I’m a debt expert – five things bailiffs are allowed to take from your home, and what to do to prevent it | The Sun

A KNOCK at the door from bailiffs can be a scary and overwhelming experience that leaves you feeling helpless.

However, debt collectors must stick to strict guidelines that are in place to protect consumers and vulnerable people.

No matter your situation, you do have rights.

Bailiffs can turn up at your door when you haven’t paid money owed, including council tax bills, parking fines, court fines and county court, high court or family court judgements.

The purpose of the visit could be to serve court documents, give notices or a court summons.

There are different types of bailiffs, including "certified enforcement agents", "high court enforcement officers" and "county court and family court bailiffs".

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On television you may have seen scenes where bailiffs turn up and start taking belongings.

Can this happen in reality?

Jonathan Chesterman, debt advice policy manager at charity StepChange, has shared exactly what you need to know and what bailiffs do when they arrive on your front door step.

He says: "Bailiffs, or enforcement agents, are usually contracted by local authorities or other creditors to recoup arrears or debts.

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"They are sent to people’s homes and they ‘list’ items to take and sell to ultimately cover the cost of an individual’s debt.

"Normally, you’ll be asked to sign the list, and this is called a ‘controlled goods agreement’."

You don't always have to open the door

Bailiffs have to formally notify you with a ‘notice of enforcement’ letter at least seven days before they can turn up at your property.

You can get free and impartial debt advice should be in this situation for charities such as StepChange.

Even when debt collectors do first turn up at your home you don't have to let them in.

Jonathan says: "To anyone receiving a letter or a visit from a bailiff, the first thing I would say is do not let them into your home unlessyou have already signed a ‘controlled goods agreement’, or the court has given the bailiffs permission to force their way in."

You should ask to see formal identification and a copy of the warrant.

Jonathan adds: "They do not have to come into your property to do this, they can show you through the window or post it through the letterbox."

The law says bailiffs can turn up between 6am and 9pm outside of these house is illegal. And a bailiff must not enter premises if the only people in the house are under 16 or adults that are classed as vulnerable.

Jonathan says: “You must also be very careful about inviting bailiffs in – you don’t have to open the door to them unless they returning to take goods they have already listed on a controlled goods agreement.

Your car

Jonathan explains that bailiffs are looking to cover the cost of your debt with your possessions.

He says: "They will take whatever they think can cover the debt…

“Your largest and most expensive goods will be what the bailiff targets first."

For many people this will begin with a car.

Jonathan says: “While hiding your goods listed by a bailiff after having visited your property is a criminal offence, if you move them before a bailiff arrives, then this is completely legal…

"So if you have a car, park it away from your home and in an ideal scenario in a locked garage."


Jewellery can often by some of our most valuable belongings making it a prime target for bailiffs looking to recoup debt costs.

Again, moving this before a bailiff arrives is allowed.

Jonathan says: "If you have any valuable jewellery, ensure this is hidden or again ideally in a locked safe.”


Bailiffs can take your phone if you have more than one mobile in the property or if you have a landline phone, according to Jonathan.

However, they must leave you with at least one phone, so if you don't have a landline or extra mobiles they won't be able to take your phone.


Bailiffs are allowed to take laptops or computers unless they are needed for work.

And they would be automatically exempt if they are owned by the employer.

However, if it is owned personally but used for work, then the individual would need to prove this.

Jonathan adds: "There have been cases where bailiffs have taken and asked questions later."

Televisions and electrical goods

Televisions are likely to be taken by a bailiff as they are typically valuable and not seen as an essential item for living.

What are bailiffs not allowed to take?

Bailiffs can't take all valuable belongings, however.

Jonathan says: "There are also some goods they are not allowed to take if they are essential for your needs, for example, clothing, bedding, essential furniture and household appliances like ovens, fridges and washing machines."

So you shouldn't have to worry about these types of goods being removed from your home.

And bailiffs should only take as much as is needed to cover the debt.

Jonathan says: "Above all, the bailiff should only take what is necessary to pay the debt and fees, so should not take more than they need to."

Record the process

It's a good idea to get people to observe your interaction with bailiffs – maybe even taking a recording, according to Jonathan.

He says: “Unfortunately, there are instances of poor behaviour from bailiffs including coercing and intimidating people they are visiting.

"If possible, do get someone to observe the process, whether this be a family member, neighbour or otherwise.

"Failing this, try to get photographic or video evidence, or any correspondence from the bailiff company.

“If you do have issues with bailiffs, a new independent regulator for the enforcement industry launched in autumn 2022, called the Enforcement Conduct Board.

"This body is designed to provide oversight on the behaviour of bailiffs."

Any recordings or other evidence of poor behaviour can be used to make make a complaint directly to the body.

Jonathan adds: “You can also complain to the creditor that sent the bailiffs because they are responsible for bailiff conduct.

"So you should follow their complaints process, including using the ombudsman for their service, for example the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman for things like council tax.”

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If you're struggling to pay debt, there are a number of services you can use to get free advice and help, including:

  • StepChange – 0800 138 1111
  • National Debtline – 0808 808 4000
  • Citizens Advice – 0808 800 9060

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