goods owned by the individual directors unless personal debts are involved.

Goods for Auction

Once seized, items are usually sold at auction. The proceeds, after deducting the bailiff’s fees, are used to pay off the debt.

In the next section, we’ll discuss what bailiffs can’t take, providing further clarity on your rights and protections. Always remember to seek professional advice if you’re unsure or feel threatened.

Category of GoodsCan Bailiffs Take Them?
Essential Household Items (e.g., bedding, clothing, basic kitchen appliances)No
Non-Essential Items of High Value (e.g., jewellery, artwork, second TV)Yes
Items Belonging to Someone Else in the HouseholdNo*
Business Assets (if debt is business-related)Yes
Items on Hire Purchase or Conditional Sale AgreementsNo
Tools of Trade (up to a certain value, for sole traders and partnerships)No


*Items that belong to someone else can be taken if the debtor has a right to them or can sell them.

**A vehicle may not be taken if it’s essential for your work or education, or for a disabled person’s use, and if it’s of a low value.

It’s essential to consult with a professional or legal advice service for a more comprehensive understanding of your situation.

Bailiff’s Entry Rights and Limitations

While bailiffs do have certain powers, they are subject to certain limitations and rules when it comes to entering a property. Here, we’ll look at the differences between peaceful and forceful entry, situations where bailiffs can force entry, and the rights of the debtor during a bailiff visit.

Understanding Peaceful and Forceful Entry

Bailiffs are allowed to enter a property to enforce a debt, but how they can do so is governed by law.

Peaceful entry, also known as “walk-in possession,” is when a bailiff enters a property without using force. This could be through an unlocked door or by being invited in by someone present in the property.

On the other hand, forceful entry is when a bailiff gains access to a property by using reasonable force, such as breaking a window or door. It’s important to note that a bailiff can only use forceful entry under certain conditions and with specific types of debt.

Situations Where Bailiffs Can Force Entry

A bailiff can force entry only under the following circumstances:

  1. When collecting unpaid magistrates court fines.
  2. If they are enforcing an order of the High Court.
  3. If they have been inside the property before on a previous visit and are returning to take control of goods.

In most other cases, they cannot use force to enter a property.

Rights of the Debtor During a Bailiff Visit

When a bailiff visits, it’s essential to know your rights.

  • Bailiffs must show identification, including a badge, ID card or enforcement agent certificate.
  • They must explain the reason for their visit and provide a clear breakdown of the debt.
  • They should respect your property and peace of mind.
  • Bailiffs should not use aggressive language, physical force, or pressure you into making immediate payments you cannot afford.
  • They must leave the property if only a child under 16 or a vulnerable person (including a disabled person) is present.

If you feel your rights have been violated, you should report the situation to the bailiff’s company, the court that issued the warrant or writ, or seek legal advice.

How to Protect Your Property

Protecting your belongings and assets from seizure by bailiffs is crucial if you’re facing debt enforcement action. From knowing your rights to seeking professional legal advice and exploring various debt solutions, there are several ways to safeguard your property.

Knowing Your Rights

Awareness of your rights when dealing with bailiffs is the first step in property protection. Remember, bailiffs can only enter your home under certain circumstances, and they’re limited in what they can take. For instance, bailiffs must leave if only a vulnerable person or child under 16 is present. They’re also not allowed to take essential items needed for basic domestic needs, employment, study, or anything required for the care of a child or a disabled person.

Navigating the complex world of debt and bailiff enforcement can be overwhelming. This is where professional legal advice can help. An experienced legal advisor can provide insight into your options, help you understand your rights, and offer solutions tailored to your situation.

Forming a Repayment Plan

Forming a repayment plan can help manage your debts effectively. If you’re unable to pay the debt in full, you may negotiate a payment plan with your creditors. In some cases, they may accept reduced payments or freeze interest and charges to make repayment more manageable.

Creating an Inventory and Receipts for Proof of Ownership

Bailiffs can only take goods that you own. Therefore, if you have items that belong to a third party, you can protect these by providing proof of their ownership. Keep an inventory of your items, along with receipts, hire purchase agreements, or any other documents that can establish ownership.

If you’re unsure how to navigate the process of dealing with bailiffs, reaching out to a licensed insolvency practitioner like Company Doctor can provide you with the advice and solutions you need. Call us at 0800 169 1536 or leave an enquiry on our website today.

Business Debts and Bailiffs

Business debts can result in bailiff action, just like personal debts. The key differences lie in how the enforcement is carried out and the types of assets that bailiffs can seize. Understanding these nuances is essential if you’re a business owner facing debts.

Enforcement on Business Premises

Unlike residential properties, bailiffs do not need an invitation to enter business premises; they can enter public areas of the premises without permission. They may seize goods on the premises to settle the debt, following the rules laid out in the enforcement notice.

