On occasions we seize motor vehicles under a writ of fieri facias (fi fa). Some of these vehicles have private number plates and so we have clarified the legal status of these with the DVLA.

Registration numbers are not items of property in their own right, so it is not possible to acquire legal title to them. They are assigned to the vehicle and not the owner. However, the registered keeper of the vehicle can apply to the DVLA to keep the number and transfer it to another vehicle if the original vehicle is sold. The vehicle that is now to carry the private number must be registered with the DVLA, licensed and with a valid MOT certificate (if required).

It is important that proper procedures are followed so that the DVLA maintains the link between the vehicle and the registration number, which is a unique means of identifying a vehicle, primarily for taxation and law enforcement purposes.

So, when seizing a vehicle under a writ of control, the High Court Enforcement Officer (HCEO) will also seize the private number plate, as this is inextricably linked to the vehicle. Should the vehicle then be sold after seizure, the new owner and registered keeper (normally the same person) will then be entitled to the private number plate, either retaining it for that vehicle or applying to transfer it to another.

Whether the private number plate will add value to the vehicle at auction will depend very much on how unique it is and whether there is a buyer interested on the day.

Standard regulations on seizure of motor vehicles still apply – the defendant must be the owner of the vehicle and the HCEO must check before seizure that there are no outstanding finance agreements before commencing enforcement.

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