Using Bailiffs to Secure Payment of a Debt
Congratulations – you have managed to secure the County Court Judgement (CCJ) against your debtor. All you need to do now is collect the money, which may not prove to be easy. If you had to go to court to get a judgement, finally recovering the money owed may be a struggle.
Thankfully, for many people simply having a CCJ is enough to make them take notice and pay up. It is worth pointing out to your debtor that the CCJ can be removed from their record if they pay in full within four weeks of the judgement. If payment is not forthcoming in this time, you need to consider your options for recovery. These may vary depending on the amount at stake and the status of the debtor – an individual or a private company.
Before instructing bailiffs, and paying the court fee, you should be sure that the debtor has the goods and or funds to cover the debt. Otherwise, you will be adding bailiff fees to the court fees that you will be unable to recover, thus increasing your losses. Alternative resolutions may include applying to the court for an "Attachment of Earnings Order", if you know the debtor has a job. You may also ask the court to order the defendant to appear before the court to disclose information about their financial situation.
For simple, personal debts of under £600 the simplest way to start enforcement is to ask the County Court who issued the judgement to issue a "Warrant of Execution". This is passed to the County Court Bailiffs who will then visit the debtor within seven days to collect the monies owed or levy ("claim") goods to the value of the debt to secure payment. They can enter the debtor's premises without force, but may enter and levy goods if the door is unlocked, or if they are invited in by the debtor. Once in, they can force entry on future visits to recover goods. If the debtor refuses to open the door, or has no goods outside to levy, such as a car, there is little the bailiffs can do to recover the debt.
If the debt is over £600, you can apply to have the debt transferred to the High Court for collection. There is a fee of £60 for the transfer. Once transferred, you can instruct High Court Enforcement Officers HCEO) to collect the debt. Their powers are similar to those of Bailiffs, but are enhanced when dealing with commercial debts. For commercial debtors a HCEO can force entry to the commercial premises to levy goods. They can also visit the personal homes of company directors if they believe company assets are there – for example, a company car. HCEOs do not need to announce their visits. This prevents the debtor from removing or concealing goods that could be used to satisfy the debt.
Other than the initial court fee for the writs, the creditor does not pay bailiff fees. Most commercial organisations, and the County Court Bailiffs, add their fees to the charges to be paid by the debtor. These can be quite substantial and it is often worth showing the debtor the likely increase in the amount owed before calling in the bailiffs, as this, again, can prompt payment.
For landlords who are owed rent on commercial property, the procedure is different. There is no need to get a CCJ. Under common law you can instruct bailiffs to seize goods on the debtor's premises and remove them for sale to recover the cost of the rent arrears. This process can be used can be used as soon as the rent is in arrears.
To find out more about using bailiffs, don't hesitate to get in touch with the experienced team here at The Madagans Group by calling us on 0207 350 2600.
To either call, fax or write to us, please find the information below:
5 Bramlands Close, SW11 2NR
Tel. 0207 350 2600
Fax. 0207 350 2800
DX 38103 Clapham 2