My clients are often confused about the legal process and believe that once you have the County Court Judgment in your hand ordering the Defendant to cough up and pay that the job is done!
If only it were that easy! If you have embarked upon the issue of a County Court claim and the Defendant has ignored it you can obtain a default Judgment. This is a Judgment where the Defendant has failed to acknowledge the claim or file Defence has not been filed. Chances are if the Defendant hasn’t reacted to the claim he/she/it isn’t going to react to the Judgment either.
The onus is upon you, the Claimant, to enforce the Judgment – there are a number of avenues to choose from, it will depend upon the type of Defendant – is it a company or an individual, it will also depend upon the amount owed.
My personal favourites are High Court Enforcement officers as opposed to the County Court Bailiffs.
Who can best enforce your judgement?
If you have a debt of between £600 and £5,000 you have a choice for enforcement between either the County Court Bailiff or the High Court Enforcement Officer (HCEO).
Debts below £600 can only be enforced by County Court Bailiffs. Judgments for debts of £5,000 and over can only be enforced by an HCEO.
In April 2004, the law was changed to allow debts between £600 and £5,000 to be transferred up to the High Court for enforcement, a change which has given creditors a great deal more choice with enforcement.
High Court Enforcement Officers (HCEO)
HCEOs are authorised by the Lord Chancellor and work privately or in private companies.
HCEOs work under the authority of a Writ of Fieri Facias (Fi Fa). This is issued when a County Court Judgment, Order or Tribunal Award is transferred to the High Court for enforcement via Form N293A and a court fee of £50.00. The transfer process normally takes between 5 and 21 days.
If successful, the HCEO will collect your judgment debt, your court costs, your £50 transfer up fee, interest at 8% and their fees, costs and charges from the Defendant.
HCEOs earn their fees from the judgment debtor, but only when they collect. If the HCEO is unable to collect, there is an industry regulated abortive fee of £60 plus VAT paid by the creditor for each address visited. Other than the abortive fee, the HCEO receives no income for an unsuccessful enforcement.
As a result, HCEOs tend to have significantly higher collection rates than those of the County Court Bailiffs, who are salaried without any financial incentive to collect and normally pretty understaffed.
Unlike the County Court Bailiff, the HCEO does not have to give the judgment debtor any advance notice of their intention to collect, giving them the advantage of surprise. HCEOs are also permitted to force entry into commercial premises to enforce, a power not permitted to County Court Bailiffs.
County Court Bailiffs
CCBs are salaried civil servants employed directly by the court service. They can enforce on judgments up to £5000. They work under the authority if a Warrant of Execution which can be requested from the County Court for a fee of £100.
Before they attempt to collect, the County Court Bailiff must write to the defendant advising them of their visit.
County Court Bailiffs will collect your judgement debt, your court costs, your warrant cost and interest (if prescribed) from the defendant. If unsuccessful, there is no abortive fee.
There are a few to choose from
• Attachment of Earnings – Defendant must be employed rather than self employed (different rules if debtor in armed services)
• Charging Orders followed by an application for an Order for Sale – a tough nut to crack when it comes to trying to get an Order for Sale – a pretty draconian measure
• Third party debt order
• Order to obtain information – this is an order that brings the Defendant into the Court for questioning about assets etc., and will help you make a decision about what to do next.
So, High Court Officer or Bailiffs!
• HCEOs normally have far higher collection rates due to the financial incentive of fees only being paid on success
• Only HCEOs have the element of surprise, as they do not need to give a letter warning of an intended visit
• Only HCEOs can force entry to commercial premises and buildings detached from residential living quarters
• Only County Court Bailiffs can enforce on judgments below £600 (at present)
• The process of gaining a Warrant of Execution (CCB) is normally a little faster than that of transferring up and gaining a Writ of Execution /Fi Fa (HCEO)
• A Warrant of Execution (CCB) costs £100
• A Writ of Execution/Fi Fa (HCEO) costs £50
• There is a £60 plus VAT abortive fee if enforcement is unsuccessful (HCEO)
• The judgment debt, interest, court fees and enforcement costs are collected from the debtor through either route
If you have a CCJ that you would like help enforcing, do please give us a call – 01202 432022.
Disclaimer: The statements and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Sheriffs High Court Enforcement Ltd, trading as The Sheriffs Office. Sheriffs High Court Enforcement Ltd does not take any responsibility for the views of the author. The author will not be held responsible for any comments posted by visitors to this site. Please note that this article does not constitute legal advice. The author has used her best endeavours to make this article as accurate and complete as possible, but requests that the reader be aware that the law of England and Wales frequently changes. The author strongly advises the reader to take legal advice before embarking on any enforcement action.