We are regularly instructed to enforce judgments against car dealerships and garages, either when the claimant bought a car that looked good on the outside, but was fatally flawed on the inside, or for repairs that were incomplete or shoddy workmanship.
Several such cases have been followed during the filming of “The Sheriffs Are Coming” and in many of those cases, the issue of who has been sued and who owns the assets has been a key deciding factor in whether the case is enforceable.
What can go wrong?
The most common issues we find when enforcing a writ are:
- The wrong entity was sued – suing just the trading name and not the limited company behind it
- The company name was not completely accurate – for example suing Joe Bloggs Cars Ltd instead of Joe Bloggs Car Sales Ltd
- It is claimed the company has closed and a different one – often with the same staff – is now operating from these premises
- It is claimed that the vehicles – often the most seizable assets – have been bought by a different entity to the debtor
- It is claimed that the machinery and other equipment that could be seized have been sold to a third party, most commonly a differently named company operating from the premises
Whilst somewhat of a broad statement, it is generally true that most of the garages that we enforce against will do all they can to avoid paying.
What can you do to help your case?
- Before starting the claim, double check who the defendant is using the paperwork provided by the garage, who the bank or credit card statement shows payment was made to, and by checking on Companies House
- Check they are still solvent and trading (Companies House and the Insolvency Service)
- If there has been a change of company name, is it still the same company registration number – if it is, then we can still enforce against them
- If it is not a limited company, find out who the owner is and the trading names that they use, and ensure that both the individual and the trading name are included on the judgment and writ
- If it is a partnership, obtain the judgment against the partnership and then include the name/s of the individual partner/s within the command portion of the writ, so as to have the option of enforcing against the partnership, the partners individually or both
During the enforcement visit, we might be told that the company no longer exists, that the business has been sold and that nothing on site belongs to the business.
We never take any of this at face value and undertake these steps to double-check:
- We undertake a diligent search at the premises for paperwork with the company name on to determine whether the company named on the writ is still trading at the premises. Documents such as invoices and insurance certificates will demonstrate the company is still very much alive
- We check the details of asset ownership and, if it is claimed that assets have been sold, we ask for evidence
- If evidence of third party ownership is not available, the enforcement officer may decide to seize the asset on paper, and give the defendant five days to prove it is owned by a third party
- If the garage is not a limited company, but there are no assets in the business, for example all vehicles are on sale or return, we can attend the owner’s home and seize personal assets – which is why it is important to name both the individual and the trading as name in the claim
Unfortunately, experience has shown us that those businesses selling poor quality vehicles will be accustomed to visits from enforcement officers and will have many tricks up their sleeve to avoid paying.
But preparation and persistence can still pay off!