When you’re in debt, it’s normal to worry each time a letter comes through the door and receiving a legal document that you’ve never heard of can be scary.
If you have a County Court Judgment (CCJ) that you are struggling to pay, you might have received a Warrant of Control. But what is it and what should you do about it?
What is a Warrant of Control?
A Warrant of Control is a legal document that may be issued if you have a CCJ that you haven’t paid. It authorises enforcement agents, or enforcement bailiffs, to seize goods in an attempt to encourage you to pay what you owe.
Unlike a High Court Writ of Control which is executed by a High Court enforcement officer, a Warrant of Control is executed by an enforcement agent.
Creditors can take you to court to apply for a CCJ if you haven’t repaid a debt. If the court agrees with the creditor, a CCJ will be issued to order you to repay what they owe as soon as possible.
If the debt is repaid within one month, the CCJ will be discharged and removed from your credit file.
If the debt isn’t repaid within one month, it will remain on your credit file for another six years.
If you have failed to repay any of the debt or have missed at least one payment that was part of an agreed payment plan, the creditor may ask the court to issue a Warrant of Control against you. This gives bailiffs the right to enter your home and seize goods up to the value of the money owed.
Why have I received a Warrant of Control?
You will only receive a Warrant of Control if you have a CCJ in your name. It is illegal for the court to issue a Warrant of Control without prior CCJ proceedings in place.
If you have received a Warrant of Control, it will usually be because you have:
- Failed to repay a CCJ
- Breached a court order
- Failed to pay an interim County Court order
If you receive a CCJ, it’s important to pay what you can towards it or discuss a repayment plan that you can afford.
It can be tempting to ignore it and hope it goes away but this will only make the problem worse and lead to further legal action.
How does a Warrant of Control work?
Receiving a Warrant of Control can be daunting but you will always be given seven days’ notice before an enforcement agent visits your home to seize goods.
This will give you an opportunity to dispute the debt or agree on a suitable payment plan to help you repay what you owe.
Before County Court bailiffs can visit your home to seize goods, you will be served with an enforcement notice.
This will provide details of the debt you have failed to repay and give you seven clear days’ notice before enforcement agents from the County Court visit your property.
This doesn’t include Sundays, Christmas Day, or bank holidays.
County Court bailiff
If you fail to acknowledge or make payment on the debt within seven days of receiving the enforcement notice, County Court bailiffs will visit your home.
Because County Court bailiffs work under the authority of the court, they have the right to recover goods to the value of the debt owed.
The items may also be sold at an auction to allow them to collect money owed but seven days must pass before they can do this.
What items can be seized with a Warrant of Control?
It’s a common misconception that bailiffs can enter your home without permission and seize whatever goods they want but this isn’t quite the case.
Bailiffs are prohibited from taking:
- Basic household items necessary for your family’s domestic needs (fridge, washing machine, cooker, clothing, bedding etc.)
- Pets or assistance animals
- Landline or mobile phone
- Items you are physically using
- Items needed for business or educational purposes (vehicles, tools, equipment, computers, books etc.)
- Medical equipment
- Items belonging to a third party (hire purchase items that have not been fully repaid etc.)
Bailiffs will usually seize higher-value items first, such as jewellery and electrical goods, as these items have a better chance of selling for a decent price at auction.
Can I suspend a Warrant of Control?
You may be able to suspend a Warrant of Control by filling out and returning an N245 form to the court. This can be found on the GOV.UK website.
The court must agree to consider the application regardless of whether enforcement agents have visited your home yet.
However, enforcement agents are still free to visit your home until the court officially agrees to suspend the Warrant of Control so you may still be visited in the meantime.
Sending an N245 form to the court incurs a court fee of £14. This fee may be waived if you are on a low income or certain benefits.
Can enforcement agents force entry?
Enforcement agents must follow strict rules when enforcing a Warrant of Control and are prohibited from forcing entry into your home.
They may enter through open or unlocked doors but they are not allowed to use force to get inside your home or try to gain entry through a window.
The only situations where bailiffs can force entry is if:
- You have allowed them to enter your home previously
- They have given you two clear days’ notice of their arrival
- They have already started seizing goods
- You have broken an agreement you previously made with them
Bailiffs can also only visit your home between the hours of 6am and 9pm and you are within your right to call the police if they show up outside of these hours.