Warrant of control – All you need to know

A warrant of control is a legal document awarded to your creditors by the high court. It effectively allows them to send an enforcement agent to take control control of your goods, which can then be used to raise funds for payment of your debts.

What is a warrant of control?

If you owe money to a creditor and have been unable to pay your debts, they may lodge a County Court Judgement (CCJ) against you to force payment. If the CCJ is successful, the creditor has the write to pursue a warrant of control as a way of forcing you to pay.

A warrant if control is the legal document that allows bailiffs to take control of your property. It is issued by the county court, and officially empowers enforcement agents (bailiffs) to go the home of the debtor (you) to collect money owed, or claim household items in lieu of that money.

How does a warrant of control work?

County court judgement

To be issued with a warrant of control, you need to have a CCJ against you. A CCJ is a court order which instructs you to pay any money you owe to a creditor. You usually have two weeks to respond to a CCJ.

Failure to pay/missed payments

If you fail to pay your debt even after the CCJ has been taken out against you, the creditor can pursue a warrant of control. Before that can happen, you must have either:

  • Failed to pay the full amount you have been instructed to
  • Missed at least one payment towards the debt

Enforcement notice

If you fail to pay or miss a payment, the court can issue a warrant of control, empowering bailiffs to take control of your possessions. They will usually send you a letter giving you 7 days’ notice of any enforcement action, known as an enforcement notice.

Once the enforcement agents have seized your goods by way of payment, they will typically auction them off and put the monies raised towards your debts.

What happens after a warrant of control is issued?

You will receive a notice of enforcement once the warrant of control is issued, giving you seven days to prepare. These seven days don’t include Sundays or Bank Holidays.

If you pay your debt at any point during that seven day period, the matter will be considered settled, your creditors will call off the enforcement action, and the warrant of control will cease to be.

If you fail to pay during the notice period, you can expect the bailiffs to arrive at your home shortly thereafter.

What should I do if enforcement agents come to my home?

Can enforcement agents force entry with a warrant of control?

No. It’s important to understand that if county court bailiffs arrive at your address, even if they brandish a warrant of control, you are under no obligation to let them in.

Bailiffs have to adhere to strict rules around what they can and can’t do when they arrive at your property – these rules have been made even stricter since the coronavirus pandemic began.

They will be unable to force entry unless:

  • They have given you two days’ clear notice
  • You have broken an agreement you made with the county court/bailiffs
  • You have let them in on a previous visit

Can enforcement agents enter my home when I’m not there?

For most kinds of unpaid debts, bills, or fines, bailiffs cannot force entry to your home when you are not there. In the situation where a bailiff arrives and you’re not in, they would be forced to leave the premises and return when they have a better chance of reaching you.

That said, it’s not unheard of for an enforcement agent to force entry to an empty home, and in some cases they have legal standing. If you’re concerned about bailiffs seizing items when you’re not home, the best advice is to make sure all doors and windows are locked when you leave, and if you live with someone else, make sure they know they’re under no obligation to let them enter the property.

What goods can enforcement agents take?

If bailiffs come to your home with a warrant of control, they will be within their rights to take control of your households goods and other possessions.

Vehicles

Because of its value, a vehicle is something bailiffs will look to repossess. Unless you need you’re car for work, there is very little you can do to stop them. If you’re a tradesmen, for example, and you need your van for work, you may be able to keep it as long as it’s worth less than £1350 and you can make the case that’s it’s essential to your business.

Electronics

Bailiffs are most interested in the type of items that can fetch a good price at auction, including electronic equipment like your mobile phone, television, or a games console.

Other high-value items that they may target includes jewellery and certain furniture.

What goods are enforcement agents unable to take?

Hire purchase items

There is a level of uncertainty around hire purchase agreements and whether bailiffs can lay claim to them or not. For the vast majority of items bought on hire purchase, a bailiff will be unable to take control of it so long as the final payment hasn’t been made – technically it’s not yours to give.

With cars, however, the line isn’t always so clear. Because it’s a high-value item, there are certain bailiffs who may attempt to to repossess a hire purchase car and put it towards your debt.

Basic household items

Bailiffs cannot take everything of value in your home. While they might take valuable items that are deemed ‘non-essential’, certain goods are protected. They have to leave you with the essential, like a washing machine, a cooker, a dining table, and a mobile phone or working phone line.

What’s the difference between a high court writ of control and a warrant of control?

People sometimes get confused between a warrant of control and a high court writ of control. Both are instruments of the court that force the debtor to settle their debts under threat of enforcement action. The main difference between the two is the level of the court.

A warrant of control is issued by the county court, while – as the name would suggest – a high court writ of control is issued by the high court.

They’re enforced slightly differently too. Under a warrant, the county court will send out an enforcement agent. With a writ of control, on the other hand, a high court enforcement officer will be sent to pursue the costs involved.

How do I stop a warrant of control?

The best way to stop a warrant of control and prevent bailiffs appearing at your address is by applying to suspend the warrant. You can do this by using an N245 application.

The N245 application form can be collected from your local county court, or downloaded from the gov.uk website here. In the application, you will outline details your debt to the court, your income and outgoings, and any previous payment offer you have made to your creditors.

You will have to pay the associated fees to send your application to the county court. It is then down to the court to decide whether you the warrant stands and the bailiffs will be allowed to recover your possessions, or whether the creditor agrees with the payment offer made in the application.

What if I need debt help or more information on warrants of control?

Being in debt is never easy, but worrying about bailiffs coming to your home brings about a different level of stress. If your financial situation is getting out of control, it’s important to take action before things get worse.

At IVA Plan, we understand how difficult it can be to deal with your debt. That’s why we’re here to help you take the first step. Our expert advisers have experience handling bailiffs, and have the knowledge and expertise you need to put you back in control. Talk to us today.