When you have a debt that needs to be recovered, there are a number of people you can turn to for help. The best choice will depend on your situation and requirements.
High Court Enforcement Officer
High Court Enforcement Officers (HCEOs) are authorised by the Lord Chancellor to enforce High Court writs. If you have a High Court judgment or order it must be enforced by an HCEO.
If you have a County Court Judgment or Order, you can transfer it to the High Court for enforcement under a writ of execution for a court fee of £60. There are a number of different types of writ; for example, judgments for money are enforced under a writ of fieri facias (fi fa) and orders for possession under a writ of possession.
HCEOs have more powers than County Court Bailiffs (CCBs) – for example, HCEOs do not need to give notice of their intention to visit to enforce, as CCBs do; HCEOs can force entry to commercial premises; HCEOs work outside normal office hours. HCEOs are also paid on results, and so have a greater incentive to succeed than CCBs, who are salaried civil servants.
County Court Bailiff
CCBs are employed by the court and enforce County Court Judgments and orders, using a warrant of execution. They have to give due notice of action to the debtor before they can enforce.
Only a certificated bailiff can undertake the following:
- Recover commercial rent arrears under the ancient common law remedy of distress for rent
- Recover national non-domestic rates and council tax liability orders issued by a magistrate
- Enforce decriminalised parking penalty charges, including congestion charge and bus lane penalty charges, under the 1991 Road Traffic Act
A certificated bailiff is also frequently used to recover commercial property under common law via a forfeiture of lease.
The certificated part means that the bailiff has been granted a certificate by a Circuit Judge to levy distress. The general certificate lasts for two years and is only awarded where the judge deems the applicant fit and proper and knowledgeable of the law of distress.
A debt collection agency will primarily write letters, make phone calls and follow a process that is office based to recover debt. They may visit the debtor, but the Office of Fair Trading guidance states that they must give adequate notice. For example, if the debt collector arrives unannounced, they may not pressurise the debtor into the discussing the debt there and then. If the debtor wishes to arrange for them to return at a later time, the OFT says this must be agreed to (agencies should be licensed by the Office of Fair Trading).
Debt collectors have no powers of entry or seizure.