Well yes it can be if the debtor wants it that way and yes they do have a choice. Here’s a very good example…
There is an Italian restaurant in Covent Garden. Within easy walking distance of some of the major theatres in the West End of London. Nice little place with cosy lighting for a romantic meal. Well I had a warrant for this restaurant, I attended on a peaceful Monday morning and it stayed peaceful. The maitre d’ approached me, asked if he could help. I explained that I was there to collect some money and asked if the business owner was available. Unfortunately, he wasn’t. Apparently he wasn’t even available by phone. This is where the debtor’s attitude started to make the situation a whole lot worse and expensive. I was explaining that this was serious, I was from the court, the owner needed to take action immediately before the situation got any worse. But the maitre d’ just smiled at each of my points, nodding and saying “Yeess”
Ok I thought, I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt, his English may not be that good even though he was head of front of house. I left a letter for the business owner with a stern warning of increased costs and further action in 24 hours. But the maitre d’ just smiled, nodded and just said “Yeess”.
Tuesday came and went, nothing, no contact from the debtor. I even left the next visit until Wednesday afternoon. But still no contact and a second visit that was pretty much a repeat of the first. I asked if the business owner had received my first letter “Yeess” he had. I showed the maitre d’ that the amount outstanding had gone up dramatically. I repeated that I am not a debt collector who threatens court action, I am an agent of the court, I am court action, I am going to take payment or I will be removing goods, then selling them at auction to cover the warrant and my spiralling costs. But the maitre d’ just smiled, nodded and just said “Yeess”. I left a letter for the owner, I stressed that this would be the final letter, the final chance of 24 hours to contact me and arrange payment. During enforcement an agent will only call three times and the third time we do not leave empty handed.
I wasn’t surprised when Thursday came and went with no contact from the defendant debtor. Now I had two options; one, Friday was an administration day for me at the office, so I could execute the removal on Monday. Or option two, you see I lived in Enfield, North London and my office was in Croydon, South London. Quick point here, if you meet anyone from Croydon, as far as they are concerned, London is in North Croydon. Seriously, I worked with firms down there for over a decade, down there the world is flat and Croydon is at the centre of it. Anyway, office in Croydon, my home in Enfield and Covent Garden in the middle. I could execute the warrant on my way home, it would be after most suppliers would have shut for the weekend and the restaurant owner wouldn’t be able to replace some of the essential goods that I would have removed until Monday. This would mean, I would be effectively shutting the restaurant down over the weekend, its busiest period of the week.
I chose option two. Was that ruthless? Yes. But the option was really chosen by the debtor, he could have responded to my letters, he could have responded to the court when action was pending, he could have responded the original requests for payment. But it took ruthless court action to make him take notice of the debt. A simple fact that the mainstream media leaves out when they cover the mean and nasty guys who enforce court judgments, is the amount of warning given to these poor people. These poor people who order goods and services from businesses like yours with no intention of paying promptly, paying at all or even just contacting their creditor to tell them that they have a problem.
So I chose option two, the ruthless option, yep, well it isn’t called the law of distress for nothing. When an agent has to execute a warrant, they need to be harsh, they need to be ruthless. They have to make the payment the easy option to the debtor, for everyone concerned. The applicant gets their money, the agent has performed their duty quickly and the debtor actually pays less, the faster the enforcement, the less cost incurred by the debtor.
So I chose option two, I arrived at half past five and there were already a few couples enjoying a pre show meal. I walked in, shut the door and flipped the sign over from open to closed. My friend the maitre d’ approached smiled and said “Yeess”. I looked him in the eye and said “I’m back” he smiled and said “Yeess”. I said “ the owner didn’t contact me as requested” he smiled and said “Yeess”. I said “you are shut now, just as I promised” he smiled and said “Yeess”. I said “Ok, I’m going to sit right here and list all the goods that I will be removing TODAY, in just a few minutes, the owner has until I finish the paperwork to pay me, otherwise the goods will then be remove for sale at public auction” he smiled and said “Yeess”.
So I started, I started to do exactly what I said I would do if they ignored me. Problem was, they were still ignoring me. The restaurant just continued doing what it was doing before I arrived and to be honest, I was stumped. Normally at this point debtors start getting worried, the sign on the door said closed, I had my seizure paperwork out and I was filling it in. I even got up and had a poke around behind the bar, but the staff just smiled at me and carried on. Seriously, what could I do?