Enforcement agents (bailiffs) may use reasonable force to enter the business premises if necessary. However, this is usually a last resort, typically only used when the business has failed to engage or cooperate with the enforcement process.

Bailiffs must follow rules and regulations regarding respect and decency, and cannot seize items that are essential to the day-to-day running of the business.

Handling Debts as a Limited Company

As a director of a limited company, it’s crucial to understand how to manage business debts. If a bailiff visits due to unpaid company debts, they can seize company assets, including vehicles, equipment, and money in the business accounts. However, they cannot take personal possessions unless the director has provided personal guarantees for business loans.

If your limited company is struggling with debts, seeking professional advice is crucial. An insolvency practitioner can provide guidance and suggest a suitable debt solution, such as a Company Voluntary Arrangement (CVA) or possibly liquidation.

At Company Doctor, we are licensed insolvency practitioners based in Leeds, offering advice and solutions to directors with insolvent companies. We provide Creditor’s Voluntary Liquidations, helping you navigate the complex insolvency process. Don’t struggle with business debts alone; reach out to us at 0800 169 1536 or leave an enquiry on our website.

How Company Doctor Can Help

Dealing with debt and the prospect of bailiffs can be an extremely stressful and complex situation. That’s where we, at Company Doctor, can step in and provide the necessary guidance and support.

Providing Professional Insolvency Services

As licensed insolvency practitioners, our primary goal is to help struggling directors navigate the murky waters of insolvency. Our experienced team has the knowledge and expertise to manage complex financial situations, from understanding enforcement agent rules to planning the most suitable debt solutions.

Creditor’s Voluntary Liquidations (CVL)

One such debt solution that we specialise in is the Creditor’s Voluntary Liquidation (CVL). CVLs can be an effective strategy to manage the situation if a company is insolvent and cannot pay its debts. It allows for the orderly winding up of the company, ensuring that creditors are treated fairly and that directors fulfil their legal obligations.

The process also allows directors to move on from an insolvent company and potentially avoid personal financial risk. However, liquidations should not be undertaken lightly and should always be done with professional advice.

Reach Out Today for Expert Advice

At Company Doctor, we understand the pressures that you’re under. That’s why we’re here to provide you with expert, compassionate advice. Our team can guide you through your options and help you take control of your situation.

We invite you to reach out to us on 0800 169 1536 or leave an enquiry on our website. We’re here to help you find the best way forward, and we are committed to providing you with solutions that are in the best interest of you and your company. Remember, you don’t have to face this situation alone. Let Company Doctor be your partner in finding the best debt solutions for your company.


Navigating through a situation involving bailiffs can be daunting, especially when you’re unsure about their powers and how it affects you. Here are some frequently asked questions that we have answered to help you better understand your situation and rights.

Can a bailiff force entry into my home?

In general, bailiffs cannot use force to gain entry into your home for the first time to take your goods. They must be allowed peaceful entry, meaning they must be let in voluntarily or they can enter through an unlocked door. However, there are exceptions where they can force entry, especially if they’re collecting unpaid magistrates court fines or if they’ve been previously allowed peaceful entry and now are returning to take goods listed on a controlled goods agreement.

Can bailiffs seize goods on hire purchase or conditional sale agreements?

Goods on hire purchase or conditional sale agreements cannot usually be taken by bailiffs. This is because you don’t own these goods until you have made the last payment. However, the finance company can take back the goods if you have not kept up your payments.

Can bailiffs take essential household items?

Certain goods, deemed necessary for basic domestic needs or for your employment, study, or business, are considered exempt. These items, like your clothes, bedding, basic kitchen appliances, tools for your trade, or items necessary for the care of a child or a disabled person, cannot be taken by a bailiff.

Can bailiffs seize goods belonging to someone else?

Goods that belong to a third party, i.e., not the debtor, are not allowed to be taken by the bailiffs. However, the third party will need to provide proof of ownership for the items.

What should I do if a bailiff is coming to my property?

Firstly, it’s essential not to panic. It’s advisable to seek immediate professional advice to understand your rights and potential solutions. Company Doctor can provide you with advice on dealing with your debt. Try to negotiate a payment plan with the bailiff company. Also, it’s vital to ensure that the person visiting you is a certified enforcement agent – you have the right to see their ID and badge.

Remember, the information above is a general guide. Every situation is unique, and you should get personalised, professional advice. If you have more questions or need assistance, feel free to reach out to us at Company Doctor. Our team of experts is always ready to help.


The primary sources for this article are listed below.

Bailiffs and enforcement agents: national standards – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)


Rules & Practice Directions – Civil Procedure Rules (justice.gov.uk)

Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Act 2007 (legislation.gov.uk)

Details of our standards for producing accurate, unbiased content can be found in our editorial policy here.

Scroll to Top