Jonathan Mortimer, Head of Dispute Resolution at Raworths, teamed up with Andrew Wilson & Co, a High Court Enforcement Office, to try life as a bailiff collecting debts – for one day only.
High Court Enforcement offices are ordinarily instructed by solicitors to collect unpaid judgments from unwilling debtors following the conclusion of Court proceedings. As Jonathan Mortimer says:
“Getting a judgment for a client is only half the job. Getting actual payment of the judgment is key and in the present economic climate it is more important than ever to make sure the judgment is actually discharged. Seeing at first hand what bailiffs actually do out of the road was invaluable”.
Jonathan’s day on the road is recorded below:
I was collected by Gary who had agreed to take me out for the day. Gary usually starts very early to collect debts from individuals before they leave home so today was a later start than usual. Gary had a detailed plan of visits to debtors across Leeds, Wakefield and Bradford.
We made our first stop near Cookridge in Leeds on behalf of a firm of estate agents with an unpaid debt. This was Gary’s first visit to the property and nobody was in. We left a letter asking the debtor to contact the Office to arrange for the debt to be paid. We also made a note of the condition of the property which can be useful to assess how effective enforcement action may be.
We arrived in Meanwood to pursue a manager of a well known public house in Leeds who had a debt to the Performing Rights Society. We knocked on the door but nobody was in. Gary made a note of the vehicles parked outside, will check whether the debtor owns then at DVLA and whether they are subject to finance. If not, they are likely to be seized next time and sold at an auction to pay the debt. Gary tells me that the most interesting car he has seized was a Ferrari.
Our next stop was to Hyde Park to pursue a debt due to a well known University. The debtor has apparently been paying by instalments over a number of years but defaulted. There seems to be nobody in so Gary leaves a letter asking the debtor to get in touch. We later receive a call from a gentleman who is now residing in the property and it looks likely that the debtor has now left without leaving a forwarding address. More research will be required by the creditor to ascertain where the debtor is now based.
We arrive in Seacroft on behalf of a car finance company to pursue a Defendant who has defaulted on his car agreement. The door is answered by the Grandmother of the debtor who explains that her grandson used to live at the property but has apparently since left without a forwarding address. Nevertheless, Gary is sceptical of the explanation and makes a note of the cars parked outside with a view to possible seizure. We receive numerous calls during the day from the Grandfather and other relatives attempting to suggest that we have been intimidating and used threats of violence on the doorstep – what a nonsense and it seems likely to me that the Grandmother knows more than she is letting on.
We visit what appears to be a graveyard for Range Rover vehicles in Rothwell. Whoever lives at this property seems to be involved in the second hand car business. The lady debtor appears (accompanied by her bare chested partner) explaining that she knows of the claim made against her but cannot understand how the Claimant has already obtained a judgment. There seems to be a query as to whether the debtor actually lives at this property and Gary feels unable to take any further action on this occasion but will be back.
We arrive in Wakefield to collect a debt from a fish and chip business on behalf of a supplier. However, on further investigation, it appears that we have been given a residential address. We speak to the occupant and she explains that she has lived in the property for the last six years and has no connection with the debt. She volunteers her ID and the explanation appears correct. Something has gone wrong with the address for enforcement and the trail may have gone cold.
Gary is now pursuing unpaid mobile telephone bills and we arrive at a substantive property in Dewsbury. Nobody is at home but there are a number of cars on the driveway. Gary makes a note of them and indicated in a notice posted through the door that they will be seized at the next visit if they are free of finance and owned by the debtor. Gary estimates that about 70% of cars he considers seizing are subject to finance. However, the remaining 30% are available to be taken away, sold at an auction and the proceeds put against the debt.
Our final stop of the day is to an indoor football centre in Bradford. Gary has visited before and is expecting an argument. He is ready to call a van and to remove all items of any value from the centre to pay the debt. The lady in charge explains that they are thinking of going into a CVA but Gary quite rightly indicates that he can proceed regardless unless the CVA has gone through. However, it later appears that the debtor can produce evidence that HMRC has just beaten us to it and taken walking possession of anything valuable from the site.