Do you need the services of a High Court Enforcement Officer
What do High Court Enforcement Officers do?
High Court Enforcement Officers are responsible for the enforcement of the Writs of Execution issued out of the High Court, the most popular of which being the “Writ of Control” formerly known as “Writ of Fieri Facias” or “Writ of Fi Fa”. This is a writ issued for the recovery of money owed and provides for the seizure and sale of the judgment debtor's goods.
The term “Writ of Execution” applies to several other Writs including;
- Writ of Possession - for the recovery of land after an Order for Possession as been obtained
- Writ of Assistance – usually used to assist in the enforcement of a Writ of Possession
- Writ of Restitution – issued following the re-occupation of land after the execution of a Writ of Possession
- Writ of Possession and Control – for the recovery of land and money
- Writ of Delivery – for the recovery of specific assets
Other less common Writs include:
- Writ of Venditioni Exponas
- Writ of Ne Exact Regano
How do I choose a High Court Enforcement Officer?
It is important when considering issuing a Writ for execution against goods (Writ of Control) your choice of High Court Enforcement Officer. Do you choose a local High Court Enforcement Officer or a National one?
Our directory of Authorised High Court Enforcement Officers', lists all those Officers who can act on your behalf. Time spent looking through this list, and researching their websites, will assist in helping you in making your choice.
Remember it is always OK, to telephone the High Court Enforcement Officers' office and discuss your case, and how the High Court Enforcement Officer might be able to assist.
Should you be unable to choose an Authorised High Court Enforcement Officer, you may opt for having one selected for you, by addressing the writ to 'The enforcement officers authorised to enforce writs of execution from the High Court who are assigned to the district (enter location such as London W) in England and Wales'.
If you select this option, you must then send your writ to the National Information Centre for Enforcement for allocation to an Authorised High Court Enforcement Officer at c/o Registry Trust Limited, 153-157 Cleveland Street, London W1T 6QW or DX 134211 Tottenham Court Road 2. They may be contacted by telephone on 020 7391 7299.
How can you help your High Court Enforcement Officer to obtain a successful result by using execution against goods?
If the choice has been made to use a High Court Enforcement Officer then the success of your Writ of Control can be improved by sending accurate information to the High Court Enforcement Officer at the time of instruction about:
- the whereabouts of the judgment debtor; and
- details as to the location of assets that you may know about, such as goods supplied
For example, if the judgment debtor lives in a modest home and drives a modest car, then you could expect to see a report from the High Court Enforcement Officer outlining what happened when the High Court Enforcement Officer attended the judgment debtor’s address.
If goods are found to be seized, it is realistic to expect that the report may indicate that goods of the judgment debtor are modest as well.
If goods cannot be found, or the judgment debtor will not open the door to allow the Enforcement Officer access then this should be reported early on in the execution of the Writ. This does not necessarily mean that recovery will not be made.
If the judgment debtor has a factory, warehouse, office or shop then as these premises, on the face of it, constitute “commercial premises”, a High Court Enforcement Officer can force entry in order to take legal control of goods, if need be. Again, it is worth considering in advance the circumstances of the debtor, and making sure that your expectations are realistic.
Of course, it is not always possible to visualise what goods may be available. Sometimes the judgment claimant is acting on little information when the decision to issue is made that execution against goods is the only choice available and it may be by pure chance that goods are found and are then made subject to the legal control of the High Court Enforcement Officer.
Either way, information relating to the judgment debtor’s address, telephone contact number, and email, can make the difference between making contact with the judgment debtor and taking legal control or not.
Judgment creditors are encouraged to look at their files and papers to establish as much information about available addresses and contact details as possible. There are of course other methods of enforcement available which, in some circumstances, may be more appropriate such as Charging Order and Attachment of Earnings if no seizeable assets are available.
When can a Writ of Control be Issued?
