Enforcement officers, also known as bailiffs, can be appointed by a creditor to recover the money which is owed to them.
Nick Brierley at Bolton Insolvency Experts explains your rights and what legal powers a Bailiff wields.
If the business is not able to pay the debt in full, then the bailiff is entitled to take control of goods to sell in order to recover the money for the creditor. However, they must have the correct authorisation, for example a Writ of Control or a Warrant of Execution. The bailiff is allowed to take control of items which will raise enough money to cover the debt and any interest, plus the bailiff’s fees. The items will usually be sold at auction. The bailiff may not take your goods away at the first visit. Their job is to ensure you pay your debt. It’s far easier for them if you simply settle the debt, whether that be in full or in instalments, rather than them taking your goods and them having to sell them.
On a first visit, they may inspect your home or premises and draw up a list of assets that they believe at auction will cover the value of the debt. They can also include items that are outside your home or work premises which belong to you or the business. The items on this list will then become controlled goods, meaning you can’t sell them, remove them or give them away. Rather than taking the controlled goods away, the bailiff may secure them at your property or you may be able to carry on using them whilst you pay off the debt under a Controlled Goods Agreement. But, if you miss any payments, they can come back and remove those goods.
There are regulations governing what a bailiff can and cannot take from your home or work place.
For sole traders, business debts are treated the same as personal debts. From your home, bailiffs can take any items that belong to you, any jointly-owned items, cash, cheques, or other monetary items you may have. They are prevented from taking any items which are leased or on hire-purchase or any items that belong to somebody else or a child. There are exemptions which include anything considered essential for domestic needs, such as a cooker, washing machine or furniture. They can, however, take non-essential items such as a dishwasher or a games console. Items used personally for either work, study or education, for example books, tools, computers are also exempt – to a value of £1350.
For a limited company, a bailiff can only take items that belong to the company, and not goods that are leased or on hire-purchase. As a limited company is a separate legal entity, a director won’t be pursued personally unless they have signed personal guarantees. Bailiffs can take money, stock, office equipment or machinery. This can be extremely damaging for a company and could force them out of business, so if you receive notice from a bailiff, it is important to act quickly to either settle the debt or seek professional advice.
At The Insolvency Experts, our main goal is to rescue your business but sometimes that is not always possible. Our experienced Insolvency Practitioners in Bolton are available now on 0300 303 8284 or via our contact us page for honest and confidential advice.