What is a more formal way to refer to someone acting as an "enforcer"?

A landlord has a tenant who acts as his unofficial "enforcer" towards other tenants (and often times for no good reason). He usually goes with the guise that he is doing something or delivering a message on behalf of the landlord and uses intimidation and threats to get his way. No actual violence takes place, though he does do things like change locks on people.

What would be a formal term for a person in such a position? Something on the level of formality that would be expected in a court of law?

This is for Canadian English.

  • It's quite possible that there isn't a reasonably close synonym in a formal register. 'Enforcement agent' is probably idiomatic, but may have a stricter legal definition, requiring said person to have qualifications (other than a black belt). You could ask on Law.SE; they have both 'language' and 'terminology' tags. Feb 27, 2020 at 11:04
  • Do look up proxy (formal, legalese) -- other, better alternatives may exist as well.
    – Kris
    Feb 27, 2020 at 11:42
  • IMO, there is nothing at all wrong with enforcer in any register. I can't explain why some dictionaries list this usage, or the sports team usage, as informal. That seems like a very dated idea to me. In hockey or basketball, you are recruited as an enforcer. That is your roll on the team. The term may be distasteful, but I can't see how it's informal.
    – Phil Sweet
    Feb 27, 2020 at 12:10
  • MW does not list it as informal. And I was easily able to find examples in legal writings, the New York Book Review, and major newspapers. In order to distinguish uniformed law enforcement persons, the trend is to use law enforcers.
    – Phil Sweet
    Feb 27, 2020 at 12:20
  • 1
    What makes you think there is a "formal term" for this? There are tons of ways to describe this. In legal terms, the person is acting as an agent, either legally or not.
    – Lambie
    Mar 28, 2020 at 14:59

1 Answer 1


As an unofficial position, in the UK, the person would be described as "the landlord's agent" if he receives some sort of reward for his action (e.g. money or a reduced rent, etc.) or, if he did not, it would be phrased "Mr Smith was acting as the landlord's agent" - hence he is an agent - but the term needs a description.

The official occupation is "bailiff" of which there are several types (See below), Bailiffs are not employed by the landlord - they work for a central organisation of some sort.

From the UK government website: https://www.gov.uk/your-rights-bailiffs

A bailiff (‘enforcement agent’) may visit your home if you do not pay your debts - such as Council Tax bills, parking fines, court fines and county court or family court judgments. […]

A bailiff may also visit your home for other reasons, for example to serve court documents or give notices and summons. There are different kinds of bailiffs, known as: ‘certificated enforcement agents’ ‘high court enforcement officers’, ‘county court and family court bailiffs’ and ‘civilian enforcement officers’,

Note that the term "bailiff" applies only in England and Wales. In Scotland, there are other official titles and there will be other titles in the jurisdictions of other countries and regions.

You should be specific as to which country you are referring.

  • What you describe seems to be a title for a person with a legitimate intent. Feb 27, 2020 at 11:08
  • 4
    @dutyanalysing ... Apart form the first paragraph. It is worth noting that there is rarely a "formal" name for an informal position: formal titles tend to be neutral, informal ones are just that.
    – Greybeard
    Feb 27, 2020 at 11:27
  • a landlord's agent is not just British.
    – Lambie
    Mar 28, 2020 at 14:57

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