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High Court Enforcement Officers

High Court Enforcement Officers

Our Principal High Court Enforcement Officer is authorised by the Ministry of Justice to enforce both High Court and County Court judgments. Our team of enforcement officers provide excellent geographical coverage across England and Wales. High Court Enforcement Officers enforce judgment debts by identifying goods belonging to the defendant for seizure. Seizing goods gives High Court Enforcement Officers much more leverage when recovering debts. If debts remain unpaid, High Court Enforcement Officers will generally remove seized items for sale by auction to recover the judgment debt and costs incurred.

About High Court Enforcement Officers

Sheriff’s Officers

Prior to 2004, High Court Enforcement Officers were known as “sheriff’s officers”. As Sheriff’s Officers they were not responsible directly for enforcing High Court writs like today. Instead they would enforce the writs for the high sheriff for each county.

The job of our High Court Enforcement Officers is to enforce ‘Writs of Execution’ issued by the High Court. The most common type of writ of execution is a ‘Writ of Control’, formerly known as ‘Writ of Fieri Facias’ or ‘Writ of Fi Fa’. A Writ of Control can be issued to enforce a money judgment and provides for the seizure of the debtor’s goods. What other types of ‘Writ of Execution’ are there? The following writs are included in the term ‘writ of execution’:

  • ‘Writ of Control’ (formerly Writ of Fi Fa) – this Writ is for the recovery of money after a County Court or High Court Judgment has been obtained
  • ‘Writ of Possession’ – this Writ is for the recovery of land after an Order for Possession has been obtained
  • ‘Writ of Assistance’ – this Writ is usually used to assist in the enforcement of a ‘Writ of Possession’
  • ‘Writ of Restitution’ – this Writ is issued following the re-occupation of land following the execution of a ‘Writ of Possession’
  • ‘Writ of Possession and Control’ – these Writs are for the recovery of land and money
  • ‘Writ of Delivery’ – this Writ is for the recovery of specific assets

Helping our High Court Enforcement Officers obtain a successful result

When instructing our High Court Enforcement Officers, you can improve the prospects of success by giving us as much information as possible regarding the whereabouts of the judgment debtor, along with any details as to the location of assets that you may know about to our High Court Enforcement Officers. Do you know where the debtor lives, what cars he/she own and/or where he/she works? The more information our High Court Enforcement Officers have the better.

What happens once the High Court Enforcement Officers (HCEOs) have the Defendant’s address? 

Once you have advised us of the judgment debtor’s address, our High Court Enforcement Officers will visit to see if any goods can be seized. If our Enforcement Officers seize goods, they will generally either collect payment in full or seek to enter into a short term payment arrangement with the Defendant to pay the amount owed under the writ. If payment in full or by arrangement is not made, we may remove the goods for sale by auction. If no goods are found, or if our High Court Enforcement Officers cannot gain access to the property, our Enforcement Officers will report to you accordingly.

Enforcing writs against ‘commercial’ Defendants

As High Court Enforcement Officers, we can force entry (if necessary) into any commercial premises to which we are directed under the writ, e.g. factories, warehouses, offices and shops, to take control of goods. Utilising HCEO’s as a method of debt collection High Court Enforcement Officers have a very real application in general debt collection processes. Many creditors rely simply on DCA’s offering telephone and letter based debt collection techniques and are reluctant to consider issuing legal proceedings; often considering that the cost of litigation is prohibitive and that a judgment on its own is of little use if the defendant doesn’t pay. However, if litigation can be adopted in a cost effective manner, the creditor may consider using High Court Enforcement Officers as an effective method of enforcement. Where a judgment debtor refuses to make payment, High Court Enforcement Officers can be employed to attend at the debtors premises to collect payment or seize goods as an alternative. The cost of such action is usually borne by the debtor under the fee scale contained within the Taking Control of Goods (Fees) Regulations 2014.

