Law guide: Complaints and disputes

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Seizing property if defendant can't pay

Seizing property if defendant can't pay

Seizure Order

This is an order directing the Chief Enforcement Officer to seize the debtors' goods to pay the debt(s) and enforcement costs. The Office may issue this type of Order when it appears that there are sufficient seizable goods to satisfy the debt. However, it is the practice (unless the debtor is uncooperative or does not have other direct financial means) that the Office will look for other relevant means of enforcement, e.g. Attachment of Earnings Order or Instalment Order before issuing this order.

Property that can't be seized

There are limitations for the Office as it can only seize goods owned by the debtor and can't seize goods such as:

  • Motor vehicles or other goods subject to hire purchase
  • Perishable goods
  • Tools of the trade up to £200
  • Any goods in the hands of a Receiver appointed by a court
  • Debtor's clothes and essential household furniture

These conditions are all stipulated in the body of a Custody Warrant, a document issued to the debtor which outlines the assets which are under the jurisdiction of the EJO.

Property that may be seized

Property which may be seized:

  • Goods in which the debtor has a saleable interest in their own right (i.e. without requiring any other person to join in the sale)
  • Money, bills of exchange, bonds and promissory notes and any other securities for money, belonging to the debtor
  • Any life policy in which the debtor has a sole beneficial interest, if the amount assured by the policy is not less than £100 and the surrender value of the policy exceeds £25
  • Goods of the debtor's spouse, where it appears to the office that the judgment debt relates to:
    • Goods obtained or services rendered
    • The rent of, or rates due in respect of occupation of premises
    • For the general use or enjoyment of the debtor, their spouse and any dependants residing with them

If the debtor has insufficient means

The EJO process can be ineffective if it ultimately transpires that the debtor has insufficient means (e.g. where the debtor is in receipt of benefits) and a Certificate of Unenforceability may result. It is recommend that you obtain a Worth Suing Report or make an Application for Discovery, prior to Full Enforcement action.

If there is more than one judgment being enforced

In the event that there is more than one judgment being enforced, the EJO will deal with each application in the order in which received by their office. In the event the EJO secures monies from the debtor, these monies will be used to discharge whichever debt has priority.

How much can I issue the warrant for?

The EJO may issue this type of Order when it appears that there are sufficient seizable goods to satisfy the debt. The order will only be issued for the amount required to cover the debt.

What do I need to issue a warrant?

Enforcement Orders will only be issued upon receipt of a Full Enforcement Application. An order for seizure is made by the Master and is carried out by the enforcement officers.

How much will it cost and when should I pay the fee?

This cost of obtaining this Order is included within your original fee payable to the EJO for your Application for Full Enforcement, which must be paid at the time of you application for full enforcement.

What does the EJO do?

An Enforcement Officer, upon the issue of a Seizure Order, will personally serve this on the debtor with notice that the goods seized may be sold after an interval of 8 days from being advertised for sale unless they pay the amount recoverable on foot of the judgment. If the debtor is not available for service, an application for Substituted Service, by post, can be made. If no objection is received an EJO officer will physically remove goods in accordance with the Order to enable the discharge of the amount due on the judgment, less reasonable expenses for same. The Office will advertise the sale of the goods and if necessary auction same to obtain funds. These funds will be released after a minimum period of 28 days.

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