AskDefine | Define distraint

Dictionary Definition

distraint n : the seizure and holding of property as security for payment of a debt or satisfaction of a claim; "Originally distress was a landloard's remedy against a tenant for unpaid rents or property damage but now the landlord is given a landlord's lien" [syn: distress]

Extensive Definition

Under the Common law, distraint or distress is a remedy for non-payment of rent. Distraint is the act or process "whereby a person (the distrainor), without prior court approval, seizes the personal property of another located upon the distrainor's land in satisfaction of a claim, as a pledge for performance of a duty, or in reparation of an injury." Distraint typically involves the seizure of goods (chattels) belonging to the tenant by the landlord to sell the goods for the payment of the rent.


In England in 1267 the Statute of Marlborough was passed making distraint illegal without a court order.


The goods are held for a given amount of time, and if the rent is not paid, they may be sold. The actual seizure of the goods may be carried out by the landlord, the landlord's agent, or an officer of the government, a bailiff or sheriff officer in the United Kingdom or a sheriff or marshal in the United States.
Certain goods are protected against distraint - these are called "privileged goods". Such goods include, for example, goods belonging to the state, fixtures, goods delivered to the tenant or debtor for business purposes, the goods of a guest, perishable goods (e.g. food), livestock, gas, water, electricity, and tools of the tenant's trade.


In the United Kingdom, there have been proposals to reform the remedy of distraint. Concerns have been expressed that the use of the distraint remedy may result in violations of human rights, such as Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, the right to respect for private life. The Lord Chancellor's Department (now the Ministry of Justice) in May 2001 issued the consultation paper Enforcement Review Consultation Paper No. 5: Distress for Rent, which proposes abolishing distraint for residential leases, but retaining it for commercial property subject to certain safeguards to ensure compliance with the Human Rights Act 1998.
Distraint will be abolished when the Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Act 2007, s.71 comes into force, replacing the remedy, solely for leases on commercial property, by a statutory system of Commercial Rent Arrears Recovery (CRAR).


Related Links

Quia Emptores
distraint in German: Pfändung
distraint in Finnish: Ulosotto
distraint in Swedish: Utmätning
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