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You might have pondered, “Does a warrant need to be signed?” Before bailiffs collect a debt, they should show you a warrant that’s signed and dated. Instead, they may also show you a High Court Writ of Conduct order.

But there are a few things you should know about this. This is your comprehensive guide, diving deep into the 2023 laws regarding this crucial question.

Sanjay Patel
Last updated on 4 October 2023
Fact Checked

Table of Contents

1. The Tribunals Courts and Enforcement Act 2007
2. What is a Warrant of Control?
3. What Role Does a Warrant Play for an Enforcement Agent?
4. Do I get a chance to repay?
5. Does a warrant have to be signed by a judge?
6. Does a warrant need to be signed? Does a bailiff warrant need a wet-ink signature?
7. How long does a Warrant of Control last?
8. Can Bailiffs Take Everything if They Have a Warrant of Control?
9. What if I am a vulnerable person?
10. How do I complain about a bailiff?
11. Will the bailiffs charge me fees?
12. What if I don’t comply with the Warrant of Control?
13. Need help dealing with county court bailiffs?
14. Key Points
15. FAQs


There’s a chance you might have to face bailiffs with a warrant if you ignore a County Court Judgment (CCJ), loan debt, or other arrears. Additionally, you may also have to pay bailiff fees also. But does a warrant need to be signed? If yes, should it be a wet ink signature? Read till the end to know all the answers in detail.

The Tribunals Courts and Enforcement Act 2007

One of the primary acts that provide clarity to charges related to the court system is the Tribunals Courts and Enforcement Act 2007. It’s instrumental in guiding the roles and responsibilities of enforcement agents, offering a clear insight into the specifics of warrants of control and handling of goods. This act has been a cornerstone in safeguarding both debtors and creditors.

The Tribunals Courts and Enforcement Act 2007 consists of details related to changes in the court system. The 3rd part consists of information regarding:

  • Warrants of control
  • Enforcement agents
  • taking control of assets

This is where you can find formal answers to your question, “does a warrant need to be signed?”

What is a Warrant of Control?

It’s important to understand what is a warrant of control before searching for an answer to “Does a warrant need to be signed?”. A Warrant of control is a type of legal document that the court issues if you do not pay a County Court Judgment (CCJ). So, assume you received a County Court Judgment (CCJ) and you ignored it. That’s where the Warrant of Control comes into play.

The purpose of A Warrant of Control is the court’s way of saying, “This needs attention.” It’s essentially a green light given to bailiffs to step in and take control of specific goods.

In a situation where bailiffs step in, you will have to pay other costs apart from your debt, such as bailiff fees. The minimum amount you will have to pay for bailiffs is £300. Note that you have the choice to agree to a payment plan in order to spread out the total debt. This will enable you to avoid the majority of the bailiff’s fees and further legal action.

The Warrant of Control doesn’t give bailiffs an all-access pass. They can’t just waltz in and take everything. The law has set clear boundaries to ensure fair play. So, which items are safe and which aren’t? Buckle up; the list is coming.

What Role Does a Warrant Play for an Enforcement Agent?

With a warrant of control in hand, an enforcement agent has the right to seize your assets and store them in order to sell them at an auction and get the money. This money will then go for the repayment of the debt. Note that bailiff fees will be deducted from the money that they raise at the auction.

The enforcement agents can only come to your home during a reasonable time. They should also inform you 7 days prior to their arrival date. In a situation where a bailiff does not adhere to the above, they are committing an offence.

A bailiff also cannot forcefully come into your home. But they can use unlocked doors or open entrances to enter your house. So locking all your windows and doors is wise. If not, they can come into your premises and catch you off-guard.

They can only forcefully enter your home due to the following:

  • Unpaid Magistrates Court fines
  • Collecting HMRC tax debt
  • Defaulting on a Controlled Goods Agreement

Even in such situations, they cannot break your door. They should use a locksmith. Before you agree to anything, ask for ID and check their enforcement agent certificate.

According to Schedule 12 of the Tribunals Court and Enforcement Act 2007, they should provide you with their identity. If they don’t, ask them to leave. Also note that if they have a warrant for arrest, some bailiffs can arrest you in certain situations.

Do I get a chance to repay?

Yes. Before any action is taken, the bailiff company will issue a Notice of Enforcement. This isn’t just a warning but a golden opportunity. It allows debtors to either pay in full or negotiate a Controlled Goods Agreement (CGA).

