Warrants Of Control
A warrant of control authorises a County Court Bailiff to attempt to take control of your possessions to sell to pay a debt.
Bailiffs are persons authorised by the Courts to collect debts on behalf of someone owed money. If bailiffs are visiting you, you still have rights, and the bailiff must lawfully conduct themselves. However, you will experience a loss of some possessions if you don’t start payments soon.
The advice contained here can offer some protection, but only an appeal against a Judgment, the granting of a Time Order or starting repayments will stop the debt payment by means outside your control.
Civil Enforcement Agents
Bailiffs are now also referred to as Civil Enforcement Agents. For most people with unsecured debt repayment problems, the law is sympathetic towards them.
This is because the Consumer Credit Act 1974 says a borrower is only required to repay their unsecured debts at a rate which is affordable after considering essential living expenses and personal circumstances. This is regardless of the size of the debt, the term of the loan or the interest rate.
Only when all the following are true can a County Court bailiff visit your home.
- A default notice has been issued and not complied with.
- The creditor has advised of their intention of court action and you’ve been sent a Money Claim form from the court.
- A Judgment has been made in favour of the creditor with terms deemed to be fair to both parties.
- You are still not making repayments under the terms of the Judgment.
- The creditor obtains a warrant of control for the court.
- You’ve had seven days written notice.
Access to your home
County Court bailiffs will not appear at your door without warning. You have seven days notice to allow you a final chance to settle. You do not have to allow bailiffs into your home. County Court bailiffs cannot use force to enter a residence. Entry through an unlocked door or an open window without causing damage is deemed to be peaceful means. The bailiff can request you allow them into your home to discuss the matter. If you agreed, that also is a peaceful entry.
Forcing their way in, past you at your door in your home is not allowed for unsecured borrowing debts. Once in your home, a bailiff can force open internal doors and cupboards. If a bailiff has previously legally entered your home, they can use force to entry on subsequent visits about the same debt.
If you refuse the bailiff entry indefinitely, the warrant returns to the court as the bailiffs have not been able to get payment. The creditor may then take other action to enforce the Judgment, such as an Attachment of Earnings Order or in some cases, a Bankruptcy Petition.
Items bailiffs can’t take
Once the bailiff has gained access, they can seize any goods belonging to the debtor with the following exceptions:
- Items or tools used in self-employment/business by the debtor. This can include vehicles, computing equipment and smartphones.
- Household equipment and provisions necessary for the basic domestic needs. This includes clothing, bedding and furniture.
- Goods rented or on hire purchase (as technically these don’t belong to the debtor).
- Items of little or no resale value.
- Items belonging to or used exclusively by a child.
The bailiff can take goods which are jointly owned by the debtor and another person or persons, but if they sell them, they must pay the other parties their share of the money. If proven, it is not likely the bailiff will remove jointly owned goods. The onus is upon you to show joint or non-ownership.
Walking Possession Agreement
The bailiff can remove goods immediately, and will usually do so in the case of vehicles. More commonly, they will leave the item on the premises, asking you to sign a Walking Possession Agreement. This lists the seized items marked suitable for removal. To list items, the bailiff must first have access. They can’t list items viewed through a window. The bailiff now controls the listed goods but is leaving them on the premises allowing for continued usage. You must pay the agreed instalments on the Walking Possession Agreement; otherwise, the bailiff can return to remove the goods to sell.
You can remove, sell or hide possessions before a bailiff seizes them; however, once items are seized, it is an offence to remove, sell or damage the itemised goods. The bailiff can now force entry to the property to recover the seized items as they have previously gained peaceful entry.
Making Offers to Bailiffs
It is advisable to offer whatever payment you can afford to the bailiff. However, do not let them into your home to do so. Close your door and ask them to wait outside or in their car. Make sure you get a receipt for any money paid.
Seizing goods of higher value than the debt
Goods are seized to be sold at public auction or online. Typically this will attract a sale price of a fraction of their ‘as new’ value. Therefore, the bailiff will try to seize goods many times the ‘as new’ value of the debt. You would be better off selling the items yourself before the bailiff arrives and using the proceeds towards the debt. This way, you’ll have more choice as to what you keep and lose and are likely to be able to achieve a better price.
How Debt Guardians can help
For many of our clients, the prospect of a visit from bailiffs was the final straw to prompt them to seek help. The key is to act quickly. We will review your financial circumstances and produce a financial statement. This is a document your creditors will hopefully accept to be a fair assessment of your ability to repay this debt and any other debts. The money you have more than the essential expenditure is called disposable income, and only this needs to go towards paying unsecured debts.
The debt subject to the Court Order can be given a priority if needed to comply with the terms of the Judgment.