What items can the Bailiff take from my home?
Firstly, it is important to be aware that you are not under any legal obligation to allow a bailiff into your home and furthermore; if you do allow a bailiff “peaceful” entry into your home the implications will be that significant additional fees will be applied to the account which will naturally make your financial position much worse. Secondly, you need to be aware that from any payments that are made to the bailiff, they are legally permitted to deduct their fees at source. In other words, the debt to the council will not be reduced until after bailiff fees have been paid.
Before considering whether to allow ‘peaceful’ entry to the bailiff it is very important that you first read our separate section entitled: ‘What will happen when bailiffs are instructed’
If you have either allowed the bailiff into your home or the bailiff has managed to gain ‘peaceful entry’ then it is important to be aware of the legal position regarding the goods that a bailiff may take and the goods that are ‘exempt’ by law.
It is important to be aware that it is very rare indeed for goods to actually be ‘removed’ with industry sources stating that goods are only removed in less than 0.5% of cases.
Bailiffs do not want to remove basic household furniture. This is because the resale value at public auction is very low. Additionally, health and safety regulations commonly prevent electrical goods from being seized, in the same way that fireproofing regulations prevent soft furnishings, such as sofa’s etc actually being taken.
A bailiff is only allowed to take sufficient goods to cover the outstanding bill and his costs. However, although you may consider that a sofa is worth £700 for instance, its sale at auction would only be approx: £70. For this reason the bailiffs can legally take goods that at auction will cover the outstanding bill etc.
Statutory Regulations state that the following items are exempt and must not be taken.
- “Such tools, books, vehicles and other items of equipment as are necessary for use personally in employment, business or vocation”
- “Such clothing, bedding, furniture, household equipment and provisions as are necessary for satisfying basic domestic needs of the person and family”.
From the many enquiries that we receive the vast majority of the public are of the opinion that if they use their car to get to and from work that it will be ‘exempt’ from seizure. This is not at all correct and we have therefore provided a separate section that addresses this point.
Because the above list is so vague, and not very specific, we have reviewed many contracts between local authorities and their relevant bailiff companies to see what items are listed as being exempt. These items are as follows:
- Goods of minimal or no resale value
- Food items, cooking utensils
- Items that would leave family unable to prepare a hot meal
- Heating appliances
- Children’s items, toys, prams (but computers and bikes can be taken)
- Disability items to be used to care for the sick
- Medical aids or medical equipment
- Items purchased using money from Social Fund
- The main form of cooking: if you have a cooker and microwave, the bailiff could take the microwave. If you only have a microwave then this must not be seized.
- Washing machine, vacuum cleaner
- Personal items: such as family photographs/pictures.
- Items of minimal value, and or broken items.
- Goods either rented, or hired.
It is important to remember that the onus of proof is on the owner of the goods seized to show that they are exempt because they fall in any particular category. However, the courts have decided that bailiffs have a duty of care that they must exercise when seizing goods and that when a bailiff is put on notice that items do not belong to the debtor, then they must act with caution, and try to seize other items if at all possible.
Once again, it is important to be aware that with council tax debts you are not under any legal obligation to allow a bailiff entry into your home and furthermore, by allowing a bailiff into your property this will add significant additional fees to your account.