The topics in the Dial-A-Law series provide general information on legal issues within the Province of Alberta. The purpose of this topic is to inform you 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 (debtor) owe someone (creditor) money and you do not pay, that creditor may take you to court and obtain a judgment for the debt. The creditor may enforce the judgment for the debt by seizure of your property or garnishee. The creditor will need to file a Writ of enforcement (Writ) and register the Writ with the Personal Property Registry. All creditors with registered writs will share in money collected when your property is seized.
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 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 criminal offences and liable for punishment.
You will 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 of Objection carefully and respond within the proper time period by filing the Notice of Objection at the Court of Queen’s Bench stating your reasons for objection. Your objection must be served within 15 days on 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 will be required to 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 up to one year’s worth of food; medical and dental aids; $4,000 worth of furniture and appliances; $4,000 of clothing; $10,000 worth of property that is used by you in your occupation or business, 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 fully pay for them.
Try to contact your creditor to make arrangements to pay the debt. 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 their debts are not satisfied. You cannot favour one unsecured creditor over another. Confirm in writing any payment plan or settlement agreement with your creditors.
You may also contact any number of not-for-profit services in Alberta to assist you in negotiating a reasonable repayment plan, and for credit and budgeting advice. One such service, Money Mentors, can set up an Orderly Payment of Debts Plan, where the Court consolidates your debts and sets a monthly payment amount. Money Mentors can be reached at 1-888-294-0076.
Dial-A-Law is a Calgary Legal Guidance public service project funded in part by the Alberta Law Foundation.