Featured in...

High Court Bailiffs – Know Your Rights

Whether you’re worried about High Court Bailiffs or already have them at your door, you need to know your rights. 

I provide clear information to help you deal with High Court bailiffs before it’s too late. Protect yourself today by reading this new MoneyNerd guide.

Have you been told that High Court Bailiffs are coming? Do you have a debt you need to pay? If so, this is the right place to find help. Each month, over 4,600 people use our site to learn how to deal with courts and money owed.

In this guide, we’ll share:

  • Who High Court Bailiffs are and what they do.
  • Steps to take if a High Court Bailiff contacts you.
  • The jobs of these bailiffs.
  • Ways to reduce the money you owe.
  • What to do if a High Court Bailiff visits you.

We know that this is a hard time. Our team understands because some of us have had money troubles and been to court too. We know how you feel, and we want to help. We’ll give you clear information to help you deal with High Court Bailiffs. Let’s dive in and learn how to protect yourself today.

What is the High Court?

The High Court is one of the senior courts in England and Wales, along with the Crown Court and Court of Appeal. The High Court is different from the County Court. 

If you want information on the County Court instead, we recommend clicking back to our main court information page

Don’t worry, here’s what to do!

There are several debt solutions in the UK, choosing the right one for you could write off some of your unaffordable debt, but the wrong one may be expensive and drawn out. 

Fill out the 5 step form to find out more.

What is a High Court Enforcement Agent?

A High Court Enforcement Officer (HCEO), also known as a High Court bailiff or High Court Enforcement Agent, is someone who is authorised to execute judgments made by the High Court.

Most of their work surrounds enforcing High Court orders for people to pay a debt or leave a property. If they’re recovering a debt and the debtor refuses to pay, they can seize some for the debtor’s belongings and assets to be sold and pay back the debt. 

What’s the difference between a High Court Enforcement Officer and a bailiff?

A High Court Enforcement Officer (HCEO) can enforce judgments made by the High Court, whereas a County Court bailiff can only enforce judgments made by the County Court. 

What powers does a High Court bailiff have?

A High Court bailiff is a certificated enforcement agent who can enforce judgments made by the High Court, such as a High Court Writ or a High Court Possession Order. However, they can also enforce County Court Judgments (CCJs). 

The way they enforce these judgments will be determined by the court order itself, but bailiffs also must follow the law. They must abide by strict rules on the methods used to enforce a judgement. 

We have discussed this topic in detail in our High Court Bailiff Powers guide

How does a High Court enforcement bailiff get involved?

A High Court Enforcement Officer (HCEO) will only get involved if a court order has been made, but the order hasn’t been followed. As their name suggests, they’re used to enforce an order when it hasn’t been followed. 

On many occasions, a company will apply to the County Court to make someone pay back a debt. If they are successful but the debtor doesn’t pay, the claimant might be able to transfer the matter to the High Court.

Transferring the matter to the High Court allows the claimant to enforce the debt recovery with High Court Enforcement Agents. 

The same can sometimes be done with Possession Orders to take back a property from tenants in arrears, resulting in a High Court bailiff eviction. 

The Consumer Credit Act and other criteria

Debt enforcement can only be transferred from the County Court to the High Court when:

  1. The debtor hasn’t abided by the repayment terms of their County Court Judgment
  2. The total debt is worth £600 or more
  3. The debt isn’t protected by the Consumer Credit Act

The last point is important. Many unpaid debts are covered by the Consumer Credit Act, such as personal loans, payday loans and credit cards. This means High Court Enforcement Officers can never be used to collect unpaid loans and credit cards. 

But they can be used to collect other debts and arrears, such as utility debts or unpaid invoices. 

Why would a creditor use High Court Enforcement Officers?

A claimant might transfer the matter to the High Court because High Court Enforcement Officers might be able to execute the judgment faster. 

Another reason is that the claimant will be allowed to add interest to the amount owed.

Using High Court Enforcement Officers can be especially beneficial if a landlord wants to evict tenants who haven’t been paying rent. The quicker they can evict them the faster they can rent the property to new tenants, and it may stop the tenants from causing damage to the property. 

What can High Court Enforcement Bailiffs do to enforce judgement?

