High Court Enforcement Officers (HCEOs) can assist you with the enforcement of your judgment if there is an outstanding debt.

The Taking Control of Goods Regulations 2014 allow High Court Enforcement Officers to seize a debtor’s assets and sell them to cover the amount of the debt plus any fees and interest if payment is not made.

Debts need to be for a minimum of £600 and not be subject to a consumer credit agreement for a High Court Enforcement Officer to be involved.

Instructing High Court Enforcement Officers is easy, and they can assist with everything necessary to issue the Writ of Control to authorise them to act.

FAQs

When can a Writ of Control be issued?

A Writ of Control can be issued immediately after a 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 a simple court process to issue the writ and no need to give prior notice to the judgment debtor that a Writ of Control has been obtained.

A straightforward judgment, without any other stipulations, can 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 affected 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 a judgment obtained:

  • in the High Court;
  • obtained in any County Court, providing it is for over £600, and 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.

Any County Court Judgment over £5,000 must be transferred and enforced in the High Court, providing it does not relate to a debt arising from an agreement under the Consumer Credit Act.

County Court Judgments under £600 are enforced in the County Court and you should apply for a Warrant of Execution from the County Court.

How do I transfer my County Court Judgment over £600 to the High Court for enforcement?

This is an easy process and all High Court Enforcement Officers provide the service of transferring County Court Judgments to the High Court for enforcement. You can discuss your options and any associated charges for this service with your appointed High Court Enforcement Officer, or browse our member’s list to find a High Court Enforcement Officer.

You can also transfer the case yourself by filling in the relevant forms and submitting them to the court. However, we would recommend speaking to your High Court Enforcement Officer before choosing this option as the court will return any incorrect forms which could delay the recovery process.

You will need to pay a court fee of £71.00 whether you transfer up yourself or the High Court Enforcement Officer does this for you, which is not related to the High Court Enforcement Officer’s fees.

Can the debtor do anything to stop the writ?

Yes, the debtor can pay a fee to the court and ask for the writ to be “stayed” (stopped), or they can make an application to set the judgment aside.

You should be aware that these applications are often made without notice to the High Court Enforcement Officer, who 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 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 debtor 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 directly, you do become liable for the enforcement officer's fees should they not be recoverable from the debtor.

What does the High Court Enforcement Officer do once a Writ of Control has been issued?

By issuing the writ, High Court Enforcement Officers are empowered to take control and, if need be, remove and sell goods in the absence of payment by the debtor.

Enforcement begins 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 send a notice and visit each address in turn.

If the debtor fails to settle the amount due, and has goods that can be sold, the High Court Enforcement Officer will remove and sell the goods.

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 debtor again to see if there are any other goods that could be sold. If there are none, the High Court Enforcement Officer will not be able to take any more action on the writ unless you are able to direct them to a further address where the judgment debtor may have goods.

How can I help the High Court Enforcement Officer to obtain a successful result?

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 along with the contact details, name of contact person, telephone numbers, and email addresses and website; and
  • details as to the location of assets that you may know about, such as any goods supplied, vehicles or particular possessions you know about such as art works.

Information relating to the judgment debtor’s address, telephone number and email address can make the difference between making contact with the debtor and taking legal control or not.

You should look at your files and papers to establish as much information about available addresses and contact details as possible. There are 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. You can read more about other types of enforcement here.

Enforcement stages, fees and charges for Writs of Control

Q: What are the costs associated with enforcing a High Court Writ?

These are set out in detail on our fees and charges page. We recommend you read this before looking at these FAQs.

Q: Are there any other costs associated with issuing a High Court Writ apart from High Court Enforcement Officer fees?

There is a £66 court fee for transferring a County Court Judgment to the High Court for enforcement. This fee is initially paid by the creditor to the court directly before instructing a High Court Enforcement Officer. When the High Court Enforcement Officer successful recovers the debt and fees from the person who owes the debt, this fee is recovered in full and paid back to the creditor.

Q: When and how are the enforcement fees collected?

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 relevant fees will be clearly specified on the formal notices the debtor receives from a High Court Enforcement Officer.

Q: Do the fees apply even if the debt is paid direct to the creditor?

Yes. Once a debt has been passed to a Hight Court Enforcement Officer, the law states that these fees need to be paid. They apply even if the debtor pays the creditor (the person or organisation owed the money) directly. Fees apply for each stage of enforcement. It is not the number of letters you receive, or visits, that set the fees. It is the stage that these activities happen at that sets the fees. If the debtor pays the debt direct to the creditor, the creditor needs to collect the fees as well, otherwise the creditor becomes liable to pay the fees.

Q: Does the debtor pay each fee stage or just the fee for the stage where they agree to repay the debt?

The debtor pays each relevant fee stage. For example, if the debtor only repays the debt at Enforcement Stage One, then they will have to pay the Compliance Fee of £75 as well as the Enforcement Stage One fee. This is in addition to the original debt, any interest and any relevant court fees.

Q: What happens with fees if there is more than one order being enforced at the same time?

If there is more than one court order being enforced at the same time, the High Court Enforcement Officer must apply compliance fees for each. In this case, fees for other stages of enforcement will depend on when an Enforcement Agent receives instructions to act, and whether they can reasonably enforce multiple court orders at the same time (for example, taking control of goods in relation to multiple court orders at the same time, unless it isn’t practical to do that).

Q: Can the High Court Enforcement Officer charge expenses in addition to these fees?

