SECURING AND PROTECTING PREMISES
Enquiry must be made in all cases to obtain details of any insurance policies in force and, wherever possible, possession should be taken of the relevant policy documents and any current certificates relating to those policies. Particular attention should be paid to any special hazards such as plate glass to ensure that any cover takes account of these risks (see also paragraph 31.0.6 and Chapter 49, Part 2). On return to the office, any policy documents recovered should immediately be handed to the cashier to record in the valuables register and place in the safe.
(Amended February 2014)
Where insurance cover is needed on trading premises, this should be attended to immediately on return to the office. Reference should be made to Part 3 of Chapter 49 for advice on how to obtain cover under the Willis Insolvency Open Cover Insurance Facility. Generally speaking, provided the insolvent has ceased trading at the date of the insolvency order, that certain limits are not exceeded, and certain stock is not held, then the case will be suitable for the Premium bordereau for smaller non-trading cases (see Annex 3 of Chapter 49 for details on the exclusions to this). If a case is eligible for this cover, then the official receiver is required to add the case to the bordereau form. In order for an asset to be covered by Willis it must be put on the office bordereau as soon as the official receiver becomes aware of its existence. Only where a case does not fall into these criteria is it necessary to telephone Willis to agree individual insurance cover (see paragraph 49.28). The official receiver should ensure that the insurance cover is cancelled when no longer required as Willis does not automatically cancel insurance (see paragraph 49.27B for further details).
The inspecting officer should ascertain details of all the parties who hold keys to the trading premises of the insolvent and their reasons for doing so. All the keys should be recovered without delay. Where this is not possible the official receiver should consider changing the locks at the expense of the estate (see also paragraph 8.96). Where a third party has a legal right of access to the premises which would be affected by changing the locks, that person should be informed of the official receiver’s intention and arrangements made so that their right of access is not adversely affected without their consent. The keys to the premises received by the official receiver should be clearly labelled and marked with the address and the name and court number of the estate to which they relate and upon return to the office should be deposited with the cashier and placed in the safe until required again.
Where the premises are to be left unattended, the inspecting officer should consider placing a notice, where it may be seen from the exterior of the trading premises, giving a contact point. Generally a notice should not be displayed where valuable assets remain on the premises. The notice should not refer to the official receiver but should be along the following lines: ‘CLOSED. All enquiries regarding [name of insolvent] should be made by telephoning ................................ ext ...........................’. This may prove particularly useful where the official receiver needs to be contacted by a large number of third parties regarding their property. Any notice should be removed prior to disposal of the premises.
In all cases the inspecting officer should make full use of all security locks etc at the premises. Before doing so he/she should ensure that no volatile substances, e.g. Oxy acetylene, or perishable foodstuffs are stored on the premises and that no animals are there (see paragraphs 8.81, 8.83 and 8.88). Consideration should be given to replacing locks, particularly where assets, including those owned by third parties, are left at the premises (it should be remembered that insurance cover for loss by theft is likely to be void if entry or exit was not by forcible means). If, for example, damaged windows might provide easy access, the official receiver should consider replacing them or boarding up the area at the expense of the estate. If a debit balance would be incurred by such action, the approval of Technical Section must be sought (see paragraph 32.1.9 and 32.1.10). In securing premises, regard should be given to any duty of care to visitors to the premises or trespassers (see Part 7). The official receiver should also consider informing the local police of his/her interest in unattended premises.
If valuable assets are left at unattended premises, the inspecting officer should, if possible, place them out of sight and consider making use of any alarm fitted to the premises. Where the alarm operates via a numbered keypad, consideration should be given to altering the alarm number combination to minimise the number of people who are aware of the combination. Where the alarm operates via keys there may be circumstances where the alarm keys remain with an officer of the company or the bankrupt following consultation with the official receiver. Where the alarm is to be used the electricity supply should not be turned off. Officers of the company or the bankrupt should provide full information as to the operation of burglar alarms and give the name, address and telephone number of the appropriate alarm maintenance engineer. The police should be notified where a burglar alarm is set so that they are aware of the holder of the alarm key/combination number in case of any emergency or fault.
The inspecting officer should consider whether a post-insolvency order electricity supply is required [note 1]. If so, then contact will need to be made with the relevant provider to arrange this, reference should be made to paragraphs 3.63 and 4.73. Where such supplies are not required, then all lights should be switched off, as should the power from the mains. Before doing so, the inspecting officer should ensure that the supply does not affect that used by other tenants of the building, or any refrigeration or computer equipment, or alarm system, which should be kept, switched on. The gas supply should be turned off at the meter, again, after ensuring that the supply to other occupants of the premises is not affected. Similarly the water supply should be turned off at the stopcock, provided it does not serve a hot water or heating installation, which is to be left in operation. Where appropriate, any fires or furnaces should be extinguished. In winter months it may be necessary to arrange for the drainage of any heating system so as to avoid leaking or burst pipes but regard must also be had to any fire sprinkler system installed.
All money or valuables, e.g. jewellery, cameras etc. must be handed to the cashier on return from an inspection and a note made on the valuables register. The provisional receipt counterfoil should be produced for any cash and in the absence of the cashier, the official receiver or assistant official receiver should take the items into his/her custody, initialling the counterfoil as a temporary discharge to the inspecting officer in respect of the cash. The cashier must endorse the counterfoil with the date and number of the official receipt issued in substitution of the provisional one and must ensure that the previous counterfoil has already been dealt with in a similar manner. The cashier should send the official receipt direct to the bankrupt or other person from whom the money was received (not through the examiner or inspecting officer) within three days of receipt of the money.