Bailiffs seize 3 cars from child maintenance debtors in 3 years

Cars (Photo is illustrative).
Cars (Photo is illustrative). Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

Bailiffs want the government to remove a clause that allows cars to be taken by the state if child maintenance is not paid. Only three vehicles have been seized over the last three years.

The law has been in place since 2021 and was initially proposed by then Minister of Justice Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa). Press releases at the time gave the impression that it would be more difficult to evade payments and that children would get what was owed to them.

It was thought this change could impact around 1,800 vehicles.

In total, three vehicles have been removed from those behind with their payments, said Aive Kolsar, a member of the board of the Estonian Chamber of Bailiffs and Trustees in Bankruptcy. But why is the total so low?

"The simplest reason is that debtors do not have vehicles. I have a total of 700 maintenance files, and out of those 700 files, five of them have a vehicle with a primary registration later than 2010. The majority of these are vehicles... are not actually on the road," she explained.

Bailiffs will not remove cheap vehicles because they say it costs more to store them than they are worth.

"The law says that a recovery order will not be made if the proceeds from the sale of the property do not cover the enforcement costs," said Kolsar.

However, those with debts may be more included to pay them if they believe they will not get their car back again.

But Kolsar does not agree.

"The purpose of the attachment procedure is still to obtain money from the sale of the property and to settle the debt. The purpose of enforcement proceedings should not be to put pressure on the debtor through restrictions," she said.

The chamber believes the law should be changed as it initially signed an agreement expecting to remove up to 1,800 vehicles without paying fixed costs.

The contract expires next year and Kolsar does not believe a similar deal will be on offer.

"Our fear is that we will not be able to get such an offer once this current tender expires. There is a very high likelihood that we will have to start paying some kind of monthly standby fee," she said.

The organization put forward two new ideas. Firstly, the law could be revoked entirely. Or, secondly, the police could help seize vehicles in all enforcement proceedings, not just from debtors. 

The Ministry of Justice will discuss how to proceed later this week.


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Editor: Helen Wright

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