At The Sheriffs Office we do frequently have cases where we enforce a writ and seize goods, only to find a third party enters the picture and claims the goods are theirs and that they want them returned, or in the event they have already been sold, the money raised given to them.
This can be very frustrating for the creditor and generally causes a delay in them receiving their money, whilst the Court decides who rightfully owns the goods (assuming that the creditor disputes the third party’s claim). This process is called interpleader proceedings.
If a third party intends to make a claim, they must tell the High Court Enforcement Officer (HCEO) who is enforcing the writ, and give their name and address (the address must be the address where court documents will be served).
The HCEO must then tell their client, the creditor. The creditor has seven days to let the HCEO know whether they agree with the third party’s claim, or whether they dispute it. If they do agree the third party owns the goods, then they are only liable to pay for the fees and expenses incurred by the HCEO before the notice was received.
If the creditor either disputes the claim or fails to respond within seven days, then the HCEO can apply to Court to issue an interpleader summons. All parties come to Court so that rightful ownership can be determined.
When disputing the third party’s claim, the creditor must provide evidence that they:
- claim no interest in the subject-matter in dispute other than for charges or costs
- do not collude with any of the claimants to that subject-matter
- are willing to pay or transfer that subject-matter into court or to dispose of it as the court may direct.
Further information is available at the Ministry of Justice website under RSC Order 17.
The other form of interpleader proceedings relating to judgement enforcement is where goods have been seized that are exempt from seizure – we will cover this in a separate article very soon.