When the repo-man comes knocking

When the repo-man comes knocking


Although lenders advance money with the intention of being repaid without any problems, sometimes things can go wrong and it is rarely pleasant for a lender to repossess a property – especially one occupied by the borrower.

This article is about the day of repossession and some of the challenges that face lenders and how risks, time spent and costs can be minimised when dealing with what can be a fraught, stressful and time consuming process.

By David Tropp, MRICS, Orion Asset Services,

 So what actually happens on the day of repossession? Once the legal process has been completed and a date has finally been set for the warrant, it is usual for a lender to instruct an asset manager - such as Orion Asset Services - to deal with the execution of the warrant.
The asset manager has to ensure that a number of actions come together on the day and time in question. In all cases, arrangements are made for a locksmith and an estate agent to meet the bailiff at the court designated time. In most cases and especially on the more tricky or complex cases we will ensure that we are also in personal attendance. 
Locksmiths are instructed to change all the locks to entrances and exits and to ensure that all windows are secured. Front door letter openings must also be secured shut so as not to allow post and junk mail to mount up. All services are switched off and drained down. The switching off of all services is a requirement of any insurance policy for unoccupied houses. The property is left locked and secured, free from perishables and with a window notice advising the public of the repossession. A photographic log of the property and its contents are recorded.
When we attend the property, as the lender’s representative, we can be faced with many different scenarios, which delay or occasionally prevent our effecting repossession. Sometimes the borrower is present and not willing to move out; sometimes we find that the property has been unlawfully let out and there are unknown tenants present. On occasion there can be another locksmith present at the time due to the court granting a warrant to more than one secured charge holder.
Many borrowers assume that lenders are not resourceful enough to deal with situations like locked front doors and animals, and hope that such difficulties will lead to the lender abandoning the attempt to repossess the property.
For instance, recently, we attended a repossession in Bath where the borrowers were not present, but had attempted to stop the locksmith from entering the property. They had locked the door from inside meaning that the locksmith was unable to drill out the lock. They had left via the kitchen door which they locked and then exited through the garage! Under our personal direction the locksmith was able to pick the locks to various doors, and then finally drill out the lock to the kitchen door. A key to the front door was found hidden in a shoe.
On this occasion there were three cats present in the property. The bailiff was very quick to want to call off the repossession due to their presence. As Orion was present, we were able to convince the bailiff to continue to execute the warrant as we attempted to solve the feline problem. The RSPCA would not be responsible as the cats were not outside the property and therefore would not be classified as homeless. This meant the lender was responsible for the cats. To ensure the warrant would go ahead we needed to find a home for them, and after a number of calls, a local cattery agreed to collect the cats. The repossession was then able to proceed with the physical formalities.
Orion has great experience in repossessions and has come across many different scenarios when dealing with repossessions. A good example being the threat of borrowers breaking back in; in these circumstances, being present and resourceful enables you to make immediate arrangements to ensure the property is secured with, for example, Sitex (metal shuttering). There are situations where the court bailiffs decide not to go ahead with the warrant. This maybe because there are young children or someone who is ill present, or the possibility of someone returning to the properly later in the day.
Borrowers often delay gathering or collecting their belongings and even return once the bailiff has left. On one occasion, Orion was faced with a borrower returning with a number of burly family members. In these situations you need to act respectfully but firmly, so that the property remains secure and the threat of re-entry kept to a minimum. 
Orion copes with the varied scenarios it finds on repossessions and the following days in its stride. We believe the benefits to lenders of having a proactive intelligent presence on the ground capable of taking rational decisions and liaising with the lender directly are invaluable. At the same time, we ensure that customers are treated respectfully and fairly at all times. Bailiffs understandably don't invest the same emotion into a case as a lender which is why they are often quick to call off a warrant - they can always come back another day. However for the lender, it is critical to try to effect repossession at the first attempt as further delays and costs can be significant.
As a lender it is important that you can trust the asset manager to represent your organisation and be able to put themselves in your shoes in order to respond to situations with your best interests at heart. Because Orion offers services where we deal with loans from inception through to disposal and often further into litigation, we fully understand the difficulties lenders face.

Leave a comment