Contact us

Contact us at any time on 0330 900 8000 for advice on using High Court Enforcement as a method of debt collection.

About High Court Enforcement Officers

When can a Writ of Control (formerly Writ of Fi Fa) be issued?

A Writ of Control (formerly Writ of Fi Fa) can be issued as soon as an amount becomes payable under a judgment or order of a court (or under an Employment Tribunal decision). Unless there are any conditions attached to the judgment or order, we will not need to seek permission from the Court to issue the Writ. Please note, there may be occasions (i.e. when a judgment has conditions attached) when immediate enforcement cannot start, such as:

  • If the Judgment or order contains instructions allowing payment within a set time;
  • if the Judgment or order contains instructions regarding service on the debtor (in such cases the court may not permit enforcement until service of the Judgment has been effected and proof has been lodged with the Court); or
  • if the Judgment is conditional. In which case it may only be enforced if the Defendant has failed to comply with the conditions

Are there any exceptions to the types of judgment that can be enforced by writ?

Our High Court Enforcement Officers can enforce any judgment obtained:

  • In the High Court where the award is more than £600;
  • in any County Court proceedings where the award is more than £600, as long as the judgment doesn’t arise from a debt under an agreement regulated by the Consumer Credit Act 1974;
  • any Employment Tribunal or ACAS Award irrespective of the amount.

If the amount you are owed, under a County Court Judgment (CCJ) is £600 or less, you should apply for a ‘Warrant of Execution’ from the County Court. If the Order follows an Employment Tribunal or ACAS award, you can apply for the award to be enforced by a High Court Enforcement Officer regardless of the amount. If your judgment is obtained in the County Court, we can assist with the transfer and with drafting of the High Court writ.

How do I transfer my County Court Judgment (CCJ) 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 (formerly Writ of Fi Fa). Once you have obtained the form 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 (formerly Writ of Fi Fa) (form 53 downloadable from the HM Courts service website), which can be sent to the High Court with the sealed N293a, and Court Fee for sealing (currently £66.00). Once you have received the sealed Writ, the original sealed Writ should then be sent to your chosen High Court Enforcement Officer.

Transfer Up Your Judgment To The High Court For Enforcement

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 advise you on what paperwork is needed. At Burlington, all we require is the form of judgment from the Court and we will convert this into a Writ for you. 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.

High Court Enforcement Officers’ Charges

Using the High Court for enforcement means that a fee of £66.00 has to be paid upon sealing the Writ. This 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.

What happens once the Writ of Control (formerly Writ of Fi Fa) has been issued?

Once the writ is issued we will begin work on your behalf. We will advise you as soon as possible as to the outcome of enforcement and if a payment arrangement is offered, we will usually refer this to you. If the Defendant sends you any payments after the Writ has been issued, you should inform us immediately so that we can allow any appropriate credit and recover any balance due including any fees from the debtor.

Can a High Court Enforcement Officer force entry into a Defendant’s property?

Entering a Defendant’s home is permissible provided that the occupant allows our High Court Enforcement Officers in. If nobody is there when they visit, we cannot enter. However, if the premises are commercial premises with no living accommodation attached, we can force entry if necessary. Our Enforcement Officers are also able to enter if they have previously entered into an agreement with the defendant to pay but the defendant has not adhered to the agreement terms.

What goods can High Court Enforcement Officers take?

As High Court Enforcement Officers, we are only allowed to take goods that belong to the Defendant. Our Enforcement Officers are also unable to seize goods that are essential for the basic domestic needs of the Defendant and their family, or any goods that constitute ‘tools of the trade’ (goods for the personal use of the Defendant in his trade or profession that have an aggregate value of less than £1,350). Our High Court Enforcement Officers also cannot generally take items that are on hire purchase agreements or are leased or rented. We also cannot take goods that have already been seized by any other enforcement officer or bailiff.

Is there anything the Defendant can do to stop the Writ?

