Enforcement of Judgment Solicitors
The Court does not automatically enforce Judgments – often enforcement can be the most frustrating part of litigation.
There are a variety of enforcement methods available as follows:-
- Warrants – enforcing against a debtor’s goods
- Charging order – placing a charge over the debtor’s home or business address
- Third Party Debt Order – obtaining monies owed to your debtor from a third party
- Order to Obtain Information – obtaining your debtor’s financial details under oath
- Attachment of earnings – debtor’s employer pays regular installments to you via the Court.
We will advise you on the most appropriate method for your particular debt. Please find further information below.
Execution against goods – Bailiffs/High Court Enforcement Officers (HCEO’s)
One option is to instruct either the High Court Enforcement Officer if your debt is for over £600, or the County Court Bailiff if less than £600.
The County Court Bailiff is a member of the Court Service and will endeavour to enforce the ‘warrant of execution’ against the debtor’s assets. The court fee to instruct the county court bailiff is now £100.
Once the Court paperwork has been processed, the HCEO will attend at the debtor’s premises and seize goods to the value of the debt PLUS outstanding court fees, costs and interest.
The HCEO is an agent who has a licence from the Court Service to act as an enforcement officer. The HCEO will endeavour to seize or impound the debtor’s goods to settle the debt, court fees and costs. The HCEO will also recover interest at the continuing rate of 8% until payment or the rate claimed under the Late Payment legislation.
Often the HCEO will carry out checks against vehicles to see if they are owned by the debtor and check whether there is any outstanding finance – if all clear the HCEO will seize the debtor’s car and take it to auction to be sold to pay off the debt.
There are some restrictions (set out in the Court Rules) as to which goods the HCEO cannot remove. These include ‘tools of trade’ and also certain essential household goods such as cooking equipment etc.
Any information you can pass on to the HCEO is crucial to assist in a successful recovery. Details such as telephone numbers, assets and alternative addresses are all vital.
In one case, we dealt with a client who had told us that the debtor had some heavy plant vehicles located on the side of a road in Norfolk! The client knew the vehicle registration details and so after carrying out checks the HCEO were able to attend at the road side and threaten to remove the vehicles. Needless to say payment was forthcoming.
A charging order is an order obtained through the Courts where a charge is placed upon the debtor’s property (house). Generally speaking, it is possible to obtain details of the registered proprietor of the debtor’s home address by making an application at the Land Registry. This search will reveal details of the registered proprietor and any other mortgages or charges. If the purchase has been undertaken in recent years, the purchase price of the property may also be shown.
The idea behind a charging order is that you place a charge on the debtor’s property as security for your debt, until such time as the property is sold or you commence new proceedings to seek an order for sale of the property. Once sold – and provided there is sufficient equity available after settling previous charges – then you will be paid out of the proceeds of sale.
However, as you will appreciate it is not possible to find out from the Land Registry the amounts due under the previous charges. There is therefore, a risk that there will be insufficient equity in the property after settling any prior charges.
There can also be difficulties if the property is jointly owned – e.g. by a husband and wife and your debt is only against the husband. In these circumstances, your charge can only attach to the debtor’s (e.g. husband’s) interest in the property.
In one particular instance we sought to place a charge upon a debtor’s property in such circumstances. We obtained a interim charging order and in accordance with the Court Rules, sent a copy to the debtor’s wife as she was an “interested party”. The debtor’s wife had been completely unaware of her husband’s business affairs and once she found out that her husband had an outstanding Judgment and that a charge was going to be placed upon her house, she was enraged but immediately arranged payment.
Third Party Debt Order
Formerly known as a garnishee order, this applies where a third party owes the debtor money and so you apply to the Court for the monies to be paid to you rather than to the debtor.
This usually applies to bank accounts. To be successful, you would need to know the debtor’s bank account. Once made, the Court freezes the debtor’s bank account until payment can be made to you.
This can be a very effective method of enforcement, particularly if you know the debtor has monies in his account. Timing is also very important as you need to hit the account when monies are available.
For example, on one occasion the debtor was a landlord and we knew that at least one of his tenants paid rent on the 24th day of the month and so with careful planning we were able to ‘hit’ the bank account at this time when maximum funds were in the account to ensure payment in full of our client’s Judgment.
Attachment of Earnings Order
If the debtor is employed, it is possible to make an application to the Court for the debtor’s employer to pay you via the Court Attachments of Earnings system. In practice, the employer sends a part of the debtor’s pay to the Court, who in turn pay you.
It is quicker to obtain an order if you know the debtor’s employer’s details. Attachment of earnings is an effective method of recovery but obviously only applies to working individuals.