Can an Enforcement Agent (Bailiff) take away a car that is on finance?

Can an Enforcement Agent (Bailiff) take away a car that is on finance?

Enforcement agents (EAs) have the legal right to clamp a vehicle while they make enquires about its status (for a minimum of 2 hours before it can be removed). In most cases, a vehicle on finance cannot be seized or removed. However, in some instances the finance company decides that the vehicle can be taken, often because there is less value in the finance arrangement.

In the majority of cases a car parked on a driveway, where an enforcement agent does not need to gain access to the property, or on a highway can be immobilised. Vehicles tend to raise significantly more at auction than household goods, so cars are the most common goods to be seized. However, it’s not often that a case progresses to sale at auction because people prefer to pay what they owe.

The latter enforcement stages are expensive for enforcement firms who are required to employ agents, hire vehicles and operate sophisticated tracking and body-worn video cameras. Higher fees are applied to cases to reflect this, but is avoided wherever possible as that only increases the total amount of debt owed and decreases the likelihood that a debtor will be able to quickly resolve their debt.

My car is essential to my work, can it still be taken?

There is a difference between a vehicle that is classed as a tool of the trade compared to one used to get to work. For a vehicle to be considered as a tool of the trade you must be able to show that it is vital for both operating your business and is solely used for business purposes. This can often be evidenced by insurance documentation showing the vehicle is insured for business purposes only.

If any other vehicle could be used as a substitute for work purposes, such as a hire car, then the vehicle is less likely to be classed as a tool of the trade. A vehicle used for commuting to and from work is not a tool of the trade. Also, a limited company cannot claim the benefit of this exemption.

What happens if a car I purchase is seized but the debt belongs to the previous owner?

Unless a vehicle is bought through a recognised motor dealership, where there is a printed company invoice, including a VAT registration number, it can be difficult to prove ownership. The enforcement company will require copies of certain documentation which may include a full copy of the V5C document which shows the change of ownership by DVLA, and a copy of the valid insurance certificate for the vehicle valid from the date of the purchase.

A V5 form (or log book) isn't acceptable as proof of ownership. According to the DVLA, having your name on the document merely indicates you are the one 'who is responsible for registering and taxing the vehicle', not necessarily the one who owns it.

In the absence of a valid insurance certificate, you will need a DVLA SORN certificate. You are also likely to be needed to provide evidence of the Road Fund Licence which must have been obtained on the date of purchase, a valid receipt for the purchase, evidence of the flow of monies used for the purchase (copy of a bank statement) and evidence of how the vehicle was obtained (copy of the advertisement).

Can I hide my vehicle to prevent it being clamped?

Some websites advise you to move your vehicle regularly or park it at a house nearby. This is not effective for very long and the inconvenience will probably bother you before it bothers the agent!. Enforcement agents are aware of these dodges and use Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) technology to identify vehicles, often driving around local streets. There are no restrictions on immobilising vehicles where details are given on the court documents, provided agents do not need to force entry e.g. electronic gates. In this case, a warrant may be applied for to access the premises.

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