Here is a selection of our most frequently asked questions. If you can’t find the information you’re looking for, get in touch with us using the details on our contact us page.
What is a High Court Enforcement Officer?
High Court Enforcement Officers (HCEOs) are registered Officers of the Court who are authorised by the Lord Chancellor and the Ministry of Justice to enforce High Court Orders.
The role of a High Court Enforcement Officer is to enforce orders issued in the High Court - or orders transferred from the County Court to the High Court - for the purpose of enforcement. A key part of this is recovering unpaid debt that is owed to businesses and individuals across England and Wales.
Why have I been visited by a High Court Enforcement Officer?
If you have been visited by a High Court Enforcement Officer, this is because an individual or business that you owe money to has applied to the High Court and requested a High Court Enforcement Officer to recover any money owed.
High Court Enforcement Officer’s can also be instructed by the High Court to carry out evictions.
The High Court Enforcement Officer will provide you with clear documentation to show how much you owe and the details of the High Court Judgment.
Instructing a Hight Court Enforcement Officer is usually a last resort. If you have been visited by a High Court Enforcement Officer you should already have received numerous notices and communications from the person or business that you owe money to.
What is a Writ of Control?
A Writ of Control is a formal written order issued by the High Court. It instructs a High Court Enforcement Officer to recover money owed as part of an outstanding debt.
If payment of the debt can’t be obtained, the Writ of Control allows High Court Enforcement Officers to remove and sell on the debtor’s goods to pay back the outstanding amount.
Why have fees been added to the debt I owe?
The recovery of a debt via a High Court Enforcement Officer is split into four stages, with fees assigned to each stage. These are set by law and added to the amount of the debt to be recovered.
The sooner a debt is paid, the less the added fees and interest will be.
This begins when a High Court Enforcement Officer receives an instruction to recover a debt AND receives a sealed Writ of Control) from the claimant.
The High Court Enforcement Officer will then send a ‘Notice of Enforcement’ to the person who owes the debt. The debtor then has seven days to pay the debt, any interest, court fees and the £75 compliance fee in full or the process moves to Enforcement Stage One and the additional fees set out below also apply.
Enforcement – Stage One|
+ 7.5% of the debt value over £1,000|
This begins if the person who owes the debt fails to make contact with the High Court Enforcement Officer or requests to pay by instalments during the Compliance Stage. An Enforcement Agent will attend their premises to take control of goods and may discuss payment options based on circumstances at this stage.|
Enforcement – Stage Two|
This begins if the person who owes the debt:
Sale and Disposal|
+ 7.5% of the debt value above £1,000|
Should enforcement get to the stage where the debtor’s goods need to be removed to pay the debt, then the ‘Sale and Disposal’ stage begins.|
Do I have to pay VAT on High Court enforcement fees?
VAT, or a VAT equivalent value is charged on all High Court enforcement fees.
If the individual or business you owe money to is VAT registered they will pay this amount. If the individual or business you owe money to is not VAT registered, or if they are VAT registered but ineligible to reclaim VAT, an amount equivalent to VAT on any enforcement fees will be added to the total amount that you owe.
What can I do if I don’t agree with the added fees?
The High Court Enforcement Officer’s fees are set by law in Taking Control of Goods (Fees) Regulations 2014.
If you dispute the fees charged you can apply to the court for these to be determined under CPR part 84.16 (link to pdf: Taking Control of Goods – subsection 84.16). However, if you are unsuccessful additional costs may be charged to you by the court.
We would recommend seeking independent legal advice before proceeding with an application.
I’ve received a Notice of Enforcement, what should I do?
The Notice of Enforcement is the first stage of the enforcement process, and gives seven days in which to pay.
You should contact the High Court Enforcement Officer’s office on the number provided immediately and make payment in full.
Failure to make payment within seven days will result in escalation to the next stage of enforcement and additional charges and interest will be added.
Can I set up a payment plan?
If you’re not able to pay the amount you owe in full you can talk to the High Court Enforcement Officer about your options. Any payment plans will need to be agreed to by both the High Court Enforcement Officer and the creditor.
Can a High Court Enforcement Officer take my belongings?
Yes. If you are unable to make payment in full, or agree a suitable payment plan, a High Court Enforcement Officer is able to gain entry to your property and seize assets to cover the amount of the judgment plus any fees and interest. However, this would be a last resort.
High Court Enforcement Officers are not able to take:
any vehicles and other goods subject to hire purchase or rental agreements
things you need (such as your clothes, cooker or fridge)
work tools or equipment which together are less than £1,350
someone else’s belongings (you will have to prove they do not belong to you).
You must let a High Court Enforcement Officer know as soon as possible if any of your goods fall into any of these categories and provide evidence if asked.
I don’t think I owe this, what should I do?
If you have already been visited by a High Court Enforcement Officer then collection has already reached a stage where the High Court has determined that you need to pay the debt.
If you genuinely don’t believe you owe the debt you will need to explain to the High Court Enforcement Officer why you think this isn’t the case. You will need to supply a written explanation and evidence to the Court and the creditor to prove otherwise.
You should follow the instructions on the Notice of Enforcement.
What is a Writ of Possession?
A Writ of Possession is a formal written order issued by the High Court. It instructs a High Court Enforcement Officer to enter a property to remove tenants or trespassers.
Can a High Court Enforcement Officer remove me from my home or place of business?
Yes. Once a Writ of Possession has been granted by the High Court, a High Court Enforcement Officer is carrying out the court’s instruction to remove named people from the property and can apply reasonable force if necessary.
Can a High Court Enforcement Officer come into my home?
Yes. The Writ of Control or Writ of Possession granted by the High Court allows the High Court Enforcement Officer to enter the address and seize goods or carry out evictions.
How will this affect my credit rating?
Any judgment or order against you that was obtained in either, the County Court, High Court or Tribunal will be registered with Registry Trust. Banks, building societies and other lenders search the information held by the Registry before deciding whether to grant a loan.
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.
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".
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 show that although you have owed money you have since paid it. Details of how to have the registration mark satisfied can be found on the Registry Trust website.
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.
What is a Charging Order?
An application for a Charging Order is only usually made when the value of the debt is quite high.
This means that the judgment is secured against the debtor’s property and recovered from the equity when the property is sold or mortgaged.
What is Attachment of Earnings Order?
If you have an outstanding debt and are employed but have no other assets, an Attachment of Earnings Order requires your employer to regularly make deductions from your salary to satisfy the judgment debt.
What is a Third Party Debt Order?
Sometimes the Court will grant a Third Party Debt Order if you have an outstanding debt and are owed money from a third-party. For example, if you are a business and are owed money from trade debts.
A Third Party Debt Order means the person or business that owes you money pays it directly to the individual or business you yourself owe money to.
What is an Order to Obtain Information?
An Order to Obtain Information can be issued if you owe money and don’t cooperate with the court or High Court Enforcement Officer and refuse to provide information about your assets.
In these circumstances, the court can interview you to establish what assets you might have, and where they might be located.
If you receive an Order to Obtain Information, you have to attend court, and under oath disclose such information as your:
employment status, together with details of your employer and wages
details of dependants, and outgoings
details of additional income
details of any properties owned
details of bank and savings accounts.
How do I make a complaint about an Enforcement Agent or High Court Enforcement Officer?
If you have a complaint about an individual High Court Enforcement Officer, or the organisation they work for, you will need to follow the company’s own complaints procedure before we can escalate this for you.
If you are not satisfied with their response, or have not received a response within eight weeks of them acknowledging receipt of your complaint, you can ask us to escalate this further.
You can find out more about making a complaint here.