The topics in the Dial-A-Law series provide only general information on legal issues within the province of Alberta. This service is provided by Calgary Legal Guidance funded in part by the Alberta Law Foundation. The purpose is to make you aware of your legal rights and responsibilities. This is not legal advice. If you require legal advice, you should contact a lawyer.
This topic discusses the seizure of your property.
If you owe money to a creditor and you have not paid that debt, the creditor may collect on the debt by seizing your property or garnisheeing your earnings and bank account.
Unless you have signed a security agreement or mortgage in favour of the creditor, before the creditor can collect on the debt, they must have a Court Judgment or order (re: debtowing) that gives them the right to collect on the debt. If the creditor decides to collect on the debt by seizing your goods, the seizure must be carried out by civil enforcement agencies or civil enforcement bailiffs. The creditor cannot seize the goods themselves.
You may find some or all of your property removed immediately. More commonly, they leave your property with you and have you sign a document called a Bailee’s Undertaking. When you sign this document, you agree not to sell, damage or dispose the seized goods. If you do sell, damage or dispose of the seized goods, you are guilty of several offences and liable for punishment.
You must be properly notified of the seizure. Sometimes the Notice of Seizure will be posted to your door if the collection agency cannot serve you or another adult at your place personally or by registered mail. The Notice will list the items to be seized. You should also receive a Notice of Objection at the same time. If you object to the seizure, read the Notice carefully and respond within the proper time period. File your notice of Objection at the Court of Queen’s Bench and serve the objection within 15 days to the agency that carried out the seizure. You must state reasons for the objection and serve the notice within 15 days to the agency that carried out the seizure or your objection will be void. Generally, the creditor will not allow you a time extension of the 15 days.
Valid objections to the seizure may be that the goods are worth more than the debt, the goods are exempt from seizure or the goods belong to someone else. Clearly state the reasons for your objection or it may be considered void. The proceedings for the seizure will stop when you file the Notice of Objection. At the hearing, you may justify your objection to the removal and sale of the goods. If you cannot justify the objection, the sale will proceed.
Some property is exempt from seizure. You are allowed to keep certain property, which you require for yourself and your family. For example, you may keep $4,000 worth of furniture and appliances; $10,000 worth of personal property that is used by you in your occupation, and a vehicle up to the value $5,000. If you are still making payments on goods you have purchased, you may want to speak to a lawyer to see if you actually own the goods or the seller owns the goods until you pay for them.
Try to contact your creditor to make arrangements to pay the debit. Your creditor can delay the seizure of your property even if they refuse to cancel the order. If more than one creditor has sued you, then contact all of them. All unsecured creditors will share in the money from the sale of your seized property and will continue the process if they are not included. You cannot favor one unsecured creditor or another. Confirm in writing any payment plan or settlement agreement with your creditors.
You can also contact the Credit Counseling Services of Alberta to assist you. There are a number of plans available to reorganize your finances. There is a Self Pool Plan where a counselor can help you set up a repayment schedule directly with your creditors. Your creditors must agree to the schedule. There is also the Debtor’s Assistance Board Plan where you make monthly payments to the Creditor Counseling Service of Alberta who in turn distributes the money to your creditors. A more serious situation may warrant the Orderly Payment of Debts Plan where the Court consolidates the debts and sets the monthly payment amount.