Prior to the introduction of the Taking Control of Goods Regulations 2013, High Court Enforcement Officers (HCEO) were permitted to enter third party premises to enforce a writ of fieri facias if they had good reason to believe goods belonging to the debtor were located there.
The 2013 regulations changed that, bringing in the writ of control to replace the writ of fieri facias and removing the automatic right to enforce at third party premises.
The case of the safety deposit box
We have a case for a very large sum where the debtor is very elusive, to say the least, having vacated the address we were given a few weeks before we attended.
The client hired investigators who discovered that the debtor had a safety deposit box, so we started the process of requesting court permission to enforce at the location where the deposit box was.
A warrant to gain entry
We made an application, using the standard application notice, for leave to attend a third party address, seeking a warrant for the purposes of gaining entry and taking control of goods. The application is normally made “on notice”, which incurs a court fee of £255.
The Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Act 2007 (TCA), schedule 12, para 15 states that the court must be satisfied that all these conditions are met before they will issue the warrant:
- An enforcement power has become exercisable
- There is reason to believe that there are goods on the premises that the enforcement power will be exercisable to take control of if the warrant is issued
- It is reasonable in all the circumstances to issue the warrant
The warrant authorises repeated entry to the same premises, subject to any restriction in regulations.
When the HCEO attends the third party property with the warrant, the third party may not refuse entry, although they could make matters tricky and police attendance may be required. We will normally visit the premises in advance of enforcement to check the lay of the land and find out what specialist equipment, if any, we will need.
In this particular case, the third party was very cooperative when we met with them in advance, as well as on the day of enforcement.
Service of notice
The debtor will be served notice of the issue of the warrant. If the third party address is the only one known for the debtor, then notice of enforcement would be sent there as well.
If the serving of notice creates a high risk of the goods being removed before enforcement, then the claimant can apply for an order to dispense with the service of notice. This can be done at the same time as the application for the warrant to gain entry.
An example where this could occur might be an aircraft landing at a UK airport, which would be a third party address. Notice of enforcement would simply mean that flight plans were changed, so an application for leave to attend a third party address and to dispense with service of notice would be essential in such as case.
What was inside the box?
There were some assets of value inside the box, but unfortunately not of sufficient value to fully clear the debt, so the detective work continues.
Chris is an authorised High Court Enforcement Officer and our Director of Legal & Enforcement