A High Court Enforcement Officer, also known as an HCEO, is an officer of the High Court in either England or Wales. Their role is to enforce the judgement of the High Court in a number of ways, by seizing goods, repossessing property belong to the debtor, being two of the most common. HCEO’s do not operate in Scotland or Northern Ireland.
A High Court Enforcement Officer may also become involved if there is a County Court Judgement or CCJ against you, you can transfer the county court judgement to the High Court for enforcement. All HCEO’s are often referred as a bailiff’s however this term is no longer used, and has been replaced with Enforcement Agent. The HCEO is appointed by the Ministry of Justice, whereas the Enforcement Agents are appointed by a County Court. HCEO services are not used for all situations and there a firm set rules about how they are engaged and what they can do.
In which situations high court enforcement officers can help?
The HCEO’s are called in to enforce different types of Writs from the High Court. There are a number of these that apply to different situations. However, there are also a number of situations where they do get involved with. For example, they will be involved if:
- There’s a CCJ and the matter has been requested to be transferred from the County Court to the High Court.
- You have a debt over £600
- You have a debt that is not regulated by the Consumer Credit Act such as utility arrears, business debt, rent arrears over a certain age or tribunal awards, unless the matter has been transferred to the High Court for Enforcement.
However, an HCEO will not get involved with things like:
- Credit card or overdraft debris (unless a court order has been made)
- Payday or personal load debts (unless a court order has been made)
What are the responsibilities of high court enforcement officers?
For an HCEO to get involved, there must be that High Court Order made. But what are these and what responsibilities do they involve? A few of the most common Writs include:
- Writ of Control (formerly a Writ of Fieri Facias) – recovery of money owed, allowing for the seizure and sale of debtor’s goods to clear
- Writ of Possession – recovery of the land after an Order of Possession is issued
- Writ of Assistance – works alongside a Writ of Possession
- Writ of Restitution – follows a Writ of Possession when the land is re-occupied, within a set period
- Writ of Delivery – recovery of specific assets
When can a Writ of Control be issued?
Lets’ look at the Writ of Control as an example of the Writs in action as it is one of the most commonly used versions.
A Writ of Control is not issued straight after a Court Judgement or Order is made to recover money and costs. Unless there are any stipulations on the order. One has to apply to transfer the matter from the County to the High Court. However, you do not need to give prior notice to the debtor that you are applying for the transfer.
There are a few situations where the process is not so straightforward, and this is why working with an expert in this area is better for the client. For example, if the Order allows payment within a specific time, the Writ of Control cannot be issued until this time has passed.
Another example is if the Order is conditional, then the Writ of Control can only be issued once the debtor has defaulted on those conditions.
How to instruct High Court Enforcement Officers?
Once the Court Order has been made, you can apply for a Writ of Control or another relevant Writ. You can then instruct your chosen High Court Enforcement Officer to become involved. Each company will have its own process, but it usually involves providing them with the relevant documents from the court, and the relevant court fee.
Once they have this, they can start the process for you. Normally, this will involve completing any paperwork and returning this to court. This usually takes a couple of weeks, depending on the courts then the High Court officer can issue a Notice of Enforcement that gives the debtor 7 days to pay.
A Certificated Enforcement Agent will then be engaged to take over the process and seek to recover the debt along with associated fees, on behalf of the High court Officer.
How can you help High Court Enforcement Officers to obtain a successful result to enforce a High Court Writ?
The most important way you can assist the HCEO to get a positive result is to provide as much accurate information as possible to them at the time of the instruction. This should include anything you know about where the debtor lives or is staying and also anything you know about any assets such as goods supplied.
Once the matter has been concluded you will get a report from the High Court Enforcement officer outlining what happened when they visit the property. If this is a commercial property, there may be a need to force entry to take control of goods, so it is ideal for them to know this ahead of time.
If the debtor lives in a modest home with a modest car and modest goods within it, then the HCEO will manage the clients’ expectations about the likelihood of recovering enough value of goods to clear the debt, it may be prudent to consider entering into a payment plan to ensure that you get your money.
Of course, if you do not have this information, it does not mean they cannot do their job. It may just make the process quicker or the expectations of the client more realistic if they have upfront information.
How do you transfer a County Court Judgement to the High Court for enforcement?
If you choose to issue a Writ, then there are set procedures that needs to be followed. send a copy of the Judgement to the HCEO who In turn will need you to complete a form called N293a.
