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i England and Wales only

High Court enforcement officers. What can they do?

If someone you owe has a County Court judgment (CCJ) against you, in some cases they can use a High Court enforcement officer (HCEO) to collect the debt.

Not in England or Wales? See our pages on what creditors can do where you are:

The HCEO is a type of enforcement agent, also known as a bailiff. They will visit your property and can remove goods to sell at auction if you do not make an arrangement to pay what you owe.

When can a creditor use High Court enforcement officers?

A creditor can use HCEOs if:

  • You have a CCJ and you have not made the payments the court told you to make
  • Your debt is over £600
  • Your debt is not regulated by the Consumer Credit Act

Which types of debt can HCEOs collect?

HCEOs cannot enforce debts consumer debts like:

  • Credit cards
  • Overdrafts
  • Payday loans
  • Personal loans

But they can deal with non-regulated debts such as:

  • Utility arrears
  • Business debts
  • Tribunal awards
  • Old rent arrears

If you have had:

  • A visit from a HCEO, or
  • A letter saying they are going to come

Contact us for more advice straight away.

This is a sign that you need help dealing with your debts. A HCEO will act quickly and can be difficult to deal with on your own.

Why would a creditor use a HCEO?

There are many benefits to a creditor using HCEOs over County Court enforcement agents:

  • Once the debt has been passed to a HCEO, they can add 8% interest to it. So, if you owe £1,000, they add £80
  • HCEO fees are much higher. These are also added to the debt, which can put people under more pressure to pay the debt
  • HCEOs can be much harder to stop
  • HCEOs are employed by private companies. They are paid based on the amount they collect. Many creditors feel they are faster and more effective because of this

How does a High Court enforcement officer get involved?

  1. The creditor will apply for a writ of control
    • This tells the HCEO to visit your property and get a payment or take your goods
  2. You will get a notice of enforcement letter from the HCEO telling you they are going to call
  3. The HCEO will visit your home and usually ask you to pay the debt in full
    • If you cannot do this, they will look for goods which can be taken into control until the debt is paid
    • They may also visit your business premises if you are self-employed
  4. Taking control of goods involves the HCEO making a list of items that they will remove and sell if you do not pay the debt
  5. Usually they will let you keep the goods while you pay the debt off in instalments
    • If you miss any instalments they will come back and remove the goods to sell them
    • This is called a controlled goods agreement
    • Take a look at a Controlled goods agreement example letter. This PDF is not suitable for screenreaders
  6. Sometimes they will take goods straight away, especially if:
    • They can find a large item such as a car which can be sold to clear the debt immediately
    • If they think you might remove or sell the controlled goods before you have paid off the debt

They can also clamp your vehicle to stop you driving it away.

Worried about enforcement officers?

mum at the table with bills

Worried about being chased for unpaid debts?

Debt happens. We can deal with it together.

Get help now


Can High Court bailiffs force entry?

HCEOs will try to enter your home to look for goods. But, they cannot force their way in on the first visit.

This means they cannot:

  • Push past you
  • Put a foot in the door to stop you closing it
  • Climb through a window or skylight

If they have been in your home before and listed goods in a controlled goods agreement: They can use force to come in again if you do not pay them what you agreed to pay.

The rules are different at commercial premises. If you run your own business, the HCEO can use force to break into the business premises if you do not let them in. They need to have secured a warrant to do this.

Read more guides to court action by creditors.

What should I do if a High Court enforcement officer contacts me?

I can afford to pay the debt in full

If you can pay the debt in full before the HCEO visits the property, you should do this. This will keep the costs to a minimum.

I can afford to pay the debt in instalments

You should:

  • Send your offer of payment in writing to the HCEO
  • Send a copy to the creditor
  • Enclose a copy of your budget.
  • Start making payments at the rate you have offered. Even if the HCEO does not reply

If they say no your offer of payment, you should think about offering more. Especially if the HCEO has visited and taken control of your goods.

You could also apply for a stay of execution.

I do not know what I can afford to pay

If you need help putting together a budget and working out what to offer to the HCEO, view our making a budget page. Or get in touch, we make a budget with you when you come to us for debt advice.

What fees can High Court enforcement officers charge?

All enforcement agents add fees to your debt, but HCEOs have a different scale of fees. These fees are set in law.

If you have a debt of £1,000, after fees the debt will total at least £2,285.

Breakdown of High Court enforcement officers’ fees

They will add:

  • £75: For sending a ‘notice of enforcement’ letter
  • £190 plus 7.5% of the debt value over £1,000: For the first visit
  • £495: If you refuse to make an arrangement to pay. Or if you break a payment arrangement
  • £525 plus 7.5% of the debt value over £1,000: For returning to take your goods
  • Other costs for storage and auctions

Get debt advice if you think your HCEO fees have not been charged correctly.

Read more guides to dealing with bailiffs and enforcement agents.

How can I stop High Court enforcement officers?

If you cannot come to an arrangement to pay off the debt in instalments, you can apply to the court using the N244 court form to stop the HCEOs. This is called a ‘stay of execution’.

The court will not always agree to the stay of execution. Make sure you include all the details the court needs to understand your situation, including: