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Distress Warrant

What is a Distress Warrant?

A Distress Warrant allows the Court to send a Bailiff to the address you have supplied to the Court for the debtor to demand payment from them.  If they do not pay immediately, the Bailiff can seize assets which can be sold to recover payment.

The Bailiff can only take things which are owned by the debtor.  If you know that they own certain assets, you can request the Court seize them.

You need to provide the Court with information to support the ownership.  If it is a vehicle, to do this you need to check the Motor Vehicle Register to check they are the listed ‘owner’ of that vehicle and the Personal Property Securities Register to see that the person has clear title (i.e. the vehicle is owned by them and not by a finance company or another person).  In some cases, a Distress Warrant may include a Warrant for Recovery of Specific Chattels (particular property).


Applying for a Distress Warrant

You need to file an Application for Distress Warrant Form (pdf 119Kb) and pay the applicable fee at the Court where the original hearing took place. Forms are also available at the Court.  You will also need a copy of the Court or Tribunal decision on hand so you can quote the correct file references.

In the application you will need to provide a current address for the debtor and identify what items (if any) you want the Bailiff to consider seizing if they do not pay.  There is a Service Information Sheet (pdf 127Kb) available to help you gather the right information for the Bailiff.

After your application is made the court will attempt to action the warrant against the debtor using the address you supplied on the application form – so it is important you provide current contact details for them.  If the Bailiff cannot locate them at the address you have provided you will need to supply an alternative address.  There are several ways you can locate an alternative address for a debtor.

After the Bailiff has attempted to action the warrant you will receive a letter advising of the outcome.  If the Bailiff is successful in seizing an item of property the debtor has five days to pay the full amount owing.  If they have not paid after five days the seized property is sold at public auction.   Any costs of having the goods seized, such as vehicle towing fees and auction fees, are deducted by the Court from the amount recovered from the sale of goods before you are paid