What are the powers of a High Court Enforcement Officer?
High Court Enforcement Officers (HCEOs) have greater powers than other court officers. This means they can execute any of the following:
- A High Court Judgment in England and Wales, this includes the most commonly applied for High Court Writ, as well as Writs of:
– Possession, Possession and Control, Restitution, Delivery and of Assistance
- A County Court Judgment (CCJ) for a value of £600 and above, which has been transferred up to the High Court for enforcement. Provided that the original claim was not regulated under the Consumer Credit Act 1974. This restriction however does not apply if the judgment debt is £25,000 or more.
- An Employment Tribunal or ACAS Award
- A High Court Possession Order or County Court Possession order transferred to the High Court for Enforcement
Powers a Writ of Control provides to a High Court Enforcement Officer
The High Court Writ of Control enables the named High Court Enforcement Officer (HCEO), to enforce the claim. Their company will contact and if required, an Enforcement Agent will visit the debtor to secure payment or agree a payment plan. The process authorises the Enforcement Agent to take control of their assets. In the absence of payment or an agreed payment plan being agreed or followed, the goods will be removed and sold by auction. Removal of goods for sale at auction is in practice a rare event. The assets can include vehicles, equipment, jewellery, stock and other goods to the value of the judgment debt plus, interest (calculated at 8% per annum), court fees and enforcement costs.
Rights of Entry & Control and Removal of Goods
Without invitation, the High Court writ of control authorises the High Court Enforcement Officer and their designated Enforcement Agent to access land and enter buildings. This is for the purposes of obtaining payment in full or if this and no payment plan can be agreed, the High Court Enforcement Officer/Enforcement Agent can seize (take control of) the debtors goods and assets. These can be removed and sold via public auction to meet the value of the debt owed. It should be noted that goods sold at auction are often significantly below the market rate. The Enforcement Agent will therefore take control of goods with this in mind. All the more reason for the debtor to pay in full or agree a payment plan.
Residential – Peaceful admittance
An Enforcement Agent cannot force an entry to a residential property* without first gaining peaceful admittance. Once inside, the Enforcement Agent can return and force entry later should it be required e.g the defendant has not adhered to the agreement terms from a previous visit.
* Also applies to a combined business and residential premises.
Business Premises – Forcible Entry
A company such as Court Enforcement Services will always give the business occupier reasonable time and opportunity to allow peaceable entry by the Enforcement Agent. If the commercial premises hasn’t any living accommodation attached, the High Court Enforcement Officer or Enforcement Agent can force entry if necessary. Usually prior notice of this action is given to the debtor.
Where forced entry does occur the High Court enforcement company will re-secure the premises to the same standard as was in place before.
What goods can High Court Enforcement Officers take?
High Court Enforcement Officers, as stipulated by the Tribunals Courts Enforcement regulation are only permitted to take goods that belong to the Defendant.
Enforcement Officers will not seize the following goods:
- that are essential for the basic domestic needs of the Defendant and their family e.g. clothing, bedding, furniture and other items of equipment
- Any goods that constitute ‘tools of the trade’ which are for the personal use of the Defendant in their trade or profession that have a maximum of up to £1,350), e.g. Tools, books, vehicles and other items of equipment
- Goods belonging to someone other than yourself, commonly called “the Third Party”.
- Items that are on hire purchase agreements or are leased or on rental agreements. E.g. Vehicles.
- Goods that have already been seized by any other High Court Enforcement Officer, Enforcement Agent or County Court Bailiff.
Did you know that High Court Enforcement Officers used to be known as High Court Sheriffs and Sheriff Officers? More