A Controlled Goods Agreement (CGA) in the UK is a legal document used for debt recovery. It lists specific items or assets owned by a debtor that can be seized to repay a debt. Debtors are given a chance to pay or make an arrangement before their possessions are taken. If they don’t comply, the listed items can be legally seized and sold to satisfy the debt.

Note that this regulation gives bailiffs the right to charge you £75 for the notice. A CGA is a type of repayment plan that helps to secure your goods against it. If you fail to make payments, bailiffs can seize those items and sell them.

Does a warrant have to be signed by a judge?

Yes, every warrant must have a signature and date. This serves as validation that the court has sanctioned the enforcement process. In some cases, they might instead show a ‘High Court Writ’.

However, technology has influenced this area too. So, bailiffs can show you the warrant of control on a device as well. But even in this case, check the name and address. If you see any errors, it may not be valid.

Does a warrant need to be signed? Does a bailiff warrant need a wet-ink signature?

No, according to the law, a warrant does not require a wet-ink signature. But in our digital era, you might think paper and pen are outdated. Surprisingly, the legal world still values them.

So, while warrants can be shown digitally, the enforcement agent certificate, a document presented by the bailiff upon arrival, must have a wet-ink signature by a judge. This combination gives them the authority to act.

If it does not have a wet-ink signature, you can ask them to leave. If they refuse to, call the police on them.

How long does a Warrant of Control last?

Warrants have an expiration date. Specifically, they last for 12 months. Once this period lapses, the warrant becomes invalid unless the creditor requests an extension. For this request, they have to make an additional payment. They should do this before the expiration of the warrant. If they don’t, they might face difficulties.

Can Bailiffs Take Everything if They Have a Warrant of Control?

No. Even with a Warrant of Control, enforcement agents cannot take everything. At first glance, it might appear that a Warrant of Control equips a bailiff with limitless power. But that is not the case.

When a bailiff shows up, their mere presence can be quite imposing. But remember, they’re bound by laws and guidelines.

Some items bailiffs cannot remove from your property include:

  • Items that belong to another person, which includes things that belong to your children.
  • Items that you need for studies or your job that are less than £1,350, such as tools, vehicles, or equipment.
  • Service animals or pets.
  • Vehicles with a valid Blue Badge or a mobility vehicle.
  • Items permanently fitted to your home, such as kitchen units.

Bailiffs also don’t have the right to take items that they need in order to live. This includes items you use for basic domestic needs. Even if they take some of these items, they should leave you with the following:

  • Mobile phone or phone
  • A table with chairs for every individual in the house
  • Beds and bedding for individuals in the house
  • Medical equipment or medicine that you require to take care of a person
  • A fridge, cooker, or a microwave.

In a case where a bailiff seizes an item that they shouldn’t, file a complaint. You can also reach out to a debt charity for some advice.

What if I am a vulnerable person?

The law, in its essence, is protective. Special provisions are in place for those considered vulnerable—be it due to age, health conditions, or other circumstances. These provisions ensure that bailiffs exercise additional caution and respect when dealing with such individuals.

You’re a vulnerable person if you:

  • Suffer from a mental illness
  • Are pregnant or have children
  • Are disabled or extremely ill
  • Are over the age of 65 or under the age of 18
  • Don’t speak English very well
  • Are dealing with a stressful situation such as unemployment or the death of a loved one

If any of the above apply to you, you might get extra time to address the notice of enforcement. You will also get extra time if they sent the notice of enforcement to the wrong address and it wasn’t sent to you properly.

If you fall into any of these categories, ask a relative or caretaker to inform the enforcement agents, or you can tell them directly, even through post or phone.

When informing a bailiff that you’re a vulnerable person, you should:

1. Tell them you’re vulnerable
2. Explain why you may find it difficult to deal with bailiffs in comparison to other people.
3. Request them to stop visiting you in the future because it harms or distresses you.
4. Inform them if a visit or letter could worsen your situation. This includes mental health issues and heart problems.
5. Inform them of your preferred communication methods and how you want them to contact you. So, if you need to make a complaint, it will make it easier to win an argument if they don’t adhere to your request.

How do I complain about a bailiff?

No system is flawless. If you feel mistreated by a bailiff or if they break any of the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) guidelines, there are avenues to seek redress. Initially, it’s advised to approach the bailiff’s company. This will give them the chance to address the issue.