Only for specific activities, such as the cost of hiring a locksmith, storing belongings, goods or assets or selling belongings, goods or assets. If there are any extra expenses over and above this, a court must agree to fees being added for these.

Q: Who pays the court and enforcement fees when the High Court Enforcement Officer is successful at recovering the debt?

The creditor doesn’t pay any court or enforcement fees when the High Court Enforcement Officer successfully recovers the full debt and associated fees. The original debt, any interest, and all court and enforcement fees are paid in full by the person who owes the debt.

Q: Who pays the court and enforcement fees if the High Court Enforcement Officer only recovers part of the debt?

The fees are deducted from the money paid as a share of what has been paid in most cases. Any money collected is split on a pro rata basis between creditor and High Court Enforcement Officer.

Q: Who pays the court and enforcement fees if the High Court Enforcement Officer is unsuccessful at recovering the debt?

If this is the case, then the only payments the creditor will have to make are a) the initial £66 court fee which is paid to the court directly (High Court fee for issuing a writ) and b) the £75 Compliance Stage fee which is paid to the High Court Enforcement Officer.

The only exceptions to this are if you as a creditor have instructed the High Court Enforcement Officer to take action which has incurred some additional costs that need to be reclaimed.

Q: Who pays VAT on High Court enforcement fees?

VAT registered creditors - Where the instructing creditor (and not their solicitor or agent) is VAT registered, VAT should be charged to that creditor and no VAT should be charged to the debtor. A VAT Invoice should be issued to the creditor and that VAT should be accounted for to HMRC in the usual way.

Non-VAT registered creditors - Where the instructing creditor is not VAT registered, or is VAT registered but ineligible to reclaim VAT, that a sum equivalent to VAT should be charged to the debtor, as at present and in-line with the guidance issued by the Ministry of Justice. No VAT Invoice should be issued (to either debtor or creditor) and that sum, to be treated as VAT, should be accounted for to HMRC in the usual way.

Q: I have a specific question about the fees in my case, how do I find out more details?

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.

Q: Where can I find the piece of legislation that set out these fees and charges in law?

You can read the full details of these fees and charges as they are set out in law in The Taking Control of Goods (Fees) Regulations 2014.

What happens if the debtor makes an offer to pay part of the debt or in instalments?

It is not unusual for a debtor to claim that they cannot settle in full. The High Court Enforcement Officer will forward any payment proposals received and it is up to you to accept or reject any requests for time to pay, as no obligation exists.

When considering a proposal you should think about the debtors’ circumstances in respect of what goods are available, 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.

Your High Court Enforcement Officer will be able to advise you of this following their conversations with the debtor. If you do not agree to any proposals your High Court Enforcement Officer can continue enforcement of the writ by removing the debtor’s goods for sale.

How will money recovered be paid to me?

Any money recovered from direct payments or sale of goods at auction will be held by the High Court Enforcement Officer for a retention period of 14 days (as stipulated by the 1986 Insolvency Act).

Following this, the High Court Enforcement Officer will issue payment minus any enforcement fees to your chosen bank or building society.

If the debtor is making payment in instalments, any fees or interest are deducted by the High Court Enforcement Officer on a pro-rata basis.

Can a High Court Enforcement Officer break into the debtor’s property?

High Court Enforcement Officers can only enter the debtor’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 or that is open. High Court Enforcement Officers may be able to break into business premises if there is no living accommodation attached and they believe the debtor’s goods are inside.

High Court Enforcement Officers can also re-enter if they have previously taken control of goods and are returning to the debtor’s house to recover goods to be sold. In these circumstances, you may be asked 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 debtor.

What goods can the High Court Enforcement Officer take?

The High Court Enforcement Officer can only take goods that belong to the debtor.

High Court Enforcement Officers are not able to take:

  • any vehicles and other goods subject to hire purchase or rental agreements
  • things the debtor needs to satisfy basic needs (such as clothes, cooker or fridge)
  • work tools or equipment which together are less than £1,350
  • someone else’s belongings (the debtor will have to prove who they belong to)
  • goods which may have already been taken into control by any other type of enforcement agent.

A full list of exempt goods can be viewed here.

Where the ownership of goods is disputed, the debtor or third-party must provide evidence of ownership to the attending High Court Enforcement Officer. If the High Court Enforcement Officer does take goods that belong to someone other than the debtor, the third-party must submit a claim to the Court under CPR 85.4 Making a claim to controlled goods: https://www.justice.gov.uk/courts/procedure-rules/civil/rules/part-85-claims-on-controlled-goods-and-executed-goods).

High Court Enforcement Officers can also apply to the court for a decision on whether goods meet the basic domestic needs of the debtor and his or her family, or whether any goods taken constitute tools of the trade, if it is felt necessary.

Any goods that the High Court Enforcement Officer takes will be, in their expert opinion, likely to fetch money at auction and be of benefit to the claimant after deduction of the costs and fees.

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 they have been able to locate any goods and/or recover any money.

We recommend that if you have not been told anything by 28 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 debtor is not at the address provided to the High Court Enforcement Officer
  • the debtor'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 debtor is insolvent.

Please remember that if you are unsure about anything to do with the enforcement of your judgment, it is best to speak to a member of your High Court Enforcement Officer’s office as soon as possible.

High Court enforcement activity is being undertaken in an appropriate, flexible and sensitive manner that reflects the challenges we are all facing as a result of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

The Association has developed a best practice Covid-19 plan.

READ MORE

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