Distress Definition and Legal Meaning

On this page, you'll find the legal definition and meaning of Distress, written in plain English, along with examples of how it is used.

What is Distress?

1\) n. The confiscation of another’s possessions in an effort to force a claim’s payment. Generally, this is illegal without a court order. 2) adj. Negative circumstances that result in the lowest price.

History and Meaning of Distress

The term 'distress' has been used in the legal system for centuries, originally referring to the act of seizing a debtor's personal property as collateral for unpaid debts. The practice dates back to ancient times, when creditors were able to physically seize a debtor's belongings in order to force them to pay.

In modern times, the term 'distress' is used to refer to the process by which a creditor can legally seize a debtor's property in order to satisfy a debt. This process requires the creditor to obtain a court order allowing them to take possession of the debtor's personal property, and the property must be sold at a public auction to recover the debt owed.

Examples of Distress

  1. A business owner who has fallen behind on their rent may have their property seized by their landlord in order to satisfy the unpaid debt.
  2. A bank may initiate legal action to seize a borrower's home or car in order to satisfy a delinquent loan.
  3. A farmer who is unable to pay their debts may have their livestock or crops seized by their creditors.
  4. A property owner who fails to pay property taxes may have their home or land seized by the government.

Legal Terms Similar to Distress

  1. Garnishment - a legal process by which a creditor can obtain a court order to seize a portion of a debtor's wages or bank account to satisfy a debt.
  2. Lien - a legal claim on a debtor's property that allows the creditor to seize and sell the property in order to satisfy a debt.
  3. Foreclosure - a legal process by which a lender can seize and sell a borrower's property in order to satisfy a delinquent mortgage loan.