Writ Of Control | Managing “Exempt” Goods and “Tools of the Trade”

When you instruct a High Court Enforcement Officer using a Writ of Control, we need to ensure we don’t try to take exempt goods on to an inventory. Sometimes there are exceptions but let’s start by looking at the list …..

List of Exempt Goods

The following goods of the Judgment Debtor are exempt and may not be taken into legal control.

Such clothing, bedding, furniture, household equipment, items and provisions as are reasonably required to satisfy the basic domestic needs of the debtor and every member of the debtor’s household including (but not restricted to):

  1. a cooker or microwave

  2. a refrigerator

  3. a washing machine

  4. a dining table large enough, and sufficient dining chairs, to seat the debtor and every member of their household

  5. house (such as a safe)

  6. sufficient lamps, stoves or other appliance designed to provide lighting and heating facilities, to satisfy beds and bedding sufficient for the debtor and every member of their household

  7. one landline phone, or if there is no landline phone at the premises, a mobile or internet phone which may be used by the debtor or a member of their household

Any item or equipment reasonably required for either:

  • the medical care of the debtor or any member of their household

  • safety in the dwelling-house

  • the security of the dwelling-house (for example, an alarm system) or for security in the dwelling

  • the basic heating and lighting needs of the debtor’s household

Any item or equipment reasonably required for the care of:

  • a person under the age of 18

  • a disabled person

  • an older person (someone over 65)

  1. assistance dogs (including guide dogs, hearing dogs and dogs for disabled persons), sheepdogs, guard dogs or domestic pets

  2. a vehicle on which a valid disabled person’s badge is displayed because it is used for, or in relation to which, there are reasonable grounds for believing that it is used for, the carriage of a disabled person

  3. a vehicle (whether in public ownership or not) which is being used for, or in relation to which there are reasonable grounds for believing that it is used for, police, fire or ambulance purposes

  4. a vehicle displaying a valid British Medical Association badge or other health emergency badge because it is being used for, or in relation to which there are reasonable grounds for believing that it is used for, health emergency purposes

  5. goods of the debtor which are also premises and are occupied as the only or principal home.

The regulations also exempt any items or equipment (for example, tools, books, phones, computer equipment and vehicles) which are necessary for use personally by the debtor in their employment, business, trade, profession, study or education.

In addition to goods exempt under TCEA07 regulations, High Court Enforcement Agents will not attempt to take the following items into legal control:

  • goods subject to hire purchase, conditional sale, lease or sale agreement

  • goods subject to retention of title

  • goods hired out to a defaulter

  • goods leased or subject to a "sale or return" agreement

  • goods subject to a fixed charge in favour of a third party such as a bank, as security for a loan, debenture or mortgage

  • goods subject to a genuine bill of Sale (but where the debtor is still using the asset, such as a vehicle, and claims it is owned by a third party; and where the Bill of Sale is registered)

  • goods are already taken into legal control by another creditor, but if there are sufficient goods which are available these will be taken as needed

  • goods in which the defaulter has a life interest only

  • fixtures and fittings which cannot be removed without damaging the fabric of the building (an example of this is a car lift which is bolted and concreted into the building)

  • meters, fittings and other apparatus which belong to the gas, electricity or water authorities

  • safety equipment such as a fire extinguisher, fire blanket, safety gate, or fire guard.

High Court Enforcement Agents will not take certain goods into legal control where they extend to goods on the highway, or vehicles containing them, if to do so it would pose a risk to public health. This is not to say that these goods cannot be taken into legal control. It is a question of weighing up whether the goods are in a vehicle on the highway. If that situation occurs, the High Court Enforcement Officer would carry out a risk assessment of the removal of any goods. For these very rare scenarios, ‘Relevant goods’ include |

  • animals or livestock (including cattle, sheep, pigs, horses and poultry)

  • hazardous or perishable goods or material.

‘Hazardous goods or materials’ extend to |

  • nuclear matter

  • radioactive waste

  • articles or substance that have been and remain contaminated (whether radioactively or chemically).

Luxury Goods

From time to time, High Court Enforcement Agents may include what may be considered luxury items on the inventory of the goods they take into legal control under the power of the High Court Writ.

Examples of this might include taking an antique dining room table and chairs and leaving a less valuable table and chair set in its place.

Additional fridges and freezers may be taken as long as there is at least one fridge/freezer left in the house.

Additional and valuable seating may be removed. PlayStations, Xboxes and gaming consoles will be viewed as luxury items and can be taken into legal control.

Tools of Trade

The first thing to say here is that tools of the trade cannot be claimed by partnerships or limited companies. We did once have a national airline, try and claim that a large aircraft was a “tool of trade” and could not be taken into legal control. That defence was quickly dismantled.

So only individuals can claim that their goods are “tools of their trade”. These goods are defined as

“goods needed by the Judgment Debtor to do their job or run their business, for example, their tools, the books of their business, and their business vehicles”.

The defence to the goods being taken into legal control can only be claimed if they are used solely by the debtor for their work. So, if a business owner shares a works van with a spouse or a partner, then that vehicle can be taken into legal control.

The Taking Control of Goods Regulations 2013 introduced a ceiling on the value of Tools of Trade and that value is £1,350. So, a Judgment Debtor can claim goods subject to this exemption up to that value. After that value has been reaching, then surplus items can be taken into legal control by the High Court Enforcement Agent.

Summing Up

Judgment Creditors will look to the High Court Enforcement Officer to take ALL available goods into legal control.

Judgment Debtors can put forward their claims to exempt goods and tools of the trade.

For High Court Enforcement Agents, they will apply the Regulations to the goods that they see at the time of their attendance(s) and deal with any issues that arise. Each Writ of Control presents a unique set of circumstances and the Regulations give High Court Enforcement Officers the opportunity to be as flexible and proportionate in their decision making on the ground.

All such decisions are captured on body-worn cameras and can be reviewed by the High Court Enforcement Officer and or the Court as and when necessary. This is the approach we take within Shergroup’s Enforcement division and it has held us in very good stead over the career of our High Court Enforcement Officer, Mrs Claire Sandbrook.

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