DEALING WITH A BANKRUPT’S PROPERTY IN NORTHERN IRELAND
In order to be able to deal with property in Northern Ireland, the official receiver will have to seek the assistance of the courts in Northern Ireland.
It is likely that local legal assistance will be required in this process and, therefore, the official receiver will need to ensure that the value of the property warrants the cost of protection and realisation.
It is accepted that this may be something of a circular matter, in that it may be necessary to incur some expense to find out that the property has no value.
In simple terms, the calculation of the value of a Northern Irish property to the estate involves the same process as would be required for a property in England and Wales (that is, the value of the property less any secured charges). What may be more difficult is the obtaining of accurate information regarding value of the property and the amount and level of any outstanding charges.
The most likely source of information regarding the value of the property will be from the information or documentation provided by the bankrupt, for example:
As in England and Wales, there are websites in Northern Ireland that give the prices of properties that are for sale. Examples are given here:
It is possible that a local estate agent may be prepared to offer an opinion. An agent may be located by region on the following website:
Where it is necessary to obtain an accurate value of the property the official receive may consider appointing a surveyor. As this service is likely to attract a fee the official receiver should consider the necessity of the valuation against the likely benefit to the estate. A surveyor may be located on the following website:
It is likely that, as with an English/Welsh property, the official receiver, as trustee, will be able to establish what charges there are against the property from documentation or information provided by the bankrupt.
Assuming the identity of at least one of the secured chargeholders is known, they can be written to in the normal way (see paragraph 43.10.9) to obtain details of the amount outstanding under their charge and the identity of any other chargeholders. Such an approach should be accompanied by a data protection act disclosure authority signed by the bankrupt (see paragraph 43.10.16) to avoid any refusal to provide information under jurisdictional differences.
In the first instance, the official receiver should contact any chargeholder and request that they note the official receiver’s interest in the property (see paragraph 43.10.9).
In addition to informing the chargeholders of the making of the bankruptcy order, it will be necessary to register the official receiver’s interest in the property at the land register office (see paragraph 43.10.10).
It should be possible to contact the chargeholder(s) using the normal MP2 and MP3 letters available on document production.
The official receiver, as trustee, should take steps to ensure that his/her interest in the property is recorded at the Northern Irish land registry. This will stop any unauthorised dealings in the property.
This is achieved by registering a notice with the Land and Property Services (see paragraph 43.10.11) that bankruptcy proceedings in England and Wales have commenced.
For historical reasons there are three separate land registers in Northern Ireland:
The record for a property is known as a ‘folio’.
These three registers have been combined to form the Land and Property Services, which is an executive agency of a department of the government of Northern Ireland:
It is possible to inspect the ‘folio’ for a property (see paragraph 43.10.11) by postal application, using the prescribed form. Enquiries can be made direct to the Land and Property Services:
As with a property in England and Wales, the official receiver may seek to transfer dealings in relation to the property to the appropriate RTLU as soon as possible after his/her interest in the property has been protected (see paragraph 43.10.8).
It is not envisaged that official receivers should attempt to deal with the sale of a property in Northern Ireland directly, and it is recommended that local legal representation is obtained to deal with the particular aspects of Northern Irish conveyancing and insolvency procedures.
Solicitors engaged by the official receiver in this country may be able to recommend a solicitor in Northern Ireland with which they have some connection or arrangement.
As an alternative, the Law Society of Northern Ireland has a directory of Northern Irish lawyers, that may be searched by region:
It may be the case that any Northern Irish organisation from whom the official receiver seeks information will cite data protection as a reason for not providing the requested information.
In this case, the official receiver should have the bankrupt complete the data protection subject [note 1] and send that to the relevant organisation with a renewed request.
For information, the Data Protection Act 1998 [note 2] applies equally to Northern Ireland as it does to England and Wales.