If this doesn’t resolve the matter, there are official bodies like the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) that you can use to complain about your issue. They will look into the issue, and if your complaint is upheld, they will ask the bailiff company to pay a fine or take necessary action against them. In some cases, the bailiff company might even have to pay you compensation.

In a situation where the bailiff company isn’t registered with the FCA, make a complaint to the Civil Enforcement Authority (CIVEA). They have a set of guidelines and procedures when dealing with complaints against their members.

Will the bailiffs charge me fees?

Yes, facing bailiffs comes at a price, and their services are not free. Usually, the bailiff’s fees are added to the total value of the debt. Fees are structured and can accumulate based on the actions taken, such as issuing a Notice of Enforcement or actually enforcing the debt. Understanding this fee structure can save a lot of stress down the road.

Most of the fees are similar, and some are even standardised. For example, county court bailiff fees include:

  • £75 for Notice of Enforcement
  • £235 to enforce the debt

Sometimes, the enforcement fee will be a bit higher. If the debt is over £1,000, they will charge an additional 7.5% of the debt. So if you have a £1,500 debt, you should pay:

  • Notice of Enforcement- £75
  • Enforcement- £235
  • £112.50 for the 7.5% over £1,000.
  • Total- £422.50

What if I don’t comply with the Warrant of Control?

Non-compliance is a risky path. Bailiffs have the authority to seize assets outside your property if you don’t cooperate. If defiance continues, the creditor can escalate the matter in court. This could lead to more stringent actions like receiving an Attachment of Earnings Order. In some cases, the court will go further and will make you bankrupt.

If the court compels you to go to a hearing, you have the opportunity to explain your plan to pay off the debt and discuss your income. Note that you might be sent to prison for not attending if you don’t go to this hearing.

Need help dealing with county court bailiffs?

Bailiffs might be daunting, but you’re not alone. There are numerous UK debt charities and organisations equipped to offer advice, support, and strategies to handle such situations effectively. Feel free to reach out to the following debt charities if you want guidance or advice:

  • StepChange
  • National Debtline
  • Citizens Advice
  • Debt Advice Foundation

Alternatively, writing off some of your debt through a debt solution may help you avoid dealing with bailiffs in the future. So, if you’re struggling with debt, there are many debt solutions available in the UK. We recommend you take up one.

Note that while the right debt solution may help you to write off some of your debt, the wrong one can worsen your situation. So choose wisely.

If you want guidance on this, reach out to a qualified and licensed debt advisor. Alternatively, feel free to fill out our online form, and our Money Advisor team will guide you to find a better solution.

Key Points

  • A Warrant of Control is a legal instrument. Its primary objective? To empower a bailiff to seize a debtor’s goods when they overlook a County Court Judgment (CCJ). Not addressing this can incur additional fees.
  • UK citizens might have the opportunity to legally write off a portion of their debt. Understanding whether a warrant needs to be signed plays a role in this can be crucial.
  • When a bailiff knocks, they come with certain responsibilities. They’re bound to furnish proof of the debt and the relevant warrant. So, does a warrant need to be signed? While this warrant needs a date and signature, a traditional wet-ink signature isn’t mandatory
  • Enforcement agents don’t merely show up; they have a specific agenda. They’re authorised to take your goods, holding them as collateral, only to auction them later. The intent? To recoup the outstanding debt. But they must give proper notice before taking action.
  • Its validity spans 12 months. However, the creditor holds a card up their sleeve—they can seek an extension before the expiry.
  • Encounters with bailiffs can be daunting. It’s pivotal to be equipped with the right advice. UK’s plethora of debt charities emerge as saviours, offering counsel and support to those treading these tumultuous waters.


Can Bailiffs Enter Your House When You’re Not There?

No. On their initial visit, bailiffs aren’t permitted to enter your premises in your absence. But here’s where you might want to be cautious: if they’ve previously accessed your property, subsequent visits may differ. They might enter if you’ve unintentionally left a door or window open, especially in cases of criminal fines.

Can High Court Enforcement Officers Force Their Way In?

NO. On their inaugural visit, these officers cannot and should not push past you.

What Exactly is an Enforcement Warrant?

An enforcement warrant is precisely an authorisation for a bailiff to take charge of your goods. The objective? To sell these items and settle the outstanding debt. However, the nitty-gritty of this process is fascinating. Read on to grasp the finer nuances.

How Long is a Warrant of Execution in Play?

A warrant of execution remains valid for a year (12 months) after the judgement date. Once this timeframe lapses, the warrant loses its essence.

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