What is high court enforcement?
When a creditor is owed money by you, then those creditors can make a claim against you through the High Courts. This is called High Court Enforcement.
If the amount owed is over £5000 then any claims made would be passed onto the High Courts for overseeing. Anything under £5000 will be handled by the County Courts.
However, there are instances when a County Court claim that is worth a minimum of £600 can be passed onto the High Courts.
When a creditor's claim to the High Courts is approved to move forward, a High Court Enforcement Officer will be appointed to handle the case.
The Role of a High Court Enforcement Officer
A High Court Enforcement Officer differs from a County Court Bailiff. This is in the sense that CCB’s will only work on cases that are £5000 and under. Whereas HCEO’s can work on any case that is over £600.
County Court Bailiffs do not receive incentives for the work they do, they are paid a standard salary. This means that regardless of how successful they are at getting back unpaid debts. They will still get paid all the same.
Whereas High Court Enforcement Officers work on the basis that they get their fees after they are successful. Therefore they have higher success rates as they want to ensure they retrieve the unpaid debts. If they are unsuccessful they will receive a compliance fee (£75 plus VAT) from the creditors and that is it. There will be no other form of income for them.
HCEO’s also have greater powers when it comes to collecting unpaid debts.
These reasons make many claimants consider appointing a High Court Enforcement Officer instead of a County Court Bailiff. As there is a higher success rate.
Another reason as to why a creditor may choose to use a HCEO is because the creditor can also add up to 8% interest on top of the debt that is owed.
If you have been issued with a High Court Enforcement Order then it is important to understand the process. So you know what to do when a HCEO inevitably shows up at your premises. If you can pay the debts off straight away you may not have to handle an officer knocking at the door.
Writ of Control:
The first step that a creditor will take will be to get a Writ of Control. In order for a HCEO to take action they will need some form of Writ of Execution. The most common of these will be a Writ of Control.
This writ is to allow for the recovery of money that is owed. This will be seizing assets to sell on, this is usually done at auction.
There are other writs that can be applied for too. Such as:
Assistance - This is for assistance in the enforcement of a Writ of Possession.
Possession - For the recovery of land or property.
Possession and Control - For the recovery of land and money.
Restitution - This will follow the recovery of land.
Writ of Delivery - For the recovery of specific assets.
Notice of Enforcement Letter:
When the order for High Court Enforcement is passed through the courts, you can expect to receive a notice of enforcement. This will be to notify you that a HECO will be paying you a visit soon to retrieve the money you owe in debt. This notification will need to be at least seven days before the initial visit.
When a HCEO initially visits your home they will usually ask for the debt you owe to be paid in full. If this cannot be done then they will be authorised to start looking around the premises for goods that can be seized.
On the first visit, they will not be allowed to enter your property without your permission. However, if you allow them to come into your property, they will not need permission on the second visit.
When a HCEO is seizing goods they will first make a list of items suitable for removal, these goods will then be sold at auctions, at a later date. This is to generate the cost of the debts owed.
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What Can A High Court Enforcement Officer Take?
The goods seized, will only be owned by the individual that owes debts and cannot be items that inhibit living standards e.g beds, fridges, clothes etc.
Usually, the items that are listed are items like TV’s, cars, laptops etc. Anything that is not owned by the person who owes the debt, will need to be proven not theirs through proof of purchase.
Assets such as vehicles can often be seized straight away. They are usually the most expensive item an individual will own after a house. If a HCEO wishes to remove a vehicle from a property they will clamp it to stop anyone from driving it off.
This initial stage can still be stopped by setting up a payment plan to pay off debts. Most HCEO’s will allow grace to pay back debts in instalments. This is called a controlled goods agreement. However, if payments are not made an officer will return and remove goods to sell.
Rules for High Court Enforcement Officers
When you are issued with a High Court Enforcement order it is still vital that you understand your own rights. Also the regulations HCEO’s have to comply with. These are:
High Court Enforcement Officer Regulations 2004 and the High Court Enforcement Officers Association’s Code of Practice and Professional Conduct.
As the owners of the home, on the first visit, you do not have to answer your door or allow High Court Enforcement Officers into your property. Also, they will not be able to enter your home if the following applies:
However, they will be allowed to enter your property to collect any unpaid criminal fines, income tax or stamp duty. This will only be as a last resort though.
If you decide to not cooperate with a HCEO, then they will start to seize goods that are outside the property such as vehicles. Also, a lack of cooperation could result in fees being added to your bill.
Check for Identification
When a High Court Enforcement Officer or Bailiff of any type comes to your property. You need to check the identity of the individual. This can be done via them showing ID through the window or posting it through the letterbox.
Always remember to ask to see the following:
If they cannot provide any of the above then they could be committing fraud and therefore cannot be trusted.
There is also a register you can check to further confirm the identity of the HCEO. If you are still unsure, you can contact the county court business centre. Alternatively, you can call the court that sent them.
Action to take
Our advice would be to contact a licensed insolvency practitioner such as Anderson Brookes. You still have options available to avoid having to pay. At Anderson Brookes we would help you set up formal payment plans (voluntary arrangements) in the event you can't pay the debts in full.
Do not leave it until you have officers knocking at your door. If this does happen, remember your rights and make a note of what a HCEO can do. That way if there is any suspicious activity you can contact someone straight away.
If you need more information on High Court Enforcement or you are dealing with a similar situation already then please get in touch. We are a qualified team of advisers that can help you find the best solution.