What is a bailiff?
A bailiff is an authorised officer of the court, appointed by the sheriff of Western Australia to:
- serve court documents
- seize and sell a judgment debtor's real or personal property.
The powers of a bailiff are different depending on what the bailiff is authorised to do.
What are the powers of entry for a bailiff for with a property (seizure and sale) order?
The bailiff may, when authorised by the sheriff, use any force and assistance that is reasonably necessary to enter any place where they believe on reasonable grounds there is or may be personal property or a record about title of any property which can be seized under a property (seizure and sale) order. They have other powers of entry.
The bailiff will want to see what you own in order to decide what to sell. The bailiff may seize personal property to be sold and store it or leave it with you. You will not be allowed to move it or give it to anyone else without the permission of the bailiff.
Some property cannot be seized by the bailiff.
If I own a house can it be sold?
Your real estate property can only be sold if the bailiff decides the judgment debt can't be met by selling your personal property.
The bailiff is at my door. What can I do?
What you can do depends on why the bailiff is at the door. For example, if the bailiff is there to:
- Serve a claim or other court documents, it may be served on you if you are the defendant, or on you to give to the defendant if you are aged over 18 and show a willingness to pass it on to the defendant.
- To enforce a property (seizure and sale) order, entry to your property may be sought if they have reasonable grounds for believing there is or may be personal property that can be seized under the order.
Is it an offence to hinder or stop the seizure of goods by the bailiff?
Yes, it is a criminal offence to hinder or stop the seizure of goods by removing, hiding, retaining or disposing of the goods. The offence is punishable by fines or imprisonment.
What are my options if I do not want my property seized and sold?
If you do not want your property seized or sold by the bailiff you can:
- Pay the debt and costs in full.
- Talk to the judgment creditor to arrange payment of the debt. If you reach an agreement, the judgment creditor may agree to not enforce the property (seizure and sale) order and have the bailiff return the order to court. Make sure you keep a signed written record of any agreement.
- Apply to have enforcement put on hold. This is called a 'suspension order'. Get legal advice before applying to do this.
What if the bailiff has seized property that doesn't belong to the judgment debtor?
The person who has a claim against the property seized by the bailiff will have to take court action to get the property back. This is called ‘interpleader proceedings’.
The Magistrates Court of WA has fact sheets for judgment creditors and judgment debtors on property (seizure and sale) orders (including what property can’t be seized) and a fact sheet on interpleader proceedings.
Reviewed: 20 September 2022