Can a Bailiff take my car?

A motor vehicle has always been a most attractive item for a bailiff/enforcement agent to seize and in particular;  because of its value and the fact that in many cases, the vehicle in located on the driveway thereby easing the removal process. In early 2014 significant changes were made to bailiff enforcement with the implementation  of the Taking Control of Goods Regulations 2013 and this introduced some welcome changes  about  vehicles that may be considered as ‘exempt’ from being seized. Unfortunately for many business debtors,  the new regulations may result in reduced protection.

What do the regulations say about a vehicle being exempt?

Under Regulation 4 (1) (a) of The Taking Control of Goods Regulations 2013 the following “goods of the debtor” are considered to be “exempt”:

Items of equipment (for example tools, books, vehicles, telephones, computer equipment that are necessary for use personally by the debtor in the debtor’s employment, business, trade, vocation, study or education, except that in any case the aggregate value of the items or equipment to which this exemption applies shall not exceed £1,350.

How is the value of £1,350 calculated?

Although the financial ‘cap’ of £1,350 is considered by many to be very low, it should be noted that this figure is similar to that allowed by the Insolvency Service in cases where a debtor is made bankrupt. Whilst this low figure may provide a level of security for students (ie, for ‘study and education’) the same cannot be said for sole traders and companies.

It is generally considered that the amount of £1,350 is calculated as being  ‘auction’ value which should not be confused with ‘second hand value’. We use a very reliable ‘valuation’ source and please do contact us for further details.

What is meant by ‘necessary’ (for use personally by the debtor)

The starting point will be whether the debtor’s trade could continue without the particular vehicle that has been seized. In other words; is the future of the business vital to that particular vehicle or could the business continue to trade with a cheaper model? Each case will be completely different but the following are popular examples:

Example one:

The debtor is a minicab driver. The bailiff company would argue that he could continue to trade with a cheaper model but in most cases this would not be viable. The debtor would very likely not have any funds to purchase a ‘cheaper’ model and there is also the important matter that a cheaper version may not be reliable. In the case of  ‘Hackney cabs’ most are not owned by the debtor and are provided under a rental agreement and accordingly, would be considered ‘exempt’.

Example two:

A glazier should easily be able to argue that his vehicle was ‘necessary’ for his business given that is a specially modified externally for carrying heavy glass panels. However, a general builder with a ‘transit’ vehicle would have difficulty given that he could very likely continue to trade with a cheaper vehicle.

What is meant by ‘for use personally’ by the debtor?

For example, if at any time during the course of business, an employee, or anyone else can be shown to have the use of the vehicle then the vehicle will not be ‘exempt’ from being taken. In most cases it is common to hear of bailiff companies requesting a copy of the insurance document to see whether any ‘additional’ drivers  are included under the policy.

In the vast majority of cases the Judgment from the well known Court of Appeal case of  The Sheriff of Bedford & Toseland Building Supplies Ltd v Bishop (1993) will be of assistance. We have a full copy of the judgment so please feel free to contact us for details.

Note from Bailiff Advice Online:

A significant change that has been made to the regulations is the right  to ‘appeal’ (object) if goods ( in particular motor vehicles) have been taken by the bailiff which are considered to be ‘exempt’. This simple, speedy and most importantly, free procedure is outlined under Section 85 of the Civil Procedure Rules and is one that we have used successfully many times. Most importantly, a Part 85 claim avoids the need for costly court injunctions etc.

If you are concerned that a vehicle may be at risk of being taken or has already been taken by a bailiff then you can email a question to us using our popular Question page. Alternatively, you can contact us by phone. Details are on our Contact page.

A simple overview of the new Taking Control of Goods Regulations 2013  including details of  bailiff fees that can be charged, the notices that must be given by the bailiff and items that are ‘exempt’ from being taken control of (by bailiffs) can be read  here.