Obtaining a judgment against a debtor to recover monies that are owed to you (whether as a debt, or in damages) is not always the end of the matter and further action will sometimes be required in order to enforce the terms of the court order obtained.
A crucial consideration therefore which must be taken into account both before commencing and during litigation is whether the defendant is in fact able to pay any judgment given. There may be little point commencing proceedings against a defendant if the judgement is likely to remain unsatisfied.
Once a judgment has been obtained, there are various methods of enforcing judgment.
Over the next few weeks, I will be exploring through a series of news articles some of the main methods of enforcement that can be considered. In this first article I will be looking at the seizure of goods owned by a defendant who has defaulted on a judgment debt.
Taking Control of Goods (‘TCG’)
This allows an Enforcement Officer (previously known as a bailiff) to seize a judgment debtor’s goods and sell them in order to satisfy the judgment debt. TCG can be a relatively quick and simple method of enforcement as long as the judgment debtor has goods which can be taken and sold.
Some goods cannot be seized and sold and these include tools of the judgment debtor’s trade and basic domestic items such as bedding and furniture.
In most cases, the judgment creditor can apply for TCG quickly, i.e. immediately after the date for payment of the judgement debt has passed, and the judgment debtor has failed to pay by the date stated in the Order.
If the outstanding debt is less than £600, then the application for TCG can only be made in the County Court. If the amount is between £600 and £5,000 then the application can be made to either the High Court (and it will first need to be transferred up) or can otherwise remain with the County Court. If the amount is over £5,000 then the application must be made in the High Court.
In terms of the documents required:
(a) A writ of control form (Form No.53) must be completed and filed with the court in order to apply for a TCG in the High Court.
(b) A request for warrant of control (Form N323) is required in the County Court.
It is this document which gives the enforcement officer the power to seize and sell the judgment debtor’s goods. After the writ or warrant of control has been delivered to the enforcement officer, there is a 3 stage process:
1. Giving notice to the judgment debtor of enforcement
The enforcement officer must write to the judgment debtor at least 7 clear days before taking control of any goods. Control must be taken within 12 months from the date of notice.
2. Entering premises and securing the goods
The enforcement officer is entitled to use reasonable force to enter the premises. Although an enforcement officer may take control of goods on any day of the week, they are generally not permitted to take control of goods before 6am or after 9pm on any day, or at any premises when a child or vulnerable person is the only person present. An enforcement officer can also only take items belonging to the debtor. When an enforcement officer is faced with premises with multiple occupants, it is therefore often difficult to know who owns what and so enforcement is difficult.
3. Notice after entry
After entry, the enforcement officer must provide a notice for the judgment debtor providing details such as the enforcement officer’s details, the address of the property entered and also information about what goods have been taken in the form of an inventory.
In the next article, I will look at a different enforcement method; specifically the use of charging orders in order to try to secure funds from a defaulting party.
Alex Medford is a Solicitor in our Dispute Resolution Department and handles a range of contentious litigation matters from start to finish, including dealing with personal and commercial debts, breach of contract and employment disputes. In the event that you would like to discuss any issue raised in this article further with Alex he can be contacted at email@example.com or 01543 431197.
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