Then it happened, I got my chance, some potential customers ignored the sign on the door and came in, the maitre d’ approached them and offered them a table. However, he didn’t notice me following closely behind him. As soon as the new customers made their way to the table I politely pointed out that the table was in fact mine. But then, the customers smiled at me, ignored me as well and just sat down. I just could not believe it, I was giving it my best game but nothing was happening. Then I realised the customers were tourists, didn’t speak a word of English and didn’t have a glue what I was saying to them anyway, so I banged on their table with the palm of my hand, said “My table”. They then understood what I was trying to tell them, but they just got up and moved to the next table. Before they sat down though I raised my voice and gestured “No, no, no!” I looked at the maitre d’ and said “They are all my tables, all your goods are seized”, just then the door opened again and large group of people started to stroll in. I automatically commanded them to “stop, I am from the court, I have a warrant and this restaurant is shut!”. Luckily these guys understood exactly what I was saying and retreated back out into the street. I said “thanks” then turned my attention back to the maitre d’ and said calmly “Like I said, you are shut, you need to get the owner to contact me right now”. But this time he wasn’t smiling, he wasn’t nodding either and he certainly didn’t say “Yeess”.
I was sitting back down to continue with my paperwork when I noticed that the restaurant had gone very quite indeed. I looked around the room and every eye was upon me, apart from the maitre d’ of course who was scurrying off out the back, some of the dinners had even frozen mouth open with a fork of food just a few inches from their mouths and the smiles on the front of house staffs faces had been replaced by looks of almost horror. Bingo, I had it, right at that moment I knew I was going to clear that warrant right up. However, I did a number of very concerned members of the public looking at me, some of them looking at me, their plates and back to me again, so I stood and addressed them. “Nothing to worry about folks, I am not from environmental health, you can finish your food but please do not order anything else and I will need to know how you and how much you, pay the establishment” They still looked uneasy but they went back to their meals and the general murmur of the room started up again. At this point a couple more staff scurried off out the back.
A few moments later the maitre d’ returned, half smiling, clutching a cordless phone and passed it to me. On the other end of the phone wasn’t the business owner, to my surprise there was a rather drunk accountant. “Wozz allzz thizz about?” he enquired. I gave him the details and told him what I planned to do next “Yoou cant dozz thatzz” he told me that there were “prozzedurezz” that I had to follow, I couldn’t just turn up and demand money. I informed him that unfortunately all the procedures had in fact been followed, they all had been ignored and today was the day, there were no more options, payment was needed right now or else. There was silence on the other end of the phone for a while, then the inebriated voice tried to explain that the business owner was foreign and didn’t understand our legal system. I said “Sorry, but common sense says that you can’t just ignore official papers that you don’t understand, regardless of where you are from. The debtor had had the opportunity to seek advice and take action. Execution of the warrant had started and only payment now would stop a removal of goods now” more silence. He then admitted that there was no way of making any payment right then. The owner had just gone back to Turkey for the weekend, but it was an Italian restaurant, the accountant was actually out at a social event, really, but could make the payment on Monday. Ah, oh dear, I repeated that I only make three visits and this was the third. He personally promised me the payment over the phone first thing Monday morning, was there anything I could do? Well I suppose I could take a walk in possession order where I still seize the goods but leave them on the premises until Monday, but I shouldn’t really, the restaurant could still trade and as long as I received the money they wouldn’t see me again. However, if they didn’t pay, the additional costs incurred would be considerable. He promised, the maitre d’ signed the paperwork and it actually solved a problem for me to. You see I had been keeping a secret, amongst other things I had seized 30 tables, over 120 chairs and only had a Citroen Birlingo outside, the chances of getting a lorry after five o’clock in the West End was laughable, so it was actually a win-win for me too.
And first thing Monday morning, just past eight o’clock a now sober accountant phoned me and paid me the full amount. Just as the transaction was completed and I was about to hang up the phone, he asked me a question “Would I really have closed the business down?” “Yes I would, of course I would” turns out that I had in fact just done that very thing! I insisted that once the paperwork was signed on Friday I left and I left them with all their goods. Oh but that wasn’t the problem, you see, when I was banging the table, ordering people back out into the street and calmly giving the customers instructions, most of the staff were running out the back door because they thought that I was immigration and they hadn’t been seen since.