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Jo C.
Jo C., Barrister
Category: Law
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Experience:  Over 5 years in practice
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I own a company (Vastmerge Ltd) which owns and rents commercial

Resolved Question:

I own a company (Vastmerge Ltd) which owns and rents commercial property. A tenant has recently gone into voluntary liquidation owing rent. The Registrar of Companies have issued a Notice that the company will be struck of the Register at the end of March.The property was re-entered in January in accordance with the Lease Agreement. As both man and wife signed as guarantors on the lease document Vastmerge have now obtained a joint CCJ against them.
My problem is that the property is still full of the computers , office furniture, warehouse tools etc which belong, I assume, to the tenants company. Vastmerge have had no direct communication from the tenant since Dec. 2013. The CCJ was granted on the basis of default i.e.they did not respond the Northampton court. I need to clear out the property in order to re-lease it. My question: what is the legal position regarding disposal of this "abandoned" property.
Submitted: 3 years ago.
Category: Law
Expert:  Jo C. replied 3 years ago.
Hi.

Thank you for your question. My name is XXXXX XXXXX I will try to help with this.

Is it of high value?
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Value of Judgement is GBP23,853.65


Value of property left in the building - my estimate GBP3k

Expert:  Jo C. replied 3 years ago.
Do you know if they have applied for a variation order to pay in instalments?
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

I spoke with the Northampton Court last week. They received a response that the former tenant had replied that 1) they would dispute some of the claim, and 2) they would dispute the Jurisdiction of the Court. Nothing has been received by the court or myself.

Expert:  Jo C. replied 3 years ago.
Thanks.

The CCJ is still live then until they seek to get it set aside.

In any event, you cannot enforce the CCJ by just seizing their goods. You need to apply for a bailiff to attend and they can seize them.

However, this is a separate issue of abandonment.

This is an issue of the law of abandonment of goods. As a general rule you are under a duty to take reasonable care of the property of others if its left in your care. However, there are obviously limits to that.

Abandonment is very badly defined in law. Goods are generally abandoned if they have been left for a period of time that is not ‘reasonable’. What is reasonable depends on the facts of the case - in particular the value of the item either financial or emotional but also the inconvenience to you. A small item would be easier to store and so you would be required to keep it longer than a bulky one which clogs up your space.

Overall, given the value of the goods I do think you need to give him either longer than three weeks to collect or other notification. You can only do what is reasonable. Send him a text saying that he has one week to collect his belongings and in default you will remove them. Then if he does not you would be justified in removing them.

Of course, it is likely that he will turn up at some point and start making threats about this. Then you will have to defend any action that he brings on the basis that the goods were abandoned.

In terms of keeping any profits, you cannot do that in principle. You need to enforce the claim by going to court in the normal way. However, the practical reality is that people do often recover funds in this way and there isn't much that can be done about it as long as the property has genuinely been abandoned.

Hope this helps. Please let me know if you need more information.

Customer: replied 3 years ago.

The tenant has not been in the building since last November. Vastmerge solicitors wrote at that time requesting he advise them what he proposed to do about the outstanding debt. His response on 4th Dec. to our solicitors was that Newbury District Council had sent in the Bailiffs for non payment of council rates and that the bailiff would be taking quote- our working computers, telephone system and tables - unquote.


However, there has been no requests, letters or visits by the bailiff. So I have now been waiting for almost 3 months to resolve this. How much longer can I reasonable be expected to wait. If it is true that the bailiff has been called in who do the abandoned items now belong to ?. My apologies that I omitted to give you this information earlier. I'm starting to feel like a candidate for confused.com.

Expert:  Jo C. replied 3 years ago.
I think you can rely on abandonment then although you should really follow the steps I mentioned above.

I do understand your frustration but you need to protect yourself.
Jo C. and 3 other Law Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

In accordance with your advice on March 1st 2014 Vastmerge sent an email letter to the former tenant giving 21 days to make arrangements to remove the property. The tenant replied the same day saying the Bailiffs sent in by West Berkshire had listed everything for resale and he would contact West Berks council. Nothing further received so on March 21st contacted West Berks council by phone and email letter asking for confirmation that the bailiff sent by the council had levied the goods.


On April 8th 2014 West Berks council replied that they had advised Mr Browne that anything levied by the bailiffs was the bailiffs property and suggested we contact the bailiff company. Wrote to the bailiff company on April 10th requesting a date within 7 days from 12th April when they would be collecting the goods. We received a letter dated April 17th from Bristow and Sutor (bailiffs) saying " We will not be pursuing the goods at the property".


Would you agree that in view of all of the actions now taken by Vastmerge we have (in law) sufficient evidence to show abandonment and can legally dispose of the goods.

Expert:  Jo C. replied 3 years ago.

There is one thing that you have not done and I think that is essential.

You need to contact the liquidator and basically as the liquidator everything that you were asked of the Council and the bailiffs.

You obviously are a creditor by virtue of the cost of storage of these items and the County Court judgement and it is most unlikely that the liquidator will want them.

You are able to hold a lien over them in respect of unpaid monies to be absolutely in the clear, you need a letter from the liquidator saying that he has no interest in them.

Then you can dispose of them as you think fit