When a business has a judgement debt due to its creditors, or is overdue paying taxes to HMRC, or its landlord for rent arrears or to the local authority for rates, enforcement officers may arrive at its premises to seize property.
Enforcement officers may be bailiffs appointed by the County Court following granting of a County Court Judgement (CCJ) or by Sheriffs if there is a High Court writ. They can also represent HMRC, the landlord or local authority without judgement.
They can seize assets but only if they have lawful entry to the property and the assets are unencumbered. They do not have to physically remove anything from the premises but the seized assets may not be removed or sold without consent.
Unencumbered assets are those owned wholly by the business. This means any items on the premises that have been supplied under a seller agreement where they no longer belong to the seller. It may be that many goods on the premises are not actually owned by the business and therefore cannot be seized.
This often applies to company vehicles on a lease or hire purchase basis, as may plant & machinery, photocopiers and IT equipment.
Less obvious are those goods bought for resale which are subject to an agreement that they only become the property of the business once they have been paid for, known as Subject to Reservation of Title.
However, the onus is on the business to prove to the bailiffs that this is the case.
It is therefore imperative that the business keeps proper records of all paperwork such as finance agreements, invoices and purchase agreements to prove any supplies that may be Subject to Reservation of Title.
Quite apart from the reason above, all businesses need to keep proper, up to date records, including sale and purchase invoices, purchase orders and contract related documents regardless of whether they are in difficulty or running profitably. How good is your record keeping?