Monday, 12 September 2016

Reinventing the inventory

"Property has its duties as well as its rights" Thomas Drummond
Sch.12 para.34 of the Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Act 2007 asserts the centrality to the new process of taking control of goods of providing debtors with an inventory of the chattels taken into control.  This list must be supplied.  The form that must be used and the information that it must contain are set out in reg.33 of the 2013 Regulations; these require a very detailed list and description of the goods to be prepared.  
There is a long history of agents seeking to generalise or find short-cuts in completing inventories: see the previous case law set out in my Taking control of goods 9.12, Sources of bailiff law chapter 4 or in my Practice Note on the subject.  This sort of conduct may be very understandable in order to save time and effort but the new law reasserts principles that have long been insisted upon by the courts.  These are therefore not in the least new but- significantly they are now statutory duties rather than the opinions of judges, in addition to which they must stand alongside an agents' duties to their principals to protect their interests as creditors.
What latitude ought then to be allowed to agents (if any)?  For example:
  • serial numbers are required- what if the rear of the item is more or less inaccessible.  Is this an excuse?
  • large numbers of items may have to be taken into control in a shop or factory.  Must the agent count and describe every dress, skirt or shirt on the hangers and in the stock room?  Must he distinguish every pattern and size?  Identify every CD or DVD?
  • If there is only one item of a description on the premises, so that no confusion might arise, what degree of detail is permissible?
There have been (and still are) some very poor and cursory inventories taken, therefore it would be helpful to provoke a debate on this issue and to try to determine what is good and bad practice.  What is the minimum information that an enforcement agent should provide?  How thorough should we demand agents to be?