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How has Covid-19 affected the enforcement of Judgments?

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It is all very well obtaining judgment against your debtor, but that does not necessarily mean that you can turn that judgment into cash. This can often prove the most challenging part of debt recovery and has especially been the case throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.

Now that lockdown restrictions are starting to be relaxed, there have been some minor changes in the enforcement world.

Back in August 2020, the Government published guidelines for the safety of all enforcement agents. There are still some restrictions on residential visits however, this is due to be relaxed on 31st May 2021. Being able to enter a debtor’s property will undoubtedly assist with recovery moving forward as it has certainly been a challenging time for our enforcement agents throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.

When an enforcement agency is instructed, it obtains a Writ of Control and sends out a Notice of Enforcement, which gives the debtor seven clear days (excluding Sundays and bank holidays), to settle the debt to avoid the potential for removal of goods. In normal circumstances, an agent would simply attend the debtor’s premises, whether they be commercial or residential, to try and provoke payment or take control of assets.

However, the Government guidelines provide that an agent must make reasonable attempts to contact households prior to visits to residential property where possible to assess risk and ensure that a visit can proceed safely in accordance with social distancing. Such contact may include telephone calls, text message, letter or e-mail. If the debtor informs the agent that anyone in the household has symptoms or has been advised to shield, the agent will not be able to proceed with the visit at that time.

Assuming that this has been done and an attendance has been made, the agent should establish from a safe distance, whether there is a requirement for them to enter the property. If so, appropriate steps should be made, including maintaining social distancing, including the use of PPE, minimising contact with householders or surfaces and/or objects within the property unless necessary, i.e., to take control. 

Whilst these rules are in place for residential property, an agent visiting a place of business should observe any measures that the business has in place to ensure the safety of both their customers and workers.

Currently, an enforcement agent can attend commercial properties and enter with full PPE.

As we are sure you will not be surprised to hear, we have seen an increase in debtors using Covid-19 as an excuse to try and evade payment of their debts and feel that it should be their right to withhold payment as a result of the pandemic. This is not the case and is certainly not a reason for someone to not pay their debts (albeit there are some circumstances in which it may be) - see our recent blog.

Even if they can only afford to pay by instalments, they still need to show at least an intent to settle any monies owed if they are able to do so.

If you do require any assistance with any debts that you have outstanding, please do contact a member of the debt recovery team at Roythornes. We continue to work closely with our enforcement agency and will update you of any changes at a later date.