Bob has tried to resolve an issue with a large company’s customer service department to no avail. He then sends them a letter before claim and finally issues a small claim against them for the refund amount, all of which go ignored by the defendant ACME. Bob thus wins his claim in default and would now like to collect it.

It seems that there are various options Bob might have. For example a third party debt order (if Bob knows who ACME banks with), or bailiffs/court enforcement agents (if the registered corporate service address is actually a location where chattels are stored and not simply a virtual mail forwarder’s address or a coworking shared office). If ACME owns real property, then a charging order against it may be sought and that might rouse them into action, but here Bob must first become aware of ACME’s property holdings.

And here, in these respective caveats, lies Bob’s question: how can sensible methods of enforcement against ACME be discovered/selected?

Related: “reverse whois for UK property” (HMLR can tell us the owner of a given property but not alas the property of a given owner.)

  • 1
    Generally Bob would pay a private investigator, process server, or debt collection agency. They would have various tricks to find assets (including searches of company records, property ownership records, credit reference agencies, and various directories, as well as other less wholesome methods). It's usually not that hard to find someone and even easier to find a registered company, but there's no general answer of the form "they would always be able to do X".
    – Stuart F
    Apr 21, 2023 at 15:41
  • 1
    Another option would be to bring bankruptcy proceedings against the company. That would force them to meet debts or cease trading.
    – Stuart F
    Apr 21, 2023 at 15:49

2 Answers 2


In no particular order:

  • ask the debtor
  • apply to court to order the debtor to provide information under oath about their financial situation (Form N316: Apply for an order for a debtor to attend court) (on pain of imprisonment)
  • search their publicly available financial reports
  • search Companies House
  • search the Land Registry
  • check the Register of Judgments, orders and fines
  • search the insolvency courts and the London Gazette to check whether the debtor company is subject to any ongoing insolvency procedures
  • instruct an 'enquiry agent' (aka private investigator) or debt recovery agent
  • ask the court to make a winding up order to force the company into insolvency proceedings - at this point the company might pay up or go into insolvency
  • ask the court to instruct bailiffs to seize and sell goods owned by the debtor
  • ask the court to make a third party debt order to seize money held by a third party, e.g. the debtor's bank account
  • ask the court to make a charging order on the debtor's property to secure the debt on it



Here are the options:

  • Examination summons. The debtor must front court and disclose all their assets and liabilities. This doesn’t get you the money but it can inform which of the following methods might be best.
  • Garnishee order. This is served on anyone who owes money to the debtor and requires them to pay you instead of them. Usually served on a bank or employer.
  • Writ for the Levy of Property. The Sheriff (which is a different job from a UK or US Sheriff) goes to their place, takes their stuff, sells it at public auction and gives you your money. If the judgement is for more than $3,000, you can instead get a lien over real property.
  • Bankruptcy (for individuals) or Liquidation (for corporations). For debts of more than $5,000 and $2,000 respectively (temporarily raised to $20,000 for both during the Covid pandemic and not yet repealed), you can begin the process of having a bankruptcy trustee or liquidator appointed.

You can, of course, sell the debt to a debt collector at a discount and make it their problem instead of yours.

Note, specific dollar thresholds are specific to but the processes are the same everywhere.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .