Have you been visited by a High Court Enforcement Officer
The purpose of this section of the page is to answer some of the questions you may have. It explains:
- Who a High Court Enforcement Officer is;
- On whose authority the High Court Enforcement Officer is acting;
- Why a High Court Enforcement Officer has visited you recently;
- What you can expect to happen next;
- What action you can take; and
- What to do if you have reason to complain about the High Court Enforcement Officer’s actions.
What is a High Court Enforcement Officer?
A High Court Enforcement Officer is an individual person, who has been authorised by the Ministry of Justice to enforce High Court judgments.
Why did the High Court Enforcement Officer call?
Following the obtaining of a Judgment or Order of a Court, a claimant has issued a Writ of Execution known as a Writ of FiFa and requested a High Court Enforcement Officer to recover the money due under the Writ.
Whilst the High Court Enforcement Officer has received the Writ from the Claimant, the Officer is acting under the instructions of the Court.
How can I expect the High Court Enforcement Officer to behave?
High Court Enforcement Officers belong to a group of Enforcement Agents who have agreed to act in accordance with the National Standards for Enforcement Agents issued by the Ministry of Justice.
There are a set of best practice guidelines to be followed when enforcement is being carried out. They set out, among other things, how an Enforcement Agent (the High Court Enforcement Officer in this case), is expected to behave. They also include requirements that High Court Enforcement Officers:
- Produce relevant identification on request;
- Act within the law;
- Respect confidentiality;
- Do not exaggerate the powers they have;
- Are professional, calm, dignified and appropriately dressed;
- Are firm but fair; and
- Do not discriminate.
High Court Enforcement Officers will never offer violence or aggression when carrying out their duties; neither will they expect to be subjected to violence or aggression. Any assault on a High Court Enforcement Officer may lead to a criminal penalty of a fine or imprisonment.
The National Standards for Enforcement Agents are available by clicking on the link here and have been incorporated into the Code of Conduct for High Court Enforcement Officers which is also set out on this website.
How is the High Court Enforcement Officer given the authority to recover money?
When a claimant:
Obtains a Court Order against you for the payment of money (a “judgment”) and you do not pay;
That Claimant can ask the High Court to issue a Writ of Execution ("Writ of Fieri Facias”). The Writ is addressed to an Authorised High Court Enforcement Officer. It asks the Authorised High Court Enforcement Officer who will be named on the Writ to enforce the judgment. The Writ is the Authorised High Court Enforcement Officers authority to “execute” the Writ by either:
- recovering the money owed from you; or
- taking (“impounding”) sufficient of your goods to be sold at auction to raise what is owed.
It is important to appreciate that the main aim of all High Court Enforcement Officers is to recover the money owed, not to deprive you of possession and use of your goods. They will try, so far as it is possible, to protect both your interest and those of your Claimant.
They can help and advise you best if you are honest about your circumstances from the outset.
How can I pay?
You can pay the High Court Enforcement Officer by a number of methods. He or she will explain to you what methods of payment are available to you.
Always make sure that when making payment to the High Court Enforcement Officer, that you quote your reference number for your case, which you will find on any paperwork that has been given to you. If you fail to quote your reference number, allocation of any payment you make might be delayed.
Is the judgment against me registered?
Any judgment or Order against you that was obtained in either the County Court, High Court or Tribunal will be registered with Registry Trust. Once listed that entry remains for a period of six years on the register. The fact that you have a judgment registered against you may make it difficult for you to obtain credit.
Banks, building societies and other lenders search the information held by the Registry before deciding whether to grant a loan.
Once you have paid the judgment or Order in full you can apply to have the entry against you marked as “satisfied”. This will be an indication to anyone making a search that although you have owed money you have since paid it. Details of how to have the registration mark satisfied can be obtained by clicking on the link www.trustonline.org.uk .
In order to apply to have the judgment marked as satisfied you must provide the court with evidence that a judgment debt has been paid in full, that court should notify Registry Trust to amend the register.
