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 £66. There are a number of different types of writ; for example, judgments for money are enforced under a writ of control (previously called a writ of fieri facias or fi fa) and orders for possession under a writ of possession.

HCEOs have more powers than County Court Bailiffs (CCBs) – for example, HCEOs can force entry to commercial premises and 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.

Certificated enforcement agent

Only a certificated enforcement agent (formerly called a certificated bailiff) can undertake the following:

  • Recover commercial rent arrears under CRAR
  • 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 enforcement agent is also frequently used to recover commercial property under common law via a forfeiture of lease.

Debt collector

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 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, this must be agreed to. Debt collection agencies were previously licensed by the Office of Fair Trading, but this has now been taken over by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).

Debt collectors have no powers of entry or seizure. 

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