A Writ of Control can be issued immediately after the Court’s Judgment or Order is made for recovery of money and/or costs by the successful party, which includes Orders made at Employment Tribunals and ACAS – subject to the points made below.
Unless any stipulations are attached to the judgment or order, there is no need to seek the Court’s permission to issue the Writ and no need to give prior notice to the judgment debtor that a Writ of Fi Fa has been issued.
CPR 40.7(1) expressly states that a Judgment or Order takes effect from the day when it is given or made, or any later date which the court specifies.
A straightforward judgment, without any other stipulations, can therefore be enforced immediately using a Writ of Control. However, there may be occasions when immediate enforcement cannot be initiated – for example:
- if the Judgment or Order contains directions allowing payment within a specified time, the Writ of Control cannot be issued within that specified time;
- if the Judgment or Order contains directions regarding service on the judgment debtor, then the Writ of Control cannot be issued until service of the Judgment or Order has been effected and proof of service has been lodged with the Court;
- if the Judgment or Order is conditional, the Writ of Control can only be issued once the judgment debtor has defaulted in complying with any such conditions
How much can a Writ be issued for?
You can ask a High Court Enforcement Officer to enforce any judgment obtained:
- in the High Court;
- any County Court judgment over £600, provided it is not regulated under the Consumer Credit Act 1974 (these agreements can only be enforced in the County Court by their own bailiffs);
- any Employment Tribunal or ACAS Award regardless of amount.
If under a judgment in the County Court the amount you are owed is £600 or less, you should apply for a Warrant of Execution from the County Court. However, if the Order follows an Employment Tribunal or ACAS award, regardless of amount, then you should apply for a Writ to be enforced by a High Court Enforcement Officer.
For judgments over £600 – these can be transferred to the High Court for enforcement, and often the High Court Enforcement Officers offer a transfer up service if your judgment has been obtained in the County Court.
If the judgment is for over £5000, this must be enforced in the High Court, providing it does not relate to a debt arising from an agreement under the Consumer Credit Act.
How do I transfer my County Court Judgment to the High Court for enforcement?
If you decide to issue a Writ, there is a process in which you will need to seek a 'certificate of judgment' from the County Court, which confirms the amount you are owed in your judgment.
If you want to do the paperwork yourself, you will need to request this certificate on Court Form N293a, which is a combined certificate of judgment to enforce the judgment by a Writ of Control. You can get Form N293a from Her Majesty’s Court Service website at www.hmcs.gov.uk or from any County Court office.
When issuing a Writ, you will need to either name the Authorised High Court Enforcement Officer, or address it to the “Authorised High Court Enforcement Officers of England and Wales” and the Writ will be assigned to a High Court Enforcement Officer through the cab rank system called NICE Sheriffs operated by Registry Trust.
If you want to take advantage of any transfer-up service offered by High Court Enforcement Officers, then just ring the High Court Enforcement Officer's office of your choice and they will help you on what paperwork is needed. Use the section on our website called “Directory” to find the High Court Enforcement Officer you want to use. Usually, all the High Court Enforcement Officer will need is the form of judgment from the Court and they will convert this into a Writ for you.
If you want to prepare the paperwork yourself, when you get form N293a you must complete parts 1 and 3, and send these to the Court where the judgment was made. If you do not complete it fully, the Court may have to return it to you. You must state the date of judgment and the amount the Order was made for, including any additional costs allowed by the Court since judgment; the total of any interest that has accrued on the judgment and, if appropriate, the daily rate. There are notes on both sides of the form, which you need to read to ensure you have completed the form correctly.
Once you have your sealed form N293a, you may then issue your Writ of Control (form 53 downloadable from the HM Courts service website), which is sent to a District Registry of the High Court with the sealed N293a, Writ of Control and Court Fee for sealing.
Once you have received the sealed Writ, the original sealed Writ should then be sent to your chosen High Court Enforcement Officer.
