Can a Bailiff take my car

The most popular enquiry that we receive via our helpline or online Enquiry Form is ‘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. However, in many incidences , a vehicle cannot be seized by a bailiff.

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?

The financial ‘cap’ of £1,350 is considered by many to be very low indeed. It is it similar to that allowed by the Insolvency Service in cases where a person is made bankrupt. Although this low figure provides some 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. This 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 you  could continue to work etc without the particular vehicle that has been seized. In other words; is the future of your business reliant on that particular vehicle? In other words; could the business continue to trade with a cheaper model? Each case will be completely different but the following are 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. There is also the important matter that a cheaper version may not be reliable. In the case of  ‘Hackney cabs’ for example, most are not owned by the debtor. They are usually provided under a rental agreement.  Accordingly, they would be considered ‘exempt’.

Example two:

A glazier should easily be able to argue that his vehicle was ‘necessary’ for his business. In almost all cases, his vehicle would be specially modified externally for carrying heavy glass panels. However, a general builder with an expensive  ‘transit’ vehicle would have difficulty arguing that his vehicle was exempt. The enforcement company would argue that he could 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.

Commentary 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 well drafted Part 85 claim should avoid 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 online Enquiry Form.  Alternatively, you can contact our free helpline. Details are on our Contact page.