The Taking Control of Goods Regulations 2013 specify two main categories of goods that an Enforcement Agent cannot seize; ‘tools of the trade’ and basic domestic goods.

‘Tools of the trade’ are items that are necessary for use personally by the debtor in the debtor’s employment, business, trade, profession, study or education. Goods under this exemption are protected insofar as they do not exceed a value of £1,350; where they exceed this value they are available for seizure.

Basic domestic goods that are exempt from seizure include ‘white goods’, i.e. a cookers; microwaves; refrigerators and washing machines. Items of bedding and clothing and items necessary for the care of persons under 18, older persons and disabled persons.

Below is an overview of the procedure to be followed in the event that a defendant (or other third party) seeks to challenge the seizure of goods under one of the above exemptions. 

What happens if the Enforcement Agent seizes goods that are considered by the defendant to be exempt?

Where the defendant considers that goods that have been seized are exempt from seizure under the Taking Control of Goods Regulations, he should provide notice of his claim to the Enforcement Agent under CPR Rule 85.8 within seven days of seizure. The Enforcement Agent will then have three days to communicate this claim to the judgment creditor.

The judgment creditor will then need to notify the Enforcement Agent within seven days as to whether he admits or disputes the defendant’s claim. In the case of goods seized under the ‘basic domestic goods’ exemption, this will generally be straightforward. The position regarding ‘tools of the trade’ exemption can often be less certain. The Enforcement Agent must communicate the outcome of the judgment creditor’s decision within three days of receipt of notice of admission/dispute.

If the claim is admitted by the judgment creditor, the Enforcement Agent must release the goods for collection and the judgment creditor will be liable only for costs up to the point of receipt of the notice admitting the claim.

If the judgment creditor fails to provide notice within the required period, the Enforcement Agent may make an application to the court that issued the writ for directions as to what to do with the assets seized and can also apply for an order barring any claim against him following seizure of the goods. 

What happens if the goods that are seized belong to someone else?

If this happens, the third party will have seven days to make an initial claim to the goods (the notice given by the third party must be in writing and must follow the format in CPR Rule 85.4). Within three days, the Enforcement Agent will notify the creditor of the claim. The creditor will then have seven days in which to write to the Enforcement Agent to either admit or dispute the claim of the third party. If no response is received from the creditor, the Enforcement Agent may make an application to the court for directions as to what to do with the goods that have been seized and to ask the court to bar any future claims in relation to the seizure of the goods. If the creditor provides notice, the Enforcement Agent has a further three days from receipt of this notice to communicate it to the claimant to the goods.

If the claim is admitted (allowed) by the claimant or judgment creditor then the goods must be released by the Enforcement Agent and the claimant will only be liable for costs of the Enforcement Agent that have been incurred up to that point. The Enforcement Agent is not liable to redeliver the goods to the person making the claim, but must make them available for collection.

If the claim to the goods is disputed, it is the claimant to the goods that must make the application to the court that issued the writ if they wish to further pursue their claim (CPR Rule 85.5). The method of the claim is contained within the CPR, but it must be supported by a witness statement containing evidence of why they are claiming the goods (and supporting documents which might include proof of payment, etc). The claim must be served on the judgment creditor and the Enforcement Agent as a minimum.