Can’t Pay We Will Take It Away! What Can Bailiffs Take?

Ian Lewis[1]

Ian Lewis

Money Savings Advice Can't pay we will take it away

First aired in 2014, Can’t Pay We’ll Take It Away, is a documentary series which followed the work of High Court Enforcement Officers (previously known as sheriffs). Executing privately obtained High Court writs the team take on proven debts and those refusing to vacate premises.

Can’t Pay We Will Take It Away

Can't Pay, We'll Take It Away is a documentary series shown by Channel 5 in the UK. It shows the processes involved with bailiffs. Bailiffs are a last resort used by selected companies to reclaim money for any debt you owe.

Can’t Pay We’ll Take It Away offers an insight into the way in which High Court Enforcement Officers carry out the execution of High Court writs.

The series has been an eye-opener for many people casting a glimpse into a world which is often shrouded in mystery and has previously operated in the shadows.

Continue reading and get the details about what bailiffs can and can't do.

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Is Can’t Pay We’ll Take It Away Real Life?

The series follows a number of High Court Enforcement Officers tackling an array of different challenges from outstanding debts to evictions. The team discuss each of their cases in great detail and their tactics and backup plans before they even enter premises. Since the series began in 2014, we have seen adjustments in the law which are reflected in the later episodes.

What Is a High Court Enforcement Officer?

Previously known as sheriffs, a High Court Enforcement Officer is an employee of the High Court of England and Wales. Their main duty is to enforce private High Court writs which tend to relate to outstanding debts or evictions. Each of the officers are authorised by the Lord Chancellor and individually assigned to various districts across the UK.

What Powers Do High Court Enforcement Officers Have?

These officers of the court are often mistaken for bailiffs, but there are significant differences in their powers and the way in which they operate. When enforcing a High Court writ, the High Court Enforcement Officers do not have to give prior notice to those involved in the writ.

They can enter commercial premises by any means they choose, including forcible entry, and once inside cannot be forcibly removed.

What Is Writ?

The majority of writs refer to debt collection and lawfully allow High Court Enforcement Officers to enter premises and seize goods for resale, with proceeds paid to creditors. While the television programme was often associated with the forced removal of goods, those being pursued also have the option to make full or partial bank transfer payments and retain their goods.

If they renege on an agreed schedule of staged payments, the High Court Enforcement Officers would return to seize goods to the value of the outstanding debt.

Why Are High Court Enforcement Officers Often Forceful?

While there is never any violence or intimidation, the act of breaking into a property and repossessing goods to the value of outstanding debts can look extremely forceful. On the programme, we often saw debtors making wild claims and excuses to try and avoid payment.

The fact is that before any writ is approved by the courts, the debtor will have been contacted on numerous occasions. They would have been given a number of different repayment options and an opportunity to bring the matter to a close without court action. So, High Court Enforcement Officers are in effect the last resort once all other avenues have been exhausted.

What if I Dispute the High Court Writ?

On the television programme, we often saw debtors disputing the High Court writ and repayment of outstanding funds. This made many people wonder why the debtors had not been given an opportunity to put their case forward.

In reality, the use of High Court Enforcement Officers is a last resort and individuals being pursued would have had numerous opportunities to make their case. So, a last-minute appeal against the High Court writ as the High Court Enforcement Officers arrive to remove assets is a waste of time.

What Can I Do if My Debts Are Mounting?

Unfortunately, many people are unwilling or sometimes unable to face their financial woes head-on and prefer to bury their head in the sand. Ignoring phone calls, letters and emails requesting repayment of outstanding debts or discussions regarding an alternative repayment plan is pointless. These debts will not go away, legal action may be pending, and the situation will get no better by ignoring it.

Should I Offer My Debtors a Repayment Plan?

There will be situations where you may still have capital available to repay your outstanding debts, but it may take longer than expected. It is, therefore, advisable to approach outstanding creditors and make them aware of your situation.

You may recently have been made redundant, perhaps your finances have been hit in the short-term, or you have encountered some unexpected expenses. The majority of debtors would be open to consideration of a repayment plan if they could see a return in the short to medium-term.

How Can I Protect Myself From High Court Enforcement Officers and Bailiffs?

If you are expecting to experience short to medium-term financial difficulties which may affect repayment of outstanding debts, you need to take financial advice as soon as possible. Whether you contact the Stepchange debt charity or one of the many debt management companies available today, you need advice and you need it immediately.

A number of debt management arrangements such as bankruptcy and IVAs were put in place to provide legal protection against harassment/contact from debtor collectors, bailiffs and similar parties.

Could I Get My Debts Written Off?

If we look at an IVA, for example, during the traditional five-year term of the arrangement, you would be shielded from contact by any of your creditors. During that period you would make regular repayments (if possible) which would be split amongst your creditors on a pro-rata basis.

At the end of the IVA, assuming your financial situation had not improved, your remaining debts would be written off. The same is true of bankruptcy, although the standard term tends to be only 12 months.


Can’t Pay We’ll Take It Away is a hard-hitting fly on the wall documentary about High Court Enforcement Officers and the challenges of securing outstanding debts/eviction notices. In reality, this option is a last resort with previous attempts to mediate ignored by the debtor.

There may be occasions where the validity of the outstanding debt is challenged, but this should be done prior to the appointment of High Court Enforcement Officers to your case. There is no doubt that Can’t Pay We’ll Take It Away is a very thought-provoking TV series.

How Can Money Savings Advice Help You Reducing Your Debt?

Here at Money Savings Advice, we have partnered with some of the UK’s debt release brokers. They have already helped thousands of people reduce and remove a high percentage of debt, and if you are struggling with debt, they can do the same for you.

Choosing an independent adviser means they won’t recommend a scheme unless they are sure it is in your best interests. Their advice is also regulated by the FCA, which gives you an additional layer of protection.

If you would like to speak to one of these brokers, then click on the below and answer the very simple questions.

Money Savings Advice Author Ian Lewis

Ian Lewis

Ian Lewis is one of our specialist financial writers. Ian has over 15 years of financial writing experience, having worked for some of the largest financial publications in the UK covering topics from mortgages, equity release, loans and financial claims, to name a few.

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