Enforcement officers (EO) are legally authorised to collect debts on behalf of the county courts and other creditors. They are also entitled to take control of and remove and/or sell goods to repay debts.
You can find more details regarding which goods EOs can and can’t take control of here. However, enforcement officers can ONLY be used to collect debts for unpaid:
EOs may work for the courts directly, or be employed by civil enforcement agencies and they must undergo training and hold appropriate certification. If you receive a visit from an EO, and you are in any doubt about their credentials, you should be able to find them entered on the Ministry of Justice register of all certificated enforcement agents. You are entitled to ask to see their professional identification.
In the High Court, bailiffs are known as High Court enforcement officers (HCEO). Any judgment that concerns a debt of £5,000 or more will be automatically transferred to the High Court for enforcement (providing it is not regulated by the Consumer Credit Act 1974).
Any judgment that concerns a debt of £600 or less is always enforced by the county courts. However, a judgment that has been made in the county court can also be passed to the High Court for enforcement if it concerns an amount over £600. In such cases, it is up to the claimant which court is used.
HCEOs and County Court enforcement officers operate slightly differently, so we’ve outlined some of the main differences in the table below. Potentially, the main difference to you as a business owner or sole trader is likely to concern fees and success rates.
Essentially, HCEOs are not employed by the courts, unlike county court EOs. This means that HCEOs only get paid according to their success rates, which tends to make them more effective! It also means that they pass their costs to you directly, on top of the original judgment debt and the court fees. For example, if they have to visit you more than once, they will charge you accordingly. They are also entitled to charge interest, currently set at 8%.
County Court Enforcement Officers
High Court Enforcement Officers
It is often the case that the most practical step for business owners upon receipt of a notice of enforcement or a visit from an EO, is to make an initial agreement with the EO regarding the debt. If you can’t pay the debt in full, this may mean agreeing to make payments by installments, according to what you can reasonably manage. Coming to some agreement with the EO and dealing with the immediate problem in front of you is however likely to be your best way forward.
If your business is struggling with multiple debts and enforcement action is a symptom of a much larger problem, once you have dealt with this immediate concern, you can seek advice and a longer-term strategy for dealing with larger problem.
If you have debts and/ or tax arrears and you are concerned about your business’ overall financial health, it is worth getting advice. Have a look at these helpful topics:
Alternatively, if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact one of our business recovery experts directly.