CASHFLOW | What Are “Relevant Premises” When Taking Control of Goods?

Creditors can always improve the odds of achieving a successful enforcement outcome when they dig into the address records of the Judgment Debtor. Sending High Court Enforcement Agents to an address where goods are likely to be located really helps.

Back in the day when we were also known as Sheriffs, we could pretty much “follow the goods” to wherever they were situated in England and Wales. But since the introduction of the Taking Control of Goods Regulations 2013 this wider view approach has been narrowed.

What Are Relevant Premises?

The addresses we can attend must fall under the statutory definition of “Relevant Premises” which is defined in paragraph 14(6) of Schedule 12 of the Tribunals Courts & Enforcement Act 2007.

These will be where the enforcement agent reasonably believes that the Judgment Debtor usually lives or carries on a trade or business. There may be more than one address. The address may have been used as the address for service of the money claim, also this is not always the best address for enforcement.

For enforcement purposes, the High Court Enforcement Officer and her team are looking for the address where goods are located and located in relevant premises – i.e., the Judgment Debtor’s residence, business address, or goods on the highway.

If the goods of the Judgment Debtor are stored elsewhere such as a marina, a storage facility owned by a third party, or even an airport, then the High Court Enforcement Officer will have to apply to the Court for an Order allowing her enforcement agents to “step” on to that land for the purposes of enforcement.

In our experience, an application can be made quickly to a High Court Master and in the absence of any objection, the Order will be made to allow the High Court Enforcement Officer to enter third party land for the purposes of taking legal control of the goods.

In the 7 years since the new regulations have been in force, we have not seen this new required step to causing any delay in getting to goods that need to be taken into legal control.

Finding Relevant Premises

We like to think of it as teamwork between the Judgment Creditor and our Business Solution Advisors on finding the best address to attend for taking legal control of goods.

All addresses should be looked at. A simple checklist looks like this |

  1. Is the address a “relevant address” i.e., home/place where business is carried on?

  2. If the answer to 1) is “yes”, then the High Court Enforcement Officer should send the Notice of Enforcement to that address, or alternatively send the Notice of Enforcement by email to the Judgment Debtor at the usual email address. We like to do this because we can then prove it has been sent by adding a “delivered” and “read” receipt to the email.

  3. If the answer to 1) is “no”, and the address does not fall into the definition of a “relevant address”, and it is believed that goods are at an address outside the definition, then an application should be made under Regulation 15 of the Taking Control of Goods Regulations 2013 for an Order allowing the High Court Enforcement Officer’s Agents to step on to the land carry out the enforcement of the Writ of Control.

Sending the Notice of Enforcement to Relevant Premises

The Notice of Enforcement is another important change from the ways things were prior to 2013 and should not be ignored. It needs to be taken seriously as a step that must be shown to have been taken. This is why we ask our users to check their records for an email address for the Judgment Debtor. If we send the Notice by email and set up the rules for delivery and reading the email, then it is difficult to argue that it hasn’t been received.

The Notice of Enforcement is the first of the 4 fee stages in the Taking Control of Goods (Fees) Regulations 2014. The Compliance Fee is added to the Writ of Control and is charged at £75.00 plus VAT. Where we can recover it from the Judgment Debtor then this will be part of our service.

What Happens if the Judgment Debtor Moves From An Address?

That’s a good question and it does happen. When it does, then we can attend additional addresses provided they still come within the definition of “relevant premises”, or we have an Order to allow us to enter premises outside the definition.

Good practice dictates that we send a Notice of Enforcement to each new address, although again the email service of the Notice of Enforcement will cover each and every possible address for a Judgment Debtor. The issue of non-service goes away of course if the Judgment Debtor acknowledges the email.

We do offer a tracking service to make it easy for creditors at any stage of their cashflow process to check and verify the address of their debtors and this service can be used before a Writ of Control is issued to ensure we have the best address information available.

Examples of Address Scenarios

Situation Relevant Premises Action Taken The Sole Trader and White Van at Home YesThe home address becomes the address for “relevant premises” where enforcement can be commenced, but the white van may be classed as a “tool of the trade” and therefore not available to be taken. Tools up to £1350 are exempt in this sort of situation. Director Working From His Home Office or Garden ShedYesCare must be taken to distinguish between the role of the director and the debtor’s company legal person.

If the judgment debtor is the company and the company has an office in the director’s home, then provided entry can be achieved into the home without force, the HCEA can search for goods in the home office.

The rest of the director’s home contents could be the subject of a third party claim by the director or a member of his family - which can be accepted or disputed by the Judgment Creditor. The Director at Home Who Has Given a Personal Guarantee Yes. If a director has given a personal guarantee for a company’s debts, then the contents of the home are all available to be taken into legal control. The Only Address is the Debtor’s Workplace No If the debtor’s car is in a private car park then this would be considered third party land, and an order could be obtained to allow the car to be taken into legal control by entering that land

Alternatively, if the car is on the highway close to the debtor’s workplace then that can be taken into legal control where it is parked Entry into Residential Premises Yes Entry into Business Premises, Yes A Student Living with Mum and Dades – it is the debtor’s residential address Once inside the HCEA can only take control of goods belonging to the student – other goods could be claimed by mum and dad as third parties.

If Mum and Dad have given a personal guarantee for the student’s debt, then all their goods can be taken into legal control except for goods that are exempt. The Vehicle on the Road Yes, A vehicle belonging to the debtor can be secured on the highway – see Tribunals Courts & Enforcement Act Schedule 12 Paragraph 13 (1)The Boat in the Marina Not unless the debtor owns the marina – in which case it would be a business address this sort of situation is a classic “third party land” scenario and requires the court’s permission to enter third party land being the marina to secure the boat. The Aircraft in the Maintenance Hangar Again, unless the hangar is owned by the debtor, the goods are in the control of a third party again, this sort of situation is a classic “third party land” scenario and requires the court’s permission to enter third party premises and take control of the aircraft.

Summing Up

When and how a High Court Enforcement Officer and the enforcement agents acting in her name, can and cannot attend an address is now set out in Schedule 12 of the 2007 Act and its supporting Regulations.

The definition of “Relevant Premises” is relatively clear and is largely followed. If it isn’t it can create a flurry of needless legal work for the High Court Enforcement Officer, so prudence is always best if in doubt. We ask enforcement agents working in the name of our HCEO to start their body-worn camera video with confirmation of the address and why it is relevant premises for the purpose of enforcement. This then becomes part of the contemporaneous record of the enforcement of the Writ.

To use our High Court enforcement services, use on our contact points

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