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21st April 2016

Is a houseboat something which can be seized to satisfy a judgement debt?

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Seizing goods to sell is an effective and popular method of satisfying a judgment debt

In the recent Court of Appeal case of Nicholas Hale v (1) Peter Watt (2) Port of London Authority the Court considered whether a houseboat amounted to ‘goods or chattels” capable of being seized under a warrant of control to pay a judgment debt.

The Port of London Authority had been granted a warrant of control allowing the High Court Enforcement Officer to seize goods and chattels to satisfy the debt. In 2013 the Enforcement Officer seized Mr Watt’s houseboat.

Mr Watt applied for an injunction to prevent the sale of his houseboat. The application was dismissed. Mr Watt then applied to the Court of Appeal to appeal against the decision refusing his application for an injunction.

The injunction application was based on two assertions. Firstly, that since the vessel was used as a house and was annexed to land, it did not amount to goods and chattels capable of being seized under a warrant of control. Secondly, that the houseboat was exempt from seizure as it was necessary for the basic domestic needs of the debtor.

The judge decided that a houseboat was a chattel and remained so even if the boat became a home. The fact that the boat was used as a home did not mean that it did not amount to “goods” or “chattels for enforcement purposes. The judge did not accept that the vessel was annexed to the land as it was movable.

Items such as clothing, bedding, furniture and household equipment are deemed necessary for satisfying the basic domestic needs to a debtor and so are exempt from seizure. In this case the Court of Appeal held that a houseboat did not fall within the list of items exempt from seizure.

Mr Watt’s appeal was dismissed. The High Court Enforcement Officer is now permitted to sell the houseboat to satisfy the judgment debt.

If you would like to discuss the powers of a High Court Enforcement Officer acting under a warrant of control, or other methods of enforcing a judgement debt please contact Rebecca Coxhead on 01604 233233 or click here to email Rebecca.