High Court enforcement is one way of making sure a CCJ gets paid. If you have a CCJ in your name or are trying to recover payment using High Court Enforcement Officers (HCEO), then this guide is for you. 

We explain the High Court enforcement process and what an enforcement agent working for the High Court can do. 

Debts and the High Court

There are two civil courts that respond to cases of debt, i.e. the County Court and the High Court. 

The High Court is used for either: debts with a value of more than £600, debts that are not included in the Consumer Credit Act 1974, or when a creditor pays for it to be transferred up to the High Court.

With a CCJ already issued, the creditor can apply for a Writ of Control which allows a High Court Enforcement Agent to enforce the debt by requesting payment or seizing goods. An advantage of a creditor or company using the High Court for enforcement is that the debt is subject to 8% statutory interest, which is not always the case in the County Court. 

What is a High Court Writ?

A High Court Writ, formally known as a Writ of Control, is a document issued by the High Court to instruct a High Court Enforcement Officer (HCEO) to enforce debts, possibly by taking control of goods. It can only be issued after a County Court Judgment has been issued. 

It allows the enforcement agents to take goods from the debtors home and sell them. The sale of these assets is used to repay the debts – and to cover the costs of the agents. 

How long does a High Court Writ last?

A Writ of Control expires 12 months after it is issued. However, it is likely that you will receive a visit from bailiffs to enforce the debt in just a few weeks after the court judgment has been made and the Writ issued. The first visit is usually within a month. 

What is a high court enforcement officer?

A High Court Enforcement Officer is an enforcement officer who works for the High Court in England and Wales. Their main job is to give the debtor notice of their intended visit, offer to accept payment for the debt, and then enforce it with their powers to seize goods and property. Their work is regulated. 

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

You may be wondering what the difference is between bailiffs and a high court enforcement officer. 

A bailiff is a term typically reserved to describe County Court bailiffs. These agents follow a similar process to collect money or goods by carrying out visits to the debtor at home. They work for the County Court or for a business that wants to enforce a debt after getting a County Court Judgment (CCJ). 

On the other hand, High Court Enforcement Officers (HCEOs) work for the other civil court – the High Court. They are authorised to recover debts with powers handed to them by the Ministry of Justice after a CCJ has been issued. These agents tend to deal with higher value debts for the court and for businesses.

Recent developments show that lower value CCJ debts are being transferred to the High Court as well, including anything as low as £600. 

How much does it cost for high court enforcement officers?

If your debtor has been issued a CCJ by the County Court in England and Wales, you can transfer this to the High Court for a fee of £66. This will grant you the Writ of Control. 

However, the High Court Enforcement Officers can then add this fee to the debt they are collecting, meaning you get it back if the bailiffs get the debtor to pay in full, or if they take control of goods to an equal value of what is owed.

There are a series of fees the debtor must pay depending on how far the situation escalates. Upon receiving an initial letter, they must pay £75 + VAT. The amount increases substantially if the agents start enforcing the debt by coming to the debtor’s premises. 

What can high court enforcement officers do?

What can high court enforcement officers do?

A High Court Enforcement Agent will write to you to notify you of the immediate enforcement, giving you an option to either:

  1. Repay in full
  2. Repay as part of a payment plan secured against your valuables
  3. Expect enforcement agents to come to your property to seize goods

The letter you receive is a Notice of Enforcement, which gives you seven ‘clear’ days’ notice to agree to either a) or b) – or they will come to seize goods.

Unlike County Court agents, High Court Enforcement Officers can attend your property at unsociable hours. They may come as early as 6am or as late as 9pm. They can then authorised to take control of goods. They may need the assistance of other services, such as a vehicle to remove your vehicle, and you will be subject to these costs. 

Can a high court enforcement officer force entry?

High Court Enforcement Officers can’t force entry into your premises in most situations, especially on an initial visit. They can come inside open entranceways, but they cannot stop you from closing the door with a part of their body. Moreover, they cannot push you to get inside or climb through open windows. 

They can force entry if you have defaulted on a Controlled Goods Agreement and the items secured in the agreement are inside your premises. 

Can high court enforcement officers break-in?

High Court Enforcement Officers can’t break into your property unless you have defaulted on a Controlled Goods Agreement. Even when they are allowed to use reasonable force, they do not cause harm to your or “kick down the door”. 

There are different rules if the High Court Enforcement Officers are coming to business premises and commercial premises to recover company debts. 

How to stop high court enforcement officers?

On limited occasions, debtors can stop High Court Enforcement Officers by making contact with the court. You should complete Form N244 to get a ‘stay of execution’. You should also provide a complete budget as evidence. We have free budgeting tools you could use to make things easier!

You can use our free letter template to request a stay of execution in the high court which should stop an enforcement officer from visiting your home.

Are you dealing with high court enforcement officers?

Are you worrying about High Court Enforcement Officers? If so, you should seek advice and support from a charity or organisation like Citizens Advice. They will offer free support and explain complex parts of the law in simple terms.

If you have any type of money problem, don’t hesitate to contact them soon!

About the author

Scott Nelson

Scott Nelson is a financial services expert, with over 10 years’ experience in the industry, including 6 years in FCA regulated companies. Read more
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