Although often a controversial topic, instructing a bailiff is one of the most effective ways of collecting a debt in the UK. If a tenant is in rent arrears or they have another outstanding debt to you, using the services of a bailiff is often the most straightforward means of recovering the amount.
If you instruct a team of bailiffs to recover an outstanding debt from your commercial property – whether that is a shop, a restaurant or an office – the implications of the action are considerably higher for your tenant than if the recovery was from a residential property, as clients, customers and employees are likely to be on the premises in trading and retail buildings.
If you need to instruct the services of a bailiff to recover a debt from a property, it’s important to be aware of exactly what the bailiff is entitled to take from the commercial property by law and what they are not entitled to seize against the debt.
Seizing goods from commercial property
Most items can legally be seized from a commercial property to recover debts owed by a tenant, however there are some exceptions. These include:
- Goods which are substantially incorporated into the premises, such as sinks, toilets and radiators
- Goods belonging to you as the landlord, such as fixtures and fittings
- Any rented or leased items, as these are defined as belonging to a third party
- Items which are being used at the time (with some exceptions)
Bailiffs are also entitled to seize tools and manufacturing machinery in recovery cases such as rent arrears, as these items are often deemed to be of a higher value.
Goods do not have to be physically removed from a commercial property in order for them to be classified as ‘seized’. The bailiff may mark items as seized, placing them under a ‘walking possession agreement’, or alternatively they may inform your tenant that the goods have been seized against the debt. In either case, the tenant must not remove the goods from the property or otherwise interfere with them once they have been seized.
Recovering commercial rent arrears
If your tenant is in arrears with their rent, you can instruct a bailiff directly to recover the amount owed to you. The bailiff is only legally entitled to seize any property or goods against a sum clearly defined as rent under the commercial lease. Any items which are not defined as such cannot be seized against the debt by law.
To collect commercial rent arrears, a bailiff is only permitted to enter a commercial premises between the hours of sunrise and sunset. They are not permitted to force entry to the property, although they can enter the property through an open window, or by climbing a fence. They must always provide certification, plus show their warrant if they are requested to do so.
If your tenant accepts the rent arrears are due when the bailiff attends the property, they should pay the bailiff on the premises. If they are contesting the amount, they are entitled to seek legal advice to challenge the debt, which will prolong the recovery process.