Since the Covid-19 lockdown began, it’s been difficult not only to initiate claims for debt recovery, but even to enforce orders already granted by the courts. This is because many enforcement visits have been suspended, making repayment entirely dependent on the debtor choosing to obey the order.
However, the lockdown is being gradually eased. We can eat at a restaurant, enjoy a pint at a pub and even have a haircut — so what are the prospects for enforcement visits?
What the Government Has Said
Since the original announcement of lockdown on 23rd March, a number of directives have been issued by the government about enforcement visits. The Taking Control of Goods and Certification of Enforcement Agents (Amendment) (Coronavirus) Regulations 2020 came into force on 25th April, restricting at which premises enforcement visits could be conducted. Crucially, visits to dwelling houses were no longer permitted.
The Taking Control of Goods and Certification of Enforcement Agents (Amendment) (No. 2) (Coronavirus) Regulations 2020, passed on 19th June, prepared for enforcement visits to residential properties to restart on 24th August.
The High Court Enforcement Officers Association (HCEOA) has issued a post-lockdown plan to ensure that visits after 24th August will be conducted as safely as possible. While this isn’t binding on Enforcement Officers, most reputable organisations are likely working within them.
Most importantly, Enforcement Officers shouldn’t undertake a visit if anyone in the premises has tested positive for Coronavirus or is self isolating. The plan also includes guidelines to work sensitively with anyone negatively impacted by the pandemic, concentrating on finding a framework that will allow them to make the payments.
Make Sure You’re at the Head of the Queue
By 24th August, of course, we’ll have been under some degree of lockdown for five months, for most of which few enforcement visits have been carried out. The result is obvious — there’ll be a long queue to get your visit scheduled.
This isn’t only a problem of time, though. There may well be visits from other debtors scheduled for the person who owes you money, and if too many of these get in first, there may be no assets left for you.
That’s why it’s essential not to wait for August, but to begin the process now of transferring your judgement to the High Court. This should give you a good chance of getting priority over your rival debtors. If you need help or advice with a post-lockdown claim, give me a call to discuss your best course.