Basic Overview of Civil Property Attachments

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Property attachment refers to the seizure of property for the purpose of reimbursing the creditors’ claims. This is done at the request of the creditor if a debtor can not repay outstanding debts.

In a number of jurisdictions, the seizure is guided by the rules of civil procedure. The law requires an enforcement order, which must be served on the defendant. This is carried out by a bailiff or an executive officer in public law. The court looks at the residence of the debtor for attachable objects, this includes all non-essential items. A range of items (especially simple household items, tools, etc) are excluded from attachment.

The property may consist of movable property (eg tenant or household goods such as cars) or of real property (eg land). Output is thus a forced intervention which means that the executive authority (enforcement agency) dispose of (sell) the seized property. Sales are done through auction.

Attachment should not be confused with bankruptcy: attachment applies only to seizure of certain property, while in bankruptcy all the debtor’s property would be invoked.

Enforcement authorities may also decide on the attachment of wages, which means that the employer takes a specific amount from the employee’s salary and pays the sum to the enforcement service.

Prior to the seizure,  enforcement officials should outweigh the value of the object against the costs incurred by the seizure, as this must be paid by the debtor. Bag attachment involves seizure of cash or other valuable items (such as jewelry) found on the debtor, that is, items an individual would normally carry on him. Legally, the seizure effected by the bailiff involves the entanglement of matter and the formation of an attachment lien.

The seizure of an already seized item for another monetary claim is called port attachment. More than one creditor may pursue the debtor’s assets through a recovery operation, but it is the first attachment lien creditor that is usually satisfied first. And it remains the responsibility of the first active court.

Attached items will normally be auctioned off, the auction begins with the minimum bid. From the proceeds of the auction, the claims of creditors are satisfied, and should there be excess money left, it is given to the debtor.

Since the seizure of movable property by the bailiff is not pre-examined by him, it is also not uncommon that some attached items may not belong to the debtor. For such cases, the Code of Civil Procedure provides remedies that help the actual owner reclaim his property.

Whenever a garnishment order is granted, a debtor may keep a portion of his monthly net income (otherwise known as seizure-free allowances for maintenance). The amount of the garnishment exemption levels is the number of monthly maintenance obligations of the debtor (employee).



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