E-note 1 – Enforcement authorities

Enforcement authorities

Bailiffs’ status

French bailiffs have a hybrid status. Bailiffs, aside from being independent professionals are also public ministerial officials entrusted with specific duties assigned by the law. They are appointed by the Ministry of Justice. When they are acting as enforcement agents while carrying out attachment orders or evictions, by representation they are performing an act on behalf of the State. Their activities remain, thus, under the supervision of the Ministry of Justice. Their activities are strictly controlled by a set of legislative and regulatory texts.

At the same time, they are self-employed professionals who manage and run their own office. In France, the profession is liberal and independent.

What can a bailiff do?

The bailiff’s special legal status offers a wide variety of activities; some are monopolistic in nature, while others are in direct competition with other professions.

Bailiffs hold a monopoly on the following activities:

  • Service of documents

Service (“notification”) is the formality by which a person:

  • is officially informed of the content of an act;
  • is given an advance notice;
  • is summoned to appear before of a Court;
  • is given knowledge of the content of a judgment.

The purpose is to bring a document, of a judicial nature, to the attention of the recipient.

  • Enforcement of judgments

Bailiffs have the competence to enforce judgments. Enforcement covers all proceedings permitting the carrying out of “enforceable” obligations against the debtor’s will.

Apart from the above-mentioned activities, bailiffs can also intervene in conjunction with other professions, and carry out subsidiary activities such as:

  • Out of Court settlement

Bailiffs can assist in a debt settlement outside of a Court proceeding.

  • Statement of facts 

A statement of fact is a legal act which allows a party to constitute proof, whether it is during a legal proceeding or outside any dispute.

  • Drafting of private agreements and legal consultations

Bailiffs can draft private agreement (such as residential or professional lease contracts, farming leases, etc.). Moreover, they can provide legal consultation.

  • Compulsory or voluntary sales 
  • Mediation

What can’t a Bailiff do?

Bailiff’s activities are incompatible with the exercise of:

  • commercial or remunerated activities (except for above-mentioned activities);
  • certain legal professions (judge, notary, registrar);
  • administrative functions.