If you want any advice on how to complete the paperwork you can speak to any High Court Enforcement Officer's office; ask the Court staff for assistance in either the Court where the judgment was obtained; or seek advice from a Solicitor, Law Centre or Citizens Advice Bureau. Some County Courts are also district registries of the High Court: staff there or at the High Court in London can tell you more about High Court Enforcement Officers.
Before you decide how to go ahead, you always need to consider whether you are likely to get back the money owed and the Court fee from the Defendant. Remember, a High Court Enforcement Officer cannot guarantee that you will get your money back, but he or she can ensure you have the best chance of doing so – and you will receive information about the Defendant which may help you if you need to take further enforcement action.
How much does it cost to use a High Court Enforcement Officer?
Using the High Court for enforcement means that a fee of £60.00 has to be paid on sealing the Writ addressed to the High Court Enforcement Officer of your choice. That fee goes to the Court Service for the administration involved in issuing the Writ. Once that is paid, then, provided you do not agree to or accept payments direct from the judgment debtor, the only other fee you may have to pay is an abortive fee of typically £75.00 plus any expenses such as DVLA checks together with VAT if the High Court Enforcement Officer is unsuccessful in enforcing your Writ.
Please remember that if the Writ is successful, with money recovered, then the High Court Enforcement Officer's fees will be payable. These are recoverable from the judgment debtor but if you accept payment direct you may become liable for these. If you are required to pay a fee, the High Court Enforcement Officer will inform you how he or she wants to be paid. Some Officers take credit or debit cards whilst others will invoice you for this. We would ask that if you are invoiced, you pay the fee promptly.
If you are in any doubt about the costs of enforcement to you, make sure you ring your High Court Enforcement Officer who will be happy to explain and discuss them with you.
What happens once the Writ of Control has been issued?
The High Court Enforcement Officer named in the Writ will begin work on your behalf. You should ask the High Court Enforcement Officer you have instructed on how long they intend to take to attend the address and report back to you.
If the Defendant sends you any payments after the Writ has been issued, you should inform the High Court Enforcement Officer immediately so that he or she can allow any appropriate credit and recover any balance due including any fees from the debtor. Please remember that by accepting payment direct, that you do become liable for the enforcement officers fees, should they not be recoverable from the debtor.
What does the High Court Enforcement Officer do next?
By issuing the Writ, the High Court Enforcement Officers are commanded to seize and sell goods in the absence of payment by the debtor. You should check with the High Court Enforcement Officer whom you have instructed as to his or her approach to carrying out the work, but enforcement commences with the sending of a Notice of Enforcement to the debtor. If you gave more than one address for the debtor, the High Court Enforcement Officer will visit each address in turn.
If the Defendant fails to settle the amount due, and has goods that can be sold, the High Court Enforcement Officer will remove and sell the goods and take the fees related of taking, storing and selling the goods from the amount raised at auction.
The High Court Enforcement Officer will send you the balance after any auction sale. If this amount does not repay the amount you are owed, the High Court Enforcement Officer will visit the defendant again to see if there are any other goods that could be sold. If there are not, the High Court Enforcement Officer will not be able to take any more action on the Writ, unless you are able to direct the High Court Enforcement Officer to a further address where the judgment debtor may have goods.
What happens if the debtor makes an offer to pay?
It is not unusual for a debtor to claim that they cannot settle in full, however the writ of control, directs the HCEO to enforce the writ by seizure and sale, however the High Court Enforcement Officer will generally forward proposals received for instructions and it is for the claimant to accept or reject any requests for time to pay, as no obligation exists, unless the request is clearly unreasonable.
When considering a proposal the claimant should consider, the debtors circumstances in respect of what goods are available or the debtor’s circumstances, the debtors financial position, whether there is any other enforcement happening at the same time, and if so, where they are in the list of priorities.
This information can only be gained by attending at the debtors address.
Can a High Court Enforcement Officer break into the Defendant's property?
