Author`s name Dmitry Sudakov

Bailiffs: Friends or enemies?

Inventory and confiscation of debtors' property is a sore subject for Russia. Credit default, failure to pay for the utilities, failure to pay child support and other incidents of noncompliance increase the chances for debtors to face litigation, dispossessors and subsequent unpleasant consequences. How to behave in such situations?

Sometimes situations that arise in the process of inventory and confiscation of debtors' property are odd and ridiculous, but the law is the law.

The Astrakhan Department of the Federal Bailiff Service reported confiscation of property from a local movie theater that failed to repay its debt of 11 million rubles remaining after the repairs in the movie theater.

In the process of confiscation of property video equipment, slot machines, chairs, cash and ticket machines were seized. The confiscated equipment will be auctioned. It is unclear how the movie theater is expected to repay its debt without the equipment required to make money?

This is not the first case when the property of a movie theater in Astrakhan was confiscated for debt. Earlier, bailiffs arrested the equipment of another movie theater because the theater was unable to pay the debt it accumulated when purchasing this very equipment. How are they expected to make money now? 

A 45-year-old resident of the Kirov district of St. Petersburg violated the terms of her agreement with a bank and stopped paying her car loan for a few months. The bank went to court that ruled to confiscate the woman's car. The order was handed to bailiffs for implementation. The woman came to see the bailiff, started a scandal, and refused to surrender the vehicle. However, the bailiff located the car on a paid parking lot. The vehicle was arrested. Later the bailiff was contacted by the woman's lawyer. He threatened and reported that his client was ill, and that the woman's disease was caused by the bailiff. It turned out that the woman pretended to be insane. The car will soon be sold to repay the debt to the bank.

In Arkhangelsk, a man who owed a large sum of alimony shot in the direction of bailiffs who came to confiscate his property by a court order from a hunting rifle. Fortunately, none of the officers was hurt. The man faces charges for an attempted murder of people in uniform in addition to his obligation to pay the alimony to his children. Incidents when debtors threaten the lives and health of bailiffs performing their duty are numerous.   

Igor Schmidt, PhD, a member of the International Bar Association, commented on the situation for Pravda.Ru:

"You should never obstruct, let alone threaten, bailiffs. They are not your personal enemies! These people act based on a court decision. Quite frankly, it is ungrateful, but necessary work. They are not to blame for the fact that a person has large debts.

However, there are basic things that any full-fledged citizen of Russia should be aware of. Let's say that the court decided to confiscate debtor's necessities.

Among the things that cannot be taken away are household items (shoes, clothes, food, etc.). But here we should note that the law in this matter is not perfect, there are nuances. Due to the fact that there is no clear list of household items, a bailiff may confiscate your washer, a microwave oven and other appliances.

They believe that these are luxuries that can be confiscated. However, if you believe that these are the things that you need all the time, go to court, and under no circumstances try to fight the bailiffs.

Bailiffs cannot confiscate anything they want from the debtor. The law has very clear limits in this regard. The property that constitutes an integral part of your earning ability cannot be confiscated. For example, if you are a taxi driver, your car cannot be seized. Or, if you earn money using your computer and can prove it, it cannot be taken away, such is the law. However, there can be various interpretations.

Work cattle, poultry, and bees cannot be confiscated if they are not part of your business - that is, if you do not sell the product but use it for personal consumption. Residential area, if you have nowhere to live; property necessary to the debtor in connection with a disability, including a specialized vehicle. Jewelry and luxury items are not included in this list regardless of how "personal" they may be. I will explain more clearly: no one will take a regular plastic comb from you, but a comb made of ivory and inlaid with diamonds is subject to confiscation.

Bailiffs will not take away food or money if the debtor has an amount smaller than the subsistence minimum. In addition, bailiffs cannot collect prizes, state awards, medals, commemorative plaques, diplomas and so on.

Bailiffs cannot confiscate housing from a debtor if it is the only housing the debtor has suitable for life. Of course, this ban does not apply to mortgages. That is, an apartment bought with a mortgage will be the first property that bailiffs collect from the debtor.

There is one caveat. The State Duma received a bill that provides for evicting debtors from privatized apartments. This initiative has already caused a scandal because experts say that it is contrary to the international law and is anti-social. In addition to apartments in high-rise buildings, officials propose to confiscate their land and demolish cottages and garages.

The Housing Code of the Russian Federation adopted in 2004 entitles municipal authorities to evict non-payers from the apartments procured on social loans. Debtors can be evicted only in the case if the debt for housing and utilities was accumulated over six months without a valid reason. If a debtor's apartment is privatized, the debtor cannot be evicted. The new bill proposes adjustments to this stipulation.

So far this law has not been adopted and is undergoing a thorough review by the committees of the lower chamber of the parliament. Lawyers are confident that it will be adopted in one form or another, even if the original is amended. We should be prepared and informed, at least in order to make our own decisions whether we can afford a large loan that still has to be repaid."

Andrei Mikhailov


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