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Help with Bailiffs
NOTE: Here at The Insolvency Experts, we can offer advice to company directors with regards to bailiff dealings. If you are an individual looking for advice of dealing with bailiffs, you should contact the Citizens Advice Bureau here.
Bailiffs and enforcement officers are appointed by a creditor to recover money that they are owed by a person or a business. Ordinarily, a creditor will have unsuccessfully tried to recover the debt before employing the service of a bailiff or enforcement officer to collect the debt on their behalf.
In the event of business debt, bailiffs do have the authority to seize goods owned by your business which may be sold to try to recover the amount owing to the creditor in question. On their first visit, bailiffs will try to establish whether you can afford to pay the debt or not. They prefer to accept payment from you rather than goods to be sold at a later date. However on their initial visit, as preparation in case the debt is not repaid, they are also likely to take a full inventory of the assets they would be allowed to sell.
If you are unable to pay straight away then assets will be secured at the business premises by the bailiff until they come to collect and you are unable to sell or remove the assets from the premises. If you are unable to pay all the debt at once, bailiffs may allow you to pay in instalments and you may be able to use your assets during this time so your business can continue to trade. However; if you miss repayments of the debt then assets totalling the debt value will be taken as payment instead.
Bailiffs can only take certain items from your business when they take assets as a form of payment. In respect of a limited company, only items that belong to the company can be taken as the company is a separate legal entity from the directors who run it, so their personal assets will not be affected. A bailiff is unable to take control of any assets belonging to a third party, such as assets subject to hire purchase or finance agreements. It should however be noted that you may be asked to evidence this.
For sole traders, business debts are treated as personal debts, therefore, there is less distinction between business assets and personal assets that can be taken by a bailiff. Bailiffs can also take things belonging to you personally or jointly owned between you and a partner or another person, although they are only entitled to use your share of the asset. Again, bailiffs are precluded from taking control of any assets belonging to a third party, or subject to finance.
High court enforcement officers are a specific type of bailiff, who have the power to enter into a business premise, but not forcefully on their first visit. This course of action is only available, if they have previously entered and written a list of goods or they are there to evict you from the property.
However, in most situations, bailiffs will not break into a business premises as their aim is to speak to the company director to ensure that they are aware of the debt and assess their affordability for repaying the debt. On the majority of occasions, if a bailiff cannot enter a property and the director is not in, they will return another day in business hours to try to speak to the director in person.
There are stringent guidelines which a bailiff must adhere too, regarding what they are allowed to take and when they are allowed to enter premises. However, if a limited company, sole trader or partnership owes money to creditors, then bailiffs will legally be able to take certain goods and assets.
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