High Court Enforcement Officers can only enter the Defendant's home if they are allowed in by the person there. If there is nobody there, the High Court Enforcement Officer can enter if a door is left unlocked that is already open. High Court Enforcement Officers may be able to break into business premises if there is no living accommodation attached and they believe the Defendant's goods are inside.
High Court Enforcement Officers can also re-enter if the High Court Enforcement Officer has previously been taken control of goods and is returning to the Defendant's house to recover goods to be sold. Nevertheless, in these circumstances, you may be asked to undertake to pay the High Court Enforcement Officer an amount (an 'indemnity') in case the High Court Enforcement Officer cannot recover any costs later from the Defendant.
What goods can the High Court Enforcement Officer take?
The High Court Enforcement Officer can only take goods that belong to the Defendant. Where the ownership of goods is disputed and a 3rd party claim made, the judgment Claimant may dispute the claim. In these cases an Interpleader will be issued to establish whether the 3rd party claim is valid.
If the High Court Enforcement Officer does take goods that belong to someone other than the defendant, then the 3rd party will be asked to issue an interpleader which is an application to the court for a decision on whether the goods are owned by the Defendant. High Court Enforcement Officer may also apply if necessary. This is known as applying for “Interpleader” relief. High Court Enforcement Officers can also apply to the Court for a decision on whether goods are necessary to meet the basic domestic needs of the Defendant and his or her family, or whether any goods taken constitute tools of the trade. Any goods that the High Court Enforcement Officer takes will be in his or her expert opinion likely to fetch money at auction.
High Court Enforcement Officers cannot take:
- Item which are categorised as exempt goods which also include those items which are necessary to satisfy the basic needs of the debtor or their family; or tools of the trade;
- Items which are leased, rented or on hire purchase agreements (subject to certain conditions);
- Goods which may have already been seized by any other type of enforcement agent;
Can the Defendant do anything to stop the Writ?
Yes, the defendant can pay a fee to the Court and ask for the Writ to be “stayed” (stopped), or he or she can make an application to set judgment aside.
You should be aware that these applications are often made without notice to the High Court Enforcement Officer, who often only becomes aware of them if told by the claimant or informed by the Court of any order made.
If you become aware of any application, please make sure that you notify your High Court Enforcement Officer as soon as possible.
What if the High Court Enforcement Officer does not recover any money or take goods?
The High Court Enforcement Officer will report to you on whether he or she has been able to locate any goods and/or recover any money.
We recommend that if you have not been told anything 14 days after you issued the Writ, you contact the High Court Enforcement Officer’s office and ask for an update.
If a Writ is unsuccessful, it is usually because
- The Defendant is not at the address you gave
- The Defendant's goods are not worth enough to pay anything towards the amount you are owed, and the cost of taking and selling them at auction will outweigh the likely sale proceeds
- The Defendant is insolvent
Please remember that if you are unsure about anything to do with the enforcement of your judgment, it is better to speak to a member of the High Court Enforcement Officer’s office as soon as possible.
What do I do if I am not satisfied with the service I have received?
We hope that you will not find a need to complain, but in the event that you do, we have a comprehensive complaints process, on our “Want to Complain” section.
Before complaining, we would ask you to remember, that the High Court Enforcement Officer is acting under yours and the Courts instructions, and has duties of care not only to you but also to the debtor.
ICM launches Level 2 Award in Taking Control of Goods
The ICM has launched a Level 2 Award in Taking Control of Goods that has been developed in conjunction with the High Court Enforcement Officers Association (HCEOA).
The award is fully Ofqual accredited and approved by the Ministry of Justice and Skills for Security, and the first exams will be taken in July 2014.Read More >>
AN HCEO ANOMALY
HIGH Court enforcement officers (HCEOs) will not have an automatic right to enforce writs issued in their names when the Taking Control of Goods Act 2013 (TCGA) is implemented.
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