Although you will refer to them as “Bailiffs” or “Sheriff’s Officers”, they are now called Enforcement Officers.
In 2013 Regulations introduced a requirement for a 7 Day Notice, that an Enforcement Officer intends to attend a debtor’s premises, to be sent warning the debtor of that meeting. This came into effect in April 2014 and before then, no such Notice was required. You do not need to be a genius to know what the debtor will do with his valuable belongings once he gets a 7 Day Notice.
A Judge can dispense with the 7 Day Notice if it can be shown that there is good cause to believe that goods might be disposed of once this Notice has been given. A recent case involved a passenger aircraft which landed at Manchester Airport and because there was an outstanding bill for fuel Enforcement Officers seized the aircraft, which could not leave until the debt had been satisfied. The Judge in that case dispensed with the need for the 7 Day Notice. The passengers were none too happy!
An Enforcement Officer does not need to take goods away, but can obtain a signed Controlled Goods Agreement from the debtor. This confirms that the debtor no longer has title to the goods and confirms that he may not dispose of them. The Agreement also gives the Enforcement Officer the right to enter the property to inspect the goods and remove them for sale at any point. Of course, if a third party buys those goods from the debtor, he does not get title to them and the third party will have to either return the goods or pay their value to the Enforcement Agent. The difficulty is that he/she does not know if the goods are not the seller’s goods to sell. “Caveat Emptor” – let the buyer beware!
So, beware if you are buying goods, particularly if they are being sold online. How do you know if the seller has title to them? Well you don’t, until there is a knock at the door.