High Court Enforcement Officers can request that you pay and even visit your property to make this request. If you refuse to pay, they can take possession of your goods and assets, which would then be sold to pay off the debt.  

However, they must give you at least seven days’ notice before visiting. They give notice by sending you a Notice of Enforcement Letter. 

Can High Court Bailiffs enter my premises?

Yes, High Court Enforcement Officers can make peaceful entry into your home or business premises to try and seize goods. 

But there are strict rules and an enforcement process they must follow, such as the days and times they can visit. They can work weekends but are less likely to visit on bank holidays or days of cultural importance. 

Can High Court bailiffs break into your house?

High Court bailiffs cannot force entry into your home on the first visit. They can only enter open or unlocked doors. They cannot climb through windows. Enforcement agents should never put their foot in the door or push past you to gain entry either. 

There is only one occasion when a bailiff can force entry into a domestic property, which we’ll return to later in the post. 

Can bailiffs force entry with a High Court writ?

No, High Court Enforcement Officers need a High Court order to try and recover the debt, but this doesn’t give them any extra powers, such as the ability to force entry

An exception is when they’re recovering debt from a company at a business premises and the Writ allows them to use force to enter. 

What goods can a High Court Enforcement Officer seize?

High Court Enforcement Officers can only take goods owned by the debtor, but they cannot take items that are required for basic domestic needs, such as some kitchen appliances and some types of furniture. 

They’re most likely to go after electronics and vehicles not subject to Hire Purchase Agreements or similar. Get the specifics to this question by reading our quick High Court Bailiff Repossession guide

Can High Court Bailiffs take goods belonging to someone else?

No High Court Enforcement Officers can only seize possessions owned by the debtor. However, the onus of proof is on the debtor to prove an asset isn’t theirs. 

Can High Court Bailiffs take goods on hire purchase or conditional sale?

No, a High Court Enforcement Officer can only seize a vehicle that they own outright themselves

A vehicle on a Hire Purchase (HP) Agreement or Conditional Sale isn’t owned by the debtor and therefore cannot be seized. 

What is a Controlled Goods Agreement?

A Controlled Goods Agreement is a repayment plan that you might be able to agree with the High Court Enforcement Agents. 

This repayment agreement secures specific assets in the agreement, so if you miss a payment the bailiffs can come back to seize certain assets.

The key difference is that the High Court bailiffs can return and seize the goods listed in the Controlled Goods Agreement by forcing entry into your home. They may use a locksmith to enter and you’ll have to cover this cost.

What if I don’t sign the Controlled Goods Agreement?

You don’t have to sign a Controlled Goods Agreement. It’s a good idea to not agree to one of these agreements if you know you cannot keep up with repayments, as stated by Citizens Advice. 

But if you don’t agree to a Controlled Goods Agreement, the High Court Bailiffs will still have the right to seize your goods and sell them to clear the debt. 

What fees can High Court Enforcement Officers charge?

Bailiff fees are set in stone by the law, but HCEOs can charge higher fees than other types of bailiffs. 

This is another reason why claimants often transfer a County Court Judgment to the High Court. It’s believed that the higher fees will make debtors act more quickly and be more willing to repay. 

A breakdown of High Court bailiff fees is provided here:

Event HCEO fee
Notice of Enforcement Letter £75
HCEO first visit  £190 + 7.5% interest on debts above £1,000
Refusing a payment agreement or defaulting on the agreement £495
HCEO second visit to remove goods £525 + 7.5% interest on debts above £1,000
Possession storage fees and auction costs Various

What should I do if a High Court Enforcement Bailiff contacts me?

How you should respond when contacted by HCEOs depends on your capabilities to repay. If you can repay the debt in full, you should do this as soon as possible to stop you from paying more fees. 

But if you cannot afford to repay, you should make a payment plan and include your budget to show you’re trying your very best to pay the debt. If you’re struggling to work out your budget and make an offer, speak to a debt charity immediately. 

How can I stop High Court Enforcement Bailiffs?

You might be able to stop High Court bailiffs by asking for a stay of execution, which is done by completing Form N244

A stay of execution isn’t easy to get. You must meet the stay of execution criteria. This option is best discussed with a debt charity that can assess your eligibility for the stay of execution and even help you fill out the form.