Bailiffs have the power to enforce court orders for outstanding debts by way of seizing items and selling them, usually at auction.
“Enforcement Agents”, “Enforcement Officers” and “Bailiffs” all mean the same thing.
Types of bailiff relevant to business debts
There are different types of bailiffs.
- Civilian Enforcement Officers.
These bailiffs are official employees of Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service. They are used to enforce magistrates court orders for money owed under fines and community penalty notices.
- County Court Bailiffs.
These bailiffs carry out the enforcement of the County Court and are often involved in collecting payment of unpaid County Court Judgements for claims of smaller debts (£600 to £5000).
- High Court Enforcement Officers (HCEOs).
These bailiffs are certificated and are acting under the authority of a senior high court enforcement officer with greater powers. Claims over £5000 must be dealt with by HCEOs.
Creditors with claims under £5000 often opt to get it transferred up to the High Court for enforcement, due to:-
- The High Court Enforcement Officer has greater powers.
- HCEOs normally work within a private company and are paid on results based on the amount collected; they are more commercially minded and therefore can be more aggressive in their approach.
How can bailiffs become involved?
If your business has not paid a creditor, the creditor can apply for a Warrant of Control, which if successful will result in a County Court Judgement. If the payments towards the CCJ as agreed by the courts stop, then and only then does the use of bailiffs become an option.
Bailiffs can only visit you after they’ve sent you a letter to let you know they will be coming. This is called a Notice of Enforcement and should be received seven clear days before the visit.
Don’t Confuse Debt Collectors With Bailiffs
A creditor can hire debt collectors to visit you in an attempt to reclaim any debts owed; however, these are not bailiffs. They do not have any authority, all they can do is ask you to pay, and for them to imply or say they have such powers would be an offence. Debt collectors are commonly used as scare tactics to get you to pay your debts.
The bailiffs are on their way, what can I do?
Take action now. To repay a debt by having your goods seized and sold at a fraction of their cost to you is not good for any business. Furthermore, bailiffs costs are borne by the debtor and so the total liability rises with every visit.
If repaying the County Court Judgement is too much for your business, then you can get in contact with the creditor. From here, you will have the opportunity to negotiate a repayment plan to the creditor that works for both parties. For further advice on this matter, we would suggest speaking to us, to secure the best chances at a plan that works for you.
Can bailiffs use force to gain entry?
County court bailiffs cannot force entry into a property to recover debt unless they have been granted access to the property in the past or already have a controlled goods agreement in place.
This is also true for high court bailiffs for commercial premises which include accommodation.
For commercial premises without living accommodation attached, the high court bailiffs can force entry if necessary on their first visit.
What items can bailiffs take?
If the bailiffs already have access to the property, then there are still rules they must follow.
- They cannot take items currently in use,
- They cannot take items deemed as essentials or that would put a halt to business activities.
If the bailiffs take any of these items, then you can apply to claim them back from the court.
Everything else, as long as is reasonably straightforward to sell, is fair game and at risk.
What is a controlled goods agreement?
While bailiffs can seize and sell, this is not the desired outcome for either party.
Bailiffs can offer a controlled goods agreement on their first visit to your premises. This allows the business to keep an item; however, they agree not to sell or move this item or allow anyone else to do so. If you do not accept or break the terms of the controlled goods agreement, the bailiffs can continue to seize items to repay any debts owed. It is a criminal offence to interfere with controlled goods.
My business doesn’t own the assets being seized?
If your business does not own the goods, then the bailiffs cannot take them. However, these items will need to be proven to be owned by someone else. If not, then these items still risk being taken by the bailiffs to repay the debt owed.
If taken, the owner of the goods will be required to send an appeal to the creditor in possession of the items. The owner of these items should then provide proof of ownership and explain their situation. This appeal can be declined by the creditor, however, and as a result of this, the only other option would be to seek the courts help in reclaiming these items.
The bailiffs are selling my items, what can I do?
After seven days, the bailiffs will be able to sell any seized items at public auction to cover any debts owed. It is essential that seven days have passed from the seizing of the items. On occasion, the bailiffs can request to sell the assets at a private auction instead; however, they will need to courts permission to do so.
We have no assets, what will happen?
If the company has no assets, then the bailiffs may return at a later date to check again if anything is worth taking to cover the debt owed. The bailiffs can return within 12 months of the issuing of the enforcement notice, or from when a repayment agreements terms were unmet.
Stopping a warrant of control.
You can apply to the courts to put a hold on the warrant against your business by completing an N245 form and sending it to the court, with a fee. The court is required to review your application, and the creditors will also receive a copy. From here, the creditor can either accept or decline this payment agreement.
If approved, then the court is informed, and the creditor will inform you of further details to the plan. On the other hand, if the creditor declines, then the court will review the information and work out the repayment plan.
We will be able to help you with any situation, with experts just a call away to discuss your possible options, why delay?