If the judgment is satisfied within one calendar month from the date of judgment it will be removed from the register otherwise the register will show the entry as "satisfied". You may apply in writing to the relevant court for a Certificate of Satisfaction enclosing:
- evidence that the debt has been fully repaid;
- a statement advising that reasonable steps have been taken to obtain such evidence but you have been unable to do so; or
- a statement advising that you believe the evidence of payment is already held at the court; and the court fee of £15 (cheque payable to HMCTS)
You can also make enquiries at Registry Trust on telephone 020 7380 0133 who will be able to help you.
Any application to have the judgment marked as satisfied must be made to the County Court that last dealt with your case.
What judgments can the High Court Enforcement Officer execute?
The High Court Enforcement Officer can execute:
- any High Court Judgment or;
- any County Court Judgment where the amount to be enforced is £600 or more and the original claim did not arise from the Consumer Credit Agreement.
- any Employment Tribunal or ACAS Award
How can a County Court Judgment be enforced by a High Court Enforcement Officer?
If the judgment was obtained in a County Court it can be transferred to the High Court and registered as a High Court Judgment. A High Court Enforcement Officer can then enforce it.
Why is the High Court Enforcement Officer charging interest?
Most High Court judgments issued are for the recovery of money and attract interest from the date of judgment or transfer from the County Court to the High Court until they are paid in full.
Interest is added to the debt on a daily basis and it follows that the sooner you pay the judgment the less interest you will pay.
Who will pay the High Court Enforcement Officer’s costs of doing this work?
You will. The High Court Enforcement Officer’s fees will be added to the amount you already owe. They will be collected by the High Court Enforcement Officer at the same time as the amount that is owed on the judgment and the interest on it.
The fees charged are set out in The High Court Enforcement Officers Regulations 2004. This is a list of charges that reflect the amount of work the High Court Enforcement Officers have to do to recover payment.
If, for example, the High Court Enforcement Officer has to call on you more than once, or has to remove goods for sale, the fees you will have to pay will increase accordingly.
The sooner you pay the judgment and the High Court Enforcement Officer’s fees the less the total fees and interest will be.
If you want to know more about how fees are calculated in your case, you should ring the High Court Enforcement Officer who is responsible for enforcing the judgment, and they will explain any fees that you are being charged.
What should I do if I do not agree the fees?
The High Court Enforcement Officers fees are set out in Schedule 3 of the High Court Enforcement Officers Regulations 2004 and should you not agree with the fees the Officer has charged, then there is provision in paragraph 13 (4) of the regulations, which provide for you to be able to make an application to the court for detailed assessment of those fees charged by the Court, under the Civil Procedure Rules 1998 part 47.
Before making any such application, you should consider carefully whether the fees charged are actually outside of the scale and are unreasonable as, should you be unsuccessful in your application, costs will be awarded against you if the Court decides that the fees charged are fair and reasonable.
Before proceeding with any such application we would suggest that you seek independent legal advice first.
Are there any goods which the High Court Enforcement Officer cannot take to be sold?
Yes there are. You and your family cannot be deprived of all your goods and particularly those you need to be able to live and work on a daily basis.
The law says that a High Court Enforcement Officer cannot take:
- Vehicles and other goods subject to hire purchase or rental agreements;
- Tools, books, vehicles and other items of equipment that are necessary for your personal use in connection with your employment, business or vocation;
- Clothing, bedding, furniture and other items of equipment that are necessary for satisfying the basic domestic needs of you or your family;
- Goods belonging to someone other than yourself, commonly called “the Third Party”.
What should I do if any of my goods fall into the above categories?
You must let the High Court Enforcement Officer know as soon as possible if any of the goods belong to a third party as well as informing the third party that the goods have been seized. The third party claiming to own goods at your property will need to submit a letter to the High Court Enforcement Officer specifically stating what goods it is that they own at the property. The third party should also, if possible, produce any relevant agreement(s) or evidence of ownership.
Any claim to ownership by a third party may lead to a Court hearing at which a Judge will decide who owns the goods. These are called “interpleader proceedings”. The third party claimant, will be asked to attend and produce evidence to the satisfaction of the Judge of their ownership of the goods.
These proceedings can be very costly for the losing party who will be liable for the costs for all parties which will include the third party claimant, the judgment claimant and the High Court Enforcement Officer and, in view of these potential costs, claims to goods should not be made lightly.
