A Guide to Enforcement Methods
If a landlord is owed money from an ex-tenant who refuses to pay, they may have to resort to legal action to recover the debt. However, getting a court judgment is not the end of the story; the judgement still needs to be enforced and the debtor made to pay.
Sometimes debts are not worth pursing, particularly if the debtor has no money or assets. However, an ex-tenant’s situation can change, and sometimes a simple letter to the debtor trying to get a payment plan agreed can do the trick.
This blog will explain some of the common enforcement methods and how they work.
Bailiffs or high court enforcement officers
Firstly, a landlord will need to track down the ex-tenant at a new address, however it is advisable to wait two-three months for the debtor to settle down at the new address. Once a new address is found, a landlord could instruct bailiffs or high court enforcement officers to attend the debtor’s property and take control of the debtor’s goods.
The bailiff or the enforcement agent will visit the debtor’s property and try to collect the money or take the goods.
The fees for the high court officers will be added to the existing debt. Enforcement companies are very skilled with tactics to recover money from debtors but sometimes the agent is not successful, and another method of enforcement needs to be considered.
Attachment of earnings order
An attachment of earnings order is an order that directs the debtor’s employer to deduct a certain amount from the debtor’s wages or salary and pay it to the court, which will then be passed to the landlord.
An application for an attachment of earnings order can be made if the debtor is employed and has a regular income. The court will send a form to the debtor, asking for details of their income and expenses. The court will then decide how much the debtor can afford to pay each month, considering their essential living costs. The court will also set a protected earnings rate, which is the minimum amount that the debtor must be left with after the deduction.
The employer will start making the deductions as soon as they receive the order from the court. The order will remain in force until the debt is paid in full, or until the debtor changes or loses their job.
Third-party debt order
A third-party debt order is an order that freezes the money that the debtor has in a bank, building society, or other account, and transfers it to you to pay the debt. You can apply for a third-party debt order if you know the details of the debtor’s account and the amount of money, they have in it.
Charging order A charging order is an order that secures the debt against the debtor’s property, such as their home or land. The court will only make a final order if it is satisfied that the charge is justified and proportionate. The charge will not affect the debtor’s right to live in or sell the property, but it will give the landlord a legal interest in it. This means that they can apply for an order for sale, which will force the debtor to sell the property and pay the debt from the proceeds. However, this is a drastic step, and the court will only grant it in exceptional circumstances, especially if the property is the debtor’s home.
This content was exclusively prepared in collaboration with The Lettings Hub by Cara Wiltshire of award-winning Woodstock Legal Services.
Woodstock Legal Services are specialists in legal advice and solutions for the Private Rental Sector.
Talk to us if you would like to know more about enforcement methods available to landlords and agents.