It’s never a good time when your business suffers financial difficulties. But when the bailiffs get involved, the entire ordeal can be made so much worse. Court-appointed bailiffs have the power to seize certain assets for debt repayment, a fate any business would dread.
One of the first assets up for consideration is your vehicle. They are usually of high value, easy to move, and selling them is fairly straightforward. That said, bailiffs can’t simply turn up at your door and seize your car.
To ensure you know your rights, and what options are available to both the bailiffs and to you, Clarke Bell has put together this helpful guide.
What is a bailiff?
Bailiffs, or debt enforcement agents, are collection officials imbued with the power to repossess assets and sell them. Bailiffs are usually used to enforce debts that have been outstanding for some time.
Bailiffs aren’t all the same, however. In most of the U.K, there are two main types: court-appointed High Court Enforcement Agents, and debt collectors. There are significant differences between the two. You will have certain options available depending on which type you are dealing with. In Scotland, they have Sheriff Officers, with different rules altogether.
The first and most important type is the High Court Enforcement Agent. They are directly employed by the courts, meaning they have unique legal authority unavailable to other bailiffs. They are able to force entry into your property, and can be sent without taking you to court first.
Initially, these agents will draft a list of assets on their first visit. As we mentioned, any vehicles will be high up on that list. If there is no progress made on debt repayments, the agents will return to begin seizing assets. If you are behind on rental payments, these bailiffs can issue an eviction.
Debt collectors, on the other hand, do not have the same powers. They are not appointed by the courts, and so cannot forcefully enter your property. Instead, they must seek the permission of the property owner to enter, and must leave the moment they are asked to. However, although debt collectors aren’t as imminently threatening as a High Court Enforcement Agent, their involvement means you need to seek financial assistance.
What options are available for bailiffs?
When the bailiffs pay you a visit, they are limited in the actions they can take. Firstly, unless they are High Court Enforcement Agents, they do not have the authority to force entry. This doesn’t mean you should ignore them, however. A visit from any kind of debt collector is a sign that matters have gotten out of hand.
For High Court Enforcement Agents, some restrictions apply. Although these agents have the authority to forcefully enter the premises, they will not begin asset seizure immediately. Instead, the bailiffs will create a list of items to collect at a later date. Vehicles are likely to be first on that list. Once the bailiffs make a note of any assets, you will not be able to sell them, or otherwise prevent the bailiffs from repossessing them.
Can bailiffs take my car?
As we mentioned, bailiffs are always on the lookout for cars and other vehicles. They are likely the most valuable asset, can be moved easily, and a buyer is never far away. Because of this, bailiffs will make a special effort to leave with a car in tow.
However, there are options available to you to stymie their ability to do so. Most importantly, if you are expecting a visit from the bailiffs, pay close attention to your letterbox. Bailiffs are required to provide written notice of their intention to visit, at least seven working days beforehand. Once you have received your notice, you can consider a few options.
To retain ownership of your car, the only surefire method is to pay back your debt. This will put a stop to the bailiffs, but naturally, it is easier said than done. If this isn’t an option, your next port of call should be to seek financial advice, while keeping your car and other valuable assets out of the bailiffs’ view. For example, you could park your car away from your house, leave it with a friend or family member, or park it in a locked garage. These options are not a guarantee, but they may well buy you time to consider other options.
Exceptions that bar bailiffs from taking your car
There are exceptions that prevent bailiffs from seizing your car, as we detail below:
- Bailiffs cannot seize a car that is used by someone who is disabled. This is usually proven by a blue badge issued by the U.K government. Any method that clearly proves the car is used by a disabled person is sufficient, however.
- Bailiffs cannot seize a car or other vehicle that is clearly used as the main home. This usually extends to caravans or other mobile homes, but does not exclude cars and vans.
- Bailiffs cannot seize a vehicle that was bought using a logbook loan, without the loan being paid off.
- Bailiffs cannot seize a vehicle required for your work, provided it is valued at less than £1,350. More, and it can be taken as payment.
One partial exception is for vehicles bought on a hire purchase. As the vehicle isn’t owned directly by you, some bailiffs will leave it be. Others, however, will attempt to seize it anyway. It’s best to play safe, however, and keep the vehicle out of sight.
Clarke Bell can help
If your business is suffering through a rough financial patch, you don’t need to handle it alone. Clarke Bell has helped businesses through such times for over 28 years, and we’re here to help you too.
To see what we can do for you, get in touch. Our team of experts will help apprise you of your options, and stand with you through an often turbulent experience.