The Enforcement of a Title in Germany

The bailiff

The German bailiff, Gerichtsvollzieher, is in charge of enforcing judgements and other enforceable titles. The bailiff, when enforcing a title, is a public official or civil servant that does not act on behalf of the creditor. He acts on behalf of the state, the public. Requests for the enforcement of a title have to be submited to the local district court of the debtor's place of residence. A court finder can be found here. The local district court assigns the enforcements to the local bailiffs, who are each given their exclusive territorial domain. The exclusive territory of bailiffs is determined by the first letter of the debtors names. Baliffs have a true monopoly, therefor.

The lawyer's function

The aforementioned results in a rather great distance between lawyer and bailiff; more than one may be used to in other countries. Lawyers have a rather limited sphere of influence over the way things develop once the case is pending with the bailiff.

On the other hand, a lawyer will prove well needed in case a forced execution "Zwangsvollstreckung" becomes inevitable. In that case a laywer has to submit an extended written request for enforcement to the appropriate local district court, the "Amtsgericht". If that request gets turned down a lawyer will make use of other means at his disposal to bring about the required enforcement.

Costs of Enforcement

The extended written request and the following parts of the enforcement will be charged with a .3 RVG-Gebühr (tariff). In case of multiple requests another 0,3 tariff may be negotiated for.

The bailiff calculates his honorarium based on a table that revolves around the value of the claim. Taken a claim of 100 000 Euros for example the bailiff's costs may end up around 560 Euros.

Un-impoundable items, „Unpfändbare Sachen“

A couple of items, those listed on the "unpfändbare Sachen" list, cannot be impounded be the bailiff. The lawmaker sought to protect debtors thereby in order to guarantee a certain minimum standard of living for everyone. Parts of one's capital for example may not be impounded to ensure the debtor's ability to generate income. Likewise, most parts of a businesses inventory cannot be impounded. A natural person can even refuse to allow the bailiff entrance to his premisses. A lawyer would then have to submit a request for an appropriate writ to enable the bailiff to enter the premises. Debtors are additiontally even given the possibility of invoking a defence of hardship named "Vollstreckungsschutz" (protection against impounding). The general justification for that follows the motto 'debtor protection before forced nudity'.

The most sucessful instrument is impounding the debtor's bank account.

Eidesstattliche Versicherung, an affirmation or witness statement.

Whenever enforcement has not fully satisfied a claim creditors are given the option of demanding the debtor to disclose his financial constitution of the last year including all assets, transactions, claims against others etc. Should that enquery reveal impoundable assests then these can be used to satisfy the creditor's claim. The court will even order the debtors arrest if he refuses to disclose his financial constitution. He will be released once he's been interrogated. See Eidesstattliche Versicherung.


One should be aware that once forced execution has indeed become inevitable the chances of success will already have started to dimish. The conlusion therefore is that cautious debtor surveillance should be seen as the highest priority.


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