Simply put, Bailiffs are the only persons authorized to seize the goods and assets of a third party. They are technically called "private" Bailiffs, as opposed to "public" Bailiffs, because they can be retained by private creditors to safeguard the assets that seure their debts.
Public Bailiffs work for the Courts and cannot be retained by private individuals.
In Ontario, private Bailiffs are appointed by the Minister of Consumer and Business Services. They are governed by the Bailiffs Act R.S.O. 1990, c.B-2. The Act defines a Bailiff as “a person who acts, assists any person to act or holds himself or herself out as being available to act for or on behalf of any other person in the repossession or seizure of chattels or in any eviction.” In other words, anyone that offers to seize goods to assist someone collecting on a debt must be a registered and duly appointed Bailiff.
Of course, this does not mean that the creditor or private individual cannot do the seizure and sale themselves. The legisltation that provides for such self-help remedies gives the creditor, personally, that right.
Bailiff law goes back a thousand years. Back in the days of the Crusades, the Bailiff was the title given to that person that the lord of the castle would leave in charge during his absence. The Bailiff is the person that traditionally stepped into the shoes of the lord and exercised his delegated power and authority on the lord's behalf.
The traditional role of Bailiffs has been carried forward in Ontario under a few different pieces of legislation:
Each of these pieces of legislation have provisions that allow for “self-help” remedies for parties that are owed money. Each of these pieces of legislation share the common premise that, in certain circumstances, a creditor is allowed to seize and sell goods in order to recover on a debt, without need of going to Court and obtaining a Judgment or Court Order first.
However, there are very particular rules and methods that have developed over time as to how to effect a seizure and sale property. Without the benefit of an experienced Bailiff, the creditor runs the risk of becoming liable to the person that owes them money, if they do not do the seizure and sale properly. This is why the Bailiffs Act states that only a duly appointed Bailiff can seize and sell the goods of a debtor.
We make a difference in how Bailiff services are provided. If you are a creditor who qualifies to exercise a self-help remedy under one of the statutes referred to above, it is preferable to utilize our services than that of a standard private Bailiff service. That is because we are lawyers, and our clients are protected by the solicitor/client relationship. All work that we do is confidential and protected by law.
G. Dewar Laing, the senior partner in Laing & Parent LLP, has been practicing law since 1985. In 2003, he was appointed a Bailiff by the Province of Ontario, and is currently the only Bailiff in the County of Essex, Ontario. He has a great deal of experience and is knowledgeable about the proper process of enforcing these self-help remedies.
Rather than retain him as a Bailiff, you retain him as your lawyer, knowing that he has the skills and experience of being a Bailiff. However, Mr. Laing truly steps into your shoes in enforcing your rights because you will appoint him as your Attorney, under a Limited Power of Attorney, to act on your behalf and in your place relative to all the rights and remedies you have available to you.