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If someone owes you money and they do not pay you back or turn up to court when asked, you may be able to apply for a warrant to seize their property to settle the debt. There is a specific process for enforcing this warrant to seize their property. This article will answer some of the most frequently asked questions about this process in the Magistrate’s Court of Victoria. 

Summary of How to Enforce A Warrant to Seize Property

  1. A person or business owes you money;
  2. You are unable to negotiate or settle the debt;
  3. You begin court proceedings against the person or business;
  4. They do not attend court;
  5. After 21 days you can apply for a default judgment, which is a judgment against the person or business because they did not show up to court;
  6. You apply to the court to issue a warrant to seize their property to satisfy the court’s judgment;
  7. If the court accepts the application, you receive the warrant;
  8. You deliver the original warrant to the sheriff’s office with the fee;
  9. The sheriff accepts your warrant;
  10. The sheriff attends the person or business’ address to take (providing certain conditions are met) unsecured property such as cars, motorbikes or construction tools.

What is a Warrant to Seize Property?

A warrant to seize property is a formal court document that gives power to the sheriff to take the property of the person or business that owes you money. The court will give the sheriff this power if it believes that the debtor has failed to pay the amount of money that the court decides is necessary.

When Will a Court Issue a Warrant to Seize Property?

The court will not issue a warrant without a proper application. Firstly, you need to apply and obtain a default judgment with the court’s seal. You can apply for this if the debtor hasn’t responded to your complaint. The court will make the order without a hearing. It is crucial that you apply to the court using the correct procedure and pay the correct fees. Otherwise, the court will reject your application. A lawyer can assist you to complete and file a default order using the correct procedure for the Magistrates’ Court of Victoria. Once you have the sealed copy of the default order, you can apply for a warrant to seize property.

Can I Choose the Property That is Seized?

Unfortunately a warrant of this kind does not specify what property you can seize. The sheriff is the person who will decide which property they seize to satisfy the judgment debt.

How Many Copies of the Warrant Will a Court Issue?

The court will make two originals of the warrant. One stays permanently on the court file, while the other will be posted to an address that you choose. You need to take care of the original file, as the sheriff will not execute a warrant that is not an original copy. It is a good idea to either pick up the warrant in person or send a registered post return envelope with your initial warrant application. 

What Happens if I Lose My Copy?

Losing your copy of the warrant makes the process a lot more difficult. A court cannot simply re-issue a warrant when another warrant is already out there. In this scenario, the court can issue a duplicate warrant that the sheriff can enforce. A court will only issue a duplicate warrant if it is satisfied that your original copy has been permanently lost or destroyed. For this reason, it is recommended that you collect your copy of the original warrant in person from the Magistrates’ Court.

Alternatively, the court can withdraw the current warrant and issue a new one. However, this cannot be done by filing a form, and will usually require you to appear and explain why the court should cancel your original warrant and issue a new one. Therefore, it is crucial that you keep your original copy safe.

Where Do I Take the Warrant?

Once you have the warrant, it needs to be delivered to the sheriff’s office. You can do this either in person or via the post. Again, make sure you use the registered post so that the warrant doesn’t get lost in transit. You will also need to attach the sheriff’s fee for enforcing the warrant otherwise the sheriff will not accept it.

How Do I Know Which Sheriff’s Office the Warrant Should Go To?

The specific office location depends on your registered business address, as well as the debtor’s address. Usually, the warrant goes to the office nearest to you, the person applying for the warrant. However, this may not always be the case. Therefore, you should call Fines Victoria or check with a lawyer who is familiar with this process.

How Long Will the Sheriff Take?

There is no set timeline for enforcing the warrant. Once the warrant arrives at the sheriff’s office, it is allocated to a particular sheriff who will carry out the enforcement. This means the timeline depends on that sheriff’s workload. If you are seeking funds urgently, a warrant to seize property may not be the best way to secure those funds. Furthermore, valuable property such as cars can be more difficult to locate and may be subject to other competing claims which makes seizing and selling them more difficult.

LegalVision cannot provide legal assistance with this topic. We recommend you contact your local law society.

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