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TNV, Lawyer
Category: UK Law
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Experience:  Law degree with Honours, Diploma in Legal Practice
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Can high court enforcement officer get into my house and take my goods

Resolved Question:

is a high court enforcement officer allowed to break into my house and take my goods
Submitted: 7 years ago.
Category: UK Law
Expert:  TNV replied 7 years ago.

Yes they can as they are an appointed "bailiff". A CEO (magistrates court bailiff) or a High Court Enforcement Officer (HCEO) can use force to gain entry to your property if you refuse to let them in or you are not in when they call.


Here is the full SP on what bailiffs and court enforcement officers can or cannot do;


A bailiff is a person who is authorised to collect a debt to the organisation/court/person to who the debt is owed.


There are different types of bailiffs and some have more powers than others.


Here is a brief overview of the law relating to bailiffs;


There are different kinds of bailiffs -

  • civilian enforcement officers (CEOs)(employed by the magistrates courts to enforce magistrates's courts orders such as fines)
  • county court bailiffs (employed by Her Majesty court service to enforce county court judgments)
  • certificated bailiffs (employed by organisations such as local authorities to levy distress for rent, council tax and road traffic debts)
  • non-certificated bailiff (can recover money for a variety of debts but not council tax, road traffic debt, county court orders or levy distress for rent)
  • enforcement officers (employed by the High court to enforce High court orders)

Bailiffs authority

  • A bailiff must have some legal authority before he/she can collect the debt from you. That authority will be in the form of a warrant, warrant for execution, distress warrant, liability order.
  • Before speaking to a bailiff ask for identification and proof of the authority.
  • If the paperwork the bailiffs have does not relate to you or anyone living in the house then you should give the bailiffs proof of your identity, (through the letterbox if you do not want to open the door).

Calling times

  • Bailiffs can call at any time night or day, but they should call at a reasonable time between 0800 - 2000hrs.
  • Bailiffs collecting rent however, must call between sunrise and sunset.


  • Bailiffs cannot use force to gain entry into your house to seize goods (see below for CEOs). However they can seize goods if they have made a peaceable entry, this basically means that you have let them in or they have climbed through an open window or come through an open door. They cannot break a window or smash a door down or force their way past you.
  • However, once a bailiff has gained peaceable entry once they can use force to gain entry on any subsequent visit.
  • If a bailiff does gain peaceable entry to your home then they will take any valuable goods. It is for the occupier of the premises to prove that the goods belong to someone else (for example in rented property the occupier would have to have proof that the goods belonged to the landlord). They can enter any room and open locked doors and cupboards (with force if necessary).
  • A CEO (magistrates court bailiff) can use force to gain entry to your property if you refuse to let them in or you are not in when they call.


  • There is certain property that bailiffs cannot seize, for example, tools, goods, vehicles and other equipment necessary for use by you in your employment or business, clothing, bedding furniture, basic household equipment.
  • Bailiffs from the magistrates's court can seize more goods but still cannot seize goods required for basic domestic needs such as beds, bedding, tools of the trade but may be able to seize video recorders, dvd players, second TVs, washing machines, microwaves, things not classed as basic domestic equipment.


  • A bailiff can seize a vehicle unless it is in hire purchase, finance agreement or used by you in the course of your employment.
  • If the bailiffs clamp your vehicle you should not try and remove it as you could commit an offence of criminal damage.

Wrongly seized property

  • Bailiffs cannot seize property that does not belong to you, such as goods subject to a hire purchase agreement, as these goods do not belong to you until the final payment is made.
  • If goods are seized wrongfully the owner of the goods can apply for them to be returned, this includes property listed above that bailiffs cannot seize.

Hope this helps.

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