Yes, the defendant may pay the court a fee and ask for the enforcement of the writ to be “stayed” (paused), and/or make an application to set the judgment aside. The defendant will need some valid reason for making such an application, although the court may be willing to stay execution whilst a full case is presented by the defendant. Please note, our High Court Enforcement Officers are often only become aware that these applications are made if the claimant or defendant tells them, or they are informed by the Court of any order made. If you become aware of any such application during the process, you must tell us as soon as possible.

If a Writ is unsuccessful, it is normally for one of the following reasons:

  • The Defendant doesn’t reside or trade from the address given;
  • The Defendant’s goods would raise insufficient value at auction to cover the costs of removal and sale.

If you have any questions about the process of enforcing a writ using High Court Enforcement Officers, please contact us on 0330 900 8000 and we will be happy to assist with your enquiry.

If you have already instructed a High Court Enforcement Officer, can you use another method of enforcement at the same time?

You are able to enforce by any other method available and may use more than one method of enforcement at the same time. However, you must tell us if you recover under any other method of enforcement. In practice, most other methods of enforcement require a hearing and further costs, so it’s often best to exhaust the possibility of enforcement under a writ before looking at an alternative. If enforcement by writ fails to yield a result, you should be able to support your application for an alternative method with a negative report from a High Court Enforcement Officer.

Can you seize a defendant’s goods at third-party premises?

If you have good reason to believe that the defendant has stored goods at third party premises then you can instruct us in writing to attend a further address. However, if goods are not found at the address and the third party takes an action against the High Court Enforcement Officer for trespass, you may be liable to indemnify the High Court Enforcement Officer for defending legal action and for any award that the court makes in favour of the third party.

What happens if the defendant claims that he has sold or transferred ownership of the goods seized by a High Court Enforcement Officer?

If a defendant claims to have sold goods or to have transferred ownership of seized goods then the third party will need to stake a claim to the goods under the interpleader procedure. Paragraph 60 of Schedule 12 to the Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Act 2007 and the supporting regulations suggest that the onus is now on the third party claimant to start interpleader proceedings and that he should make a payment into court of an amount equal to the value of the goods if he does so.

How do High Court Enforcement Officers sell seized goods?

Generally speaking, goods must be sold at public auction. Some High Court Enforcement Officers will host their own auctions and some will use partner auctioneers. Sales may even take place on site at an enforcement address. If goods seized are of a ‘specialist’ nature and it would not be appropriate to sell them by public auction, a High Court Enforcement Officer can apply to the court to sell to a private buyer.

Can you find out if a defendant owns a property or a vehicle by searching against his/her name?

No. High Court Enforcement Officers will generally have access to Land Registry (property) and DVLA (vehicle) data. However, a High Court Enforcement Officer can only use these tools to verify information – there is no ‘reverse lookup’ facility.

Can High Court Enforcement Officers enforce Consumer Credit Act (CCA) regulated debts?

No. Judgments for sums of money that arise from a Consumer Credit Act regulated agreement cannot be enforced in the High Court.

Commercial Credit Team of the Year 2015

Burlington were winners for Credit Today awards 2015

Voted Enforcement Team of the Year

Burlington were voted Enforcement Team of the Year at the Debt collection Awards 2014

Defendant pays our fees

Upon successful enforcement of the judgment, the defendant pays our fees

Voted Enforcement Team of the Year 2014

Instruct Burlington Today

Let Burlington’s award-winning Enforcement Team help you recover outstanding debts. As Enforcement Agents and High Court Enforcement Officers, Burlington can assist with both general debt collection and judgment enforcement. So, whatever your enforcement requirements, let Burlington help you. To instruct Burlington to act for you simply complete an online instruction form.
Burlington Group - Civil Enforcement Association
Burlington Group - Civil Court Users Association
Burlington Group - Collector Accreditation Initiative
Burlington Group - Finance & Leasing Association
Burlington Group - Credit Services Association
Winner of Enforcement Team of the Year 2014