If goods fall into the category of items which are necessary to meet basic living needs or which are tools of trade then again you must let the High Court Enforcement Officer know, and a written letter specifically claiming the item/s will be needed. The High Court Enforcement Officer may issue interpleader proceedings to have the claim decided upon by a Judge who will decide whether the goods fall into the category claimed
What will happen if I cannot pay the debt immediately?
The Writ directed to the High Court Enforcement Officer commands the Officer to enforce the Writ immediately and does not provide for time to pay. If you are unable to pay in full immediately, the High Court Enforcement Officer will identify a list of your goods (an inventory) that may be sold if the debt is not paid. This list is not exclusive and any other of your goods will also covered by this seizure. This process is called “levying” and places your goods under the legal control of the High Court Enforcement Officer.
The High Court Enforcement Officer will then often allow you to keep the goods at the address, and allow you a short time in which to raise the amount due to settle the execution. If this option is allowed, the High Court Enforcement Officer will ask you to sign an undertaking confirming that you will keep the goods safe and in the same condition, not to dispose of the goods, or allow another seizure of the goods, without notifying the High court Enforcement Officer. This agreement is called a “Walking Possession Agreement” and, should this agreement be ignored, could lead to a fine or in some cases imprisonment.
You should remember that if the debt is not paid within any time limits set, by the High Court Enforcement Officer or if the High Court Enforcement Officer suspects that the agreement may be breached, the High Court Enforcement Officer may proceed immediately to a removal and sale of your goods.
If you can only offer payment by instalments over a period of time, the High Court Enforcement Officer will contact the Claimant to ask if the terms you are offering are acceptable. You will normally be asked to pay an amount on account as a sign of your intention to pay, and comply with your offer whilst awaiting instructions. If the claimant agrees to your terms, you must make sure you pay on time in accordance with your offer.
Remember, an agreement to pay by instalment does not prevent the Writ being reactivated immediately if you do not keep the arrangements, which includes your undertaking under the Walking Possession Agreement.
If you are going to fall down on the arrangement you should contact the High Court Enforcement Officer responsible for the enforcement of the Writ as soon as possible to discuss the situation and what you can do to resolve the situation.
Is it true the law allows a High Court Enforcement Officer to break into properties to take goods?
Yes it is. But the circumstances when this can be done are limited. Goods may well be taken where the following apply, for example:
- where someone has signed a Walking Possession Agreement, has failed to pay, and refuses access for the goods seized to be removed to the sale room.
What do I do if I want to complain about a High Court Enforcement Officer’s actions?
We would encourage you to think carefully before complaining. Remember that the High Court Enforcement Officer is acting on the instructions of the Court and the Claimant and has a duty to enforce the Writ.
If, for example, you think you do not owe the money being claimed, or you are upset because your offer of payment by instalments has been turned down, this is not the High Court Enforcement Officer’s fault. These are matters which you have to sort out with the Claimant either by direct contact or through applications to the appropriate Court.
If you still wish to continue with your complaint you must follow the High Court Enforcement Officer’s complaints procedure which is set out under the section “Want to Complain” on this website.
Where can I get some advice on my circumstances?
There are many links on the internet to help you if you are having problems involving your financial position which may have left you in debt or at risk of losing your home.
We have listed below a few links, which will be able to help you get advice from independent legal advisors specialising in debt related problems.
Citizens Advice Bureau at http://www.citizensadvice.org.uk
Dealing With Debt – from the Community Legal Service website
Losing Your Home – from the Community Legal Service website
Visit the Credit Action website for advice on how to manage your finance – www.creditaction.org.uk/debt-advice.html
Or speak to an advisor at The National Debt Helpline at www.nationaldebtline.co.uk
Alternatively use the services provided by the Consumer Credit Counselling Service, a registered charity offering free, confidential debt advice and support to anyone who is worried about their financial situiation. For instant, anonymous advice, visit CCCS Debt Remedy - their online debt councelling tool.
If you want us to add links to our site to offer people in debt more resources please use our enquiries page and we will add more resources to this area of our website.
Goverment Response to Consultation Paper
Today saw the long awaited Goverment Response to the Consulation Paper that took place back in May 2012 onRead More >>
High Court Enforcement Officers Association Celebrates its 125th Anniversary
by Martin Leyshon Chair of the HCEOARead More >>