What can creditors do if the “Official Receiver” is the trustee in bankruptcy?

I’ve recently had a number of clients ask me questions about the Official Receiver as a bankruptcy trustee in relation to debtors they are chasing.

The Official Receiver is a statutory appointee who acts as trustee in bankruptcy for debtors where there is no private appointment of an insolvency practitioner.

In effect, the Official Receiver is the default option in those bankruptcies where nobody (be it creditor or debtor) appoints a private trustee.  The Official Receiver has many thousands of current bankruptcies.  The staff of ITSA, the Insolvency and Trustee Service of Australia, manage them from day to day.

This default option most frequently gets used in consumer level matters where the bankrupt has little or no assets.  For example, debtors made bankrupt over small credit card debts, personal loans and the like.

You will hear anecdotally, and it has been my experience as well, that ITSA has more work than it can cope with and it does not provide the level of service that a privately appointed trustee would.  You can expect as a creditor that ITSA will attempt to identify any easily identifiable assets (land or vehicles)  but not much else.  This can be frustrating to you as a creditor if you believe that transfers of assets that are recoverable by a trustee are not being investigated.

If as a creditor you are not happy with the handling of a bankruptcy by ITSA, you are not helpless.  If a particular estate requires recovery of property the file is usually referred out to a private practitioner  appointed in the place of the Official Receiver.

Further, as I understand it, ITSA are usually quite willing to refer a matter to a private trustee if asked to do so by a creditor.  You may well be able to find a private trustee who will take the referral even without a fee arrangement, if you make sufficient enquiries.

Thanks to Stephen Michell of HLB Mann Judd (contact) and Kylie Wright (contact) of VInce and Associates  for assistance with this post.

Regards

Mark

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