As a creditor, you want to get a grip on exactly how the High Court Enforcement process works. As a Debtor, it’s also good to understand the process and the part you’ll play in it. Here’s what you need to know.
When is High Court Judgement relevant?
The High Court is part of the Supreme Court, based at the Royal Courts of Justice in central London as well as within District Registries in larger towns. If your claim is regulated by the Consumer Credit Act 1974, the creditor has to make their claim in the County Court. The High Court is usually used for claims of more than £100,000 on debts not regulated by the Consumer Credit Act. But creditors have to justify why the case should be heard in the High Court, for example, because it’s for a very large sum, it’s in dispute, it’s complicated, or the result could impact the public.
High Court Enforcement for Creditors
As the creditor, you should first write to the debtor informing them that payment is overdue. Only then can you issue a legal claim. Once the judgement is made a High Court Enforcement Officer is a highly effective alternative to the County Court bailiff service, which has limited resources and sometimes suffers delays.
High Court Enforcement Officers are simply Enforcement Agents authorised to enforce the orders of the High Court. They’re employed by private companies.
High Court enforcement is good value. As a creditor, you could end up paying court fees of just £66 or so plus a small admin fee of around £75+VAT depending on the service you require from the HCEO company. And you can recover these fees from the defendant as long as your claim is successful.
How to kick off a High Court Enforcement
First, you need a CCJ of £600 or more, then you can get the judgment transferred to the High Court. It’s usually fairly straightforward and, as we mentioned, only costs £66 in court fees. Then you need to issue a Writ of Control which the company you are instructing will apply to the High Court for on your behalf, which doesn’t involve an actual court hearing and takes 14-16 days usually but can take longer. The enforcement agent then sends a Notice of Enforcement giving the debtor seven days to pay, clarifying the consequences of not paying and making it clear that fast payment will reduce the cost of collection.
If they don’t pay up, a High Court Enforcement Officer can visit the premises and remove assets to sell to pay the debt. Depending on the debtor it could be computers, vehicles, stock, or personal goods. Then they arrange transport of the seized goods, the cost of which is also charged back to you, the debtor when your case succeeds. Ultimately the assets are sold at public auction and you finally get the money you’re owed.
High Court Enforcement for Debtors
If you live in England or Wales and the organisation you owe money to have a County Court Judgment or CCJ against you, they might be able to use a High Court enforcement officer, an HCEO, to collect the debt.
Why would someone bring in a High Court enforcement officer?
HCEOs are often more popular than County Court enforcement agents because they often work longer hours and will return to the known addresses more often than a County Court enforcement agent.
How does it all start?
The bailiff company applies for a writ of control, then the HCEO Company sends out a notice of Enforcement letter. You have 7 clear days to respond and if you don’t, the case will be passed to the local agent to deal with.
Most of the time the debtor is allowed to keep their belongings and have an option to pay the debt in instalments. If an instalment is missed the HCEO will come back and remove goods to sell to cover the debt in something called a ‘controlled goods agreement’.
If the HCEO thinks you might remove or sell the controlled goods before the debt’s paid they’ll simply take a large item that’ll clear the debt instantly if sold, for example, a car.
Can an HCEO get into your house or business premises?
While an HCEO might try to enter your home to look for goods to sell, they aren’t allowed to force entry on their first visit. They can’t push past, put a foot in the doorway or climb in through a window. But if they’ve already been into your place to list belongings for a controlled goods agreement, they can legally force their way in when you fail to pay.
How to avoid trouble
The best move is to simply pay off the debt in full. It’s also the cheapest way. If you can’t pay in full, you can offer to pay in instalments, making the offer officially in writing to the HCEO and your creditor. Afterwards, always make the payments at the rate you’ve agreed.
Creditors: Let’s get your money back fast!
This is a simplified look at what happens when an HCEO is brought in, and there are plenty more rules and guidelines to take into account. If you’re a creditor who’d like help dealing with High Court Enforcement or want support retrieving the money you’re owed, we’ll be delighted to help.