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Enforcement in detail

County Court Bailiffs and High Court Enforcement Officers

County Court Bailiffs are employees of Her Majesty’s Courts & Tribunals Service and are responsible for enforcing orders of County Courts by recovering monies owed under county court judgments up to a maximum of £600.

If the debt due is not paid they have the authority to seize and sell goods to recover the amount of the debt owed. They can also serve court documents to collect and supervise the possession of property and the return of goods under hire purchase agreements.

High Court Enforcement Officers (HCEOs) are authorised by the Lord Chancellor and work privately or for private companies.

HCEOs work under the authority of a Writ of Control. This is issued when a county court judgment, order or tribunal award is transferred to the High Court for enforcement.

If successful, the HCEO will collect the judgment debt, costs incurred, your transfer up fee, interest at a current rate of 8% and their fees, costs and charges from the judgment debtor. They can also seize and sell goods to recover the amount of the debt.

HCEOs earn their fees from the judgment debtor, but only when they collect amounts due. If the HCEO is unable to collect, there is an industry regulated compliance fee of £75 plus VAT paid by the creditor.  Other than the compliance fee, the HCEO receives no income for an unsuccessful enforcement.

Attachment of earnings orders

An attachment of earnings order is the most common way by which debt can be recovered. In this situation, a proportion of the debtor’s salary or other earnings is deducted to recover a debt owed.  Once approved it is the employer’s responsibility to deduct the funds and pay the court.

Under British law, a self-employed person or member of the armed forces cannot have an attachment against them.

Charging orders

A charging order is an order obtained from a court or judge, by which the property of the judgment debtor in any stocks, funds or land is charged with the payment of the amount of the judgment, with interest and costs.

For example, should the order apply to a debtor’s property, the debt remains unpaid until the property is sold or the owner re-mortgages it. The charge is removed by the payment of the debt from the proceeds.

Third party debt orders

A third party debt order is an order of the court that freezes money held by an organisation or institution, such as a bank or building society, which might otherwise be paid to the debtor against whom a judgment has been made.  The organisation that is holding the money is referred to as the ‘third party’.  A third party debt order will prevent the judgment debtor having access to the money until the court makes a decision about whether or not the money should be paid to you.  The account would need to be held in the name of the judgment debtor for an order to be granted.