The Taking Control of Goods Regulations came into effect on 6 April 2014 with the aim of tightening the rules around the activities of bailiffs and enforcement agents.
If you fail to pay a debt after receiving a written warning (or Notice of Enforcement), the matter will move to the enforcement stage. This is when an enforcement agent will visit your property to remove goods or place them under control for removal at a later date.
The Taking Control of Goods Regulations means the enforcement agent must give seven days’ notice of their intention to visit a debtor.
In addition, they cannot enter a home when children are present or visit debtors between 9pm and 6am.
What cannot be taken from me by the enforcement agent?
Crucially there are a number of goods that are exempt from seizure under the Taking Control of Goods Regulations. Goods that are exempt include those required by the debtor and their household to meet their basic domestic needs, such as clothes, cookers, microwaves, refrigerators, washing machines, dining tables, beds, bedding and landlines. Animals or livestock cannot be seized either.
Agents are also not allowed to take someone else’s belongings, such as your partner’s computer, although you may be asked to prove that someone else’s goods don’t belong to you.
I need access to a vehicle. Can the enforcement agent take my car?
There are also exemptions surrounding vehicles including:
- a vehicle that displays a disabled badge,
- a vehicle where there are reasonable grounds to believe that it is used to transport a disabled person. If the blue badge is not on display, the High Court Enforcement Officer might take control of it,
- a vehicle, whether in public ownership or not, that is being used for the fire, police or ambulance service, or
- a vehicle displaying a valid British Medical Association (BMA) badge, for example, a vehicle used by a doctor who is on call.
Vehicles must remain on the property for two hours before they can be seized and removed from the premises. The seized vehicle is then held for seven days before it is sold, which gives the debtor an opportunity to raise funds to pay off the debt.
One other change is that a sole trader can no longer claim full exemption of ‘tools of the trade’. They can now only claim the value of £1,350 and the enforcement agent will take control of any goods above that. This only applies to the goods belonging to and exclusively used by sole traders, such as vehicles, tools or books.
Will goods be taken from me straight away?
Once goods have been seized, they may not be taken away from you immediately. An agreement is drawn up to disclose the items to be taken and that they may not be sold on. If the debtor does sell the goods to someone else, the agents can enforce the written agreement on the person who bought the goods. The enforcement officers can recover these goods at any time.
Hours of entry:
Enforcement agents may only enter, re-enter or remain on the premises after 6am and before 9pm on any day.
Enforcement is made up of four stages:
- The compliance stage when the notice of enforcement is sent
- Enforcement stage one when the enforcement agent visits premises to take control of goods
- Enforcement stage two which is triggered if the debtor doesn’t pay at stage one
- The sale or disposal stage when goods will be sold to recover the debt.
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