Distraint or distress is "the seizure of someone’s property in order to obtain payment of rent or other money owed",[1] especially in common law countries.[2] Distraint is the act or process "whereby a person (the distrainor), traditionally even without prior court approval, seizes the personal property of another located upon the distrainor's land in satisfaction of a claim, as a pledge for performance of a duty, or in reparation of an injury."[3] Distraint typically involves the seizure of goods (chattels) belonging to the tenant by the landlord to sell the goods for the payment of the rent. In the past, distress was often carried out without court approval. Today, some kind of court action is usually required,[4] the main exception being certain tax authorities – such as HM Revenue and Customs in the United Kingdom and the Internal Revenue Service in the United States – and other agencies that retain the legal power to levy assets (by either seizure or distraint) without a court order.[5]

A distraint in progress, depicted in an 1846 painting by Peter Schwingen