High Court Enforcement Officers
If you live in England or Wales and a creditor you owe money to holds a High Court Judgment or a County Court Judgment (CCJ) against you then in appropriate cases they can utilise the services of a High Court enforcement officer (HCEO) to collect the debt.
What is a High Court enforcement officer?
A High Court enforcement officer is a type of enforcement agent or bailiff who will visit your property to make arrangements to cover the debt.
The High Court is one of the two central civil courts that deal with non-criminal cases usually involving financial claims. The High Court handles cases involving larger financial claims and the County Court handles cases of smaller financial claims.
If a CCJ amount totals more than £5000 and a creditor wishes to reclaim the loss against the debtor’s goods then the case must be transferred to the High Court and the execution of the recovery will be managed by a HCEO.
Smaller sum cases above £600 can also be transferred from the County Court to the High Court in order to utilise the HCEOs greater powers over those of County Court bailiff. HCEOs are paid by their results so are generally highly motivated and considered more effective.
A HCEO works in a very similar way to the County Court bailiff. They have to provide 7 days notice of their first visit. When they visit your home (or business premises if you are self-employed) they will ask you to pay the debt in full. If you are not in a position to do this they will then make a list of the goods that they will seize and sell if you do not adhere to the payment plan. They will normally allow you to retain the goods as long as you are making payments towards the debt. If you don’t comply with the payment plan or fail to make the payments the HCEO will return to remove the controlled goods in order to sell them.
Reasons a creditor may choose to utilise a High Court enforcement officer
As well as the consensus that a HCEO is more driven to achieve results and is therefore more effective in retrieving a debt a creditor can add an additional 8% interest to the debt being recovered once it has been transferred to a HCEO for recuperation.
The fees charged by a HCEO are higher than a County Court bailiff. These additional costs will put the defendant under additional pressure to meet the terms and the plans set out by the debt recovery.
HCEOs are also considered much more difficult to stop once they have commenced action.
What are the powers of a High Court Enforcement Officer?
A HCEO holds specific authorization from the Ministry of Justice to enforce judgments known as High Court Writs.
- A HCEO can execute High Court Writs and Writs of Possession, Possession and Control, Restitution, Delivery and of Assistance.
- A HCEO can execute CCJs holding a value of £600 and above as long as the claim was not regulated under the Consumer Credit Act 1974. If the debt is over £25,000 this restriction does not apply.
- A HCEO can execute an Employment Tribunal or ACAS Award.
- A HCEO can execute High Court Possession orders or County Court Possession orders transferred to the High Court.
The Writ of Control administered by the High Court gives power to the HCEO to contact and visit the debtor to instigate methods of securing payment or to have the debtor agree to a payment plan.
The HCEO is authorised to take control of the debtor’s assets in order to have them removed and sold at auction to provide payment towards the debt where the debtor has failed to make payments or has not agreed to a suitable payment plan.
Can a High Court enforcement officer force entry?
A HCEO cannot force entry on their first visit. They cannot use force to push past you, use physical force to prevent you closing the door on them, nor can they climb through an open window or skylight.
If a HCEO has previously been granted entry to your home or property and already created a list of assets for the controlled goods agreement they are then entitled to use force to gain entry to your home if you have failed to make the payments according to your plan.
If you run your own business then the HCEO is entitled to use force to break into a business premises in order to seize assets or create the controlled goods agreement. It will be expected that the occupier will be given reasonable time and warning to allow peaceable entry to the HCEO. If a HCEO needs to use forced entry to carry out his operations then they must re-secure the property to the same standard prior to making the forced entry.
If the property contains both commercial and residential premises then the HSEO must treat the premises as a residential property and acquire peaceful entry before being permitted to use force to gain access to either area on subsequent visits.
What can a high court enforcement officer take?
Assets may include any vehicles, equipment, jewellery, stock or other goods owned by the defendant. They must only take belongings owned by the defendant and not any items owned by other occupiers living in the same property.
A HCEO cannot take any essential items required for a basic standard of living. This includes such things as bedding, furniture and clothing. The HCEO is also not entitled to take foodstuffs, plants or flowers.
A HCEO cannot take any tools the defendant requires to operate his business up to the value of £1,350. This includes tools, vehicles, books, computers and other items that are solely used for business operation.
A HCEO cannot take any goods or assets that are under a hire purchase agreement or that are leased or rented to the defendant. These are not classed as property owned by the defendant and therefore are not entitled to be sold at auction in order to be applied to repayment of the debt. This includes all leased