If you fall behind with certain financial liabilities, such as council tax or other taxes collected by Revenue Scotland, there are procedures in place that enable creditors to collect outstanding sums quicker than is usually the case with traditional debt recovery procedures. A summary warrant is one such method, commonly being used by local authorities and Revenue Scotland to allow them to apply to the court to obtain payment.
The standard practice for debt recovery in Scotland is for court action to be raised by the creditor and, once a decree is issued, for this to be enforced so that outstanding sums are recovered. There are usually a range of pre-action steps which will be carried out, including the sending of a letter before action which requests that payment must be made, or court action will be forthcoming.
Summary warrant procedure differs in that the court's processes are largely bypassed. Rather than having to negotiate lengthy court procedures, and the associated delays and complexities, creditors benefit from a speedier process that enables them to achieve the equivalent of a judgement of the court far more quickly. This is a result of Local Authorities and Revenue Scotland being afforded privileged positions as creditors.
Typically, the summary warranty process involves:
The summary warrant has the same effect as is if the traditional debt recovery process had been initiated via court action and decree had been granted by the court. The critical difference is that the creditor can immediately proceed with diligence – that is, going ahead with enforcement proceedings to recover the debt. These enforcement options include attachment of goods, money attachment and arrestment (freezing of bank accounts).
Summary warrants can create several problems for business owners. The first relates to whether the debt exists in the first place, or whether the sums demanded are accurate. It is not uncommon for former occupiers of premises to receive a summary warrant for outstanding business rates for a period that they did not occupy the premises, as well as other errors when it comes to issuing summary warrants.
Unlike court action, there is no scope for recalling a summary warrant. The primary solution is for the business in question to engage in dialogue with the Local Authority or Revenue Scotland and to produce evidence to support their assertion that an error has been made, with the support of your former landlord. The only effective judicial remedy would be to apply to the court for an interdict which would prevent your creditor from taking any further enforcement action.