The HCEO you want to will help you complete any paperwork that Is needed All of the paperwork is then sent to the District Registry of the High Court with the court fee for issuing. The original sealed writ is then handed or sent to your HCEO.
How to choose the right High Court Enforcement Officer?
The first step is to make sure that they have the relevant qualifications and are registered correctly with the courts. Then you should look for a company with a proven track history of taking on such cases and recovering goods for clients.
Also, you need to ensure the company has all the relevant insurance including Public and Employers Liability, Professional Indemnity and Accreditations such as ISO 9001, Safe Contractor or CHAS, although we must stress that safe Contractor or ISO 9001 are not essential for an HCEO, but is does ensure that the company cares about their clients and the processes they use.
How much does it cost to get service from Hight Court Enforcement Officers?
All Enforcement fees are set down in the Tribunal and Enforcement Act 2007 and the HCEO will discuss these with you before you commit to using their services. Apart from the Fee for the Notice of Enforcement & the first stage Enforcement, the fees are paid for by the debtor, which Is normally 7.5% of the debt. The HCEO will also attempt to recover all the fees for you.
Other fees may be needed such as a locksmith may be needed to fix locks after forcing entry to a property. Security staff may be needed to secure the site afterwards. All of these costs will be included in the cost of the service and will be discussed upfront prior to any work being carried out.
Can Hight Court Enforcement Officers force entry into a residential or commercial property?
The rules about residential and commercial properties are a little different.
An HCEO can only enter a debtor’s home if someone lets them in. If no-one is home, they can enter only if the door is already unlocked. They can force entry if no one is living in the property but they believe there are goods inside, however normally this will require a specific court order. Certain case will not require a Court order, such as HM Customs, Magistrates orders, these are just two examples.
Can High Court Enforcement Officers remove goods?
An HCEO can remove goods that belong to the debtor however, a third party who feels that their goods may have been seized, can claim that they own the goods in which case CPR 85.4 Making a claim to controlled goods is used to establish if they have a claim.
There are a few things an HCEO/Enforcement agent cannot take:
- Items that are categorised exempt goods including basics needs for the debtor and certain tools of their trade.
- Items that are rented, leased or have hire purchase agreements, subject to some conditions
- Items that have already been taken into control by another enforcement agent
Can High Court Enforcement Officers evict trespassers or squatters?
Under a Writ of Possession, an HCEO can evict people from a property or land and remove squatters. They may often have police officers with them in these situations to ensure there Is no breach of the peace or illegal activity, however, the police will only assist the Enforcement officer is a Criminal offence is committed, as the HCEO/Enforcement Agent will be dealing with the Civil Court Order.
What if High Court Enforcement Officers can not be success full to recover your money, goods, or property?
There are three main reasons that HCEO is unable to be successful in recovery money, goods or property. The first is that the debtor is not at the address, evidence will need to be supplied by the occupant to prove who they are and that the debtor has moved. All legal avenues will be carried out to locate a new address for the subject. The second is that their goods are not worth enough to cover the costs, it will not be cost-effective to remove and sale the goods. The third is that the defendant is insolvent, again proof of any insolvency will need to be shown.
Getting the right High Court Enforcement Officers
As you can see this is a complex area and there is no doubt that getting the right help, at the right time is the key part in successfully recovering your debt or property.
Able Investigations and Enforcements has become the go-to firm for all types of enforcement, including those related to the evictions of travellers and removal of protesters and activists.
With over 30 years’ experience in enforcing High Court Writs and Orders issued by the High Courts of Justice, we have developed a reputation for being the professionals, efficiently dealing with these matters, with minimal fuss, professional & diligent in all matters.
We often enforce Judgements, throughout the England & Wales, with the minimal of fuss, knowing that you can rely on the professionals. Therefore when you require a reliable HCEO/Enforcement Agent to assist with any type of enforcement matter or are unsure of the method required for recovering debts, evicting commercial tenants, squatters from your premises or on land, then don’t delay, you need to act speedily, and with Able Investigations & Enforcements, you can rest assured that speed Is of the essence. Then if in any doubt then ring on our 24/7 telephone number of 0845 370 7401.
We are so confident that we can assist you, we don’t use answer phones, you can normally contact us regardless of time. We aim to answer your call within four rings.Call Us Now For Reliable Hight Court Enforcement Services