The Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Act 2007 (TCE) specifies that the sale of controlled goods must be by public auction unless the court orders otherwise.

The best price

The purpose of the sale is to obtain the best price possible so that the judgment debt, court fees, enforcement fee and judgment interest can be paid in full (any surplus will be returned to the debtor). Public auctions are normally the most effective method of achieving a good price.

We currently have a number of public auctions of goods we have seized under a writ of control taking place. Many of these relate to the sale of specialist items – collections of photography, letters and manuscripts – they are placed in specialist sales by auction houses who can attract the target buyers.

Other methods

However, sometimes the item is of such a specialist nature that a public auction is not the most appropriate method of sale. Under paragraph 41(2) of Schedule 12 of TCE 2007, there is provision for the High Court Enforcement Officer (HCEO) to apply to the court to sell the goods by another method.

This would most commonly be by:

  • Private contract
  • Sealed bids
  • Advertisement

When making the application, the enforcement agent must state whether he has reason to believe that an enforcement power has become exercisable by another creditor against the debtor or a co-owner. If he does believe that may be the case, the court may not consider the application until notice has been given to the other creditor, or the court is satisfied that the enforcement power is not exercisable by the other creditor.

Seven days’ notice of the sale must still be given to the debtor and any co-owner.

When is private contract the best method?

Private contract, also known as private treaty, is the best method where it is likely to attract a buyer who is prepared to pay a higher price than could be obtained were the goods to be sold at public auction.

One such example of a recent case where we obtained permission from the court to sell by private treaty was when we seized and removed specialist avionics testing equipment.

The inventory included:

  • Digital turbine temperature test set
  • Portable pressure calibrators
  • Air data test sets
  • DME test sets
  • Digital fuel quantity test sets
  • Chadwick balancers for helicopter blades
  • Nav/com test sets
  • Digital ohmmeters
  • A boroscope

We contacted a number of companies who we believed would be interested in the entire inventory and invited them to tender sealed bids. The winning bidder was a US businessman who was travelling back to the US; he took a detour to the UK to inspect the goods before placing a bid.

The winning bid was for £27,600, far more than we expect would have been achieved at auction. We had previously been advised of a potential buyer offering £3,000!

David Asker

David is an authorised High Court Enforcement Officer and our Director of Corporate Governance

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