Enforcement methods

Once a County Court Judgment (CCJ) has been entered against a debtor it is then possible to ‘enforce’ that Judgment immediately. There are many different Enforcement of debt collection methods that can be used depending on the circumstances of the individual case. To give you the best chance of collecting your debt, our Paralegals will always advise on the most appropriate method of Enforcement based on their experience and expertise with similar cases.

A woman holding a red umbrella.

What are my Enforcement options?

    • The High Court Enforcement Officer (known as the HCEO) is the preferred method of enforcement for the majority of County Court Judgments (CCJs). The HCEO is an employee of a private company licensed by the High Court to enforce debts with a value of over £600 (unless the debt is regulated by the Consumer Credit Act and under £25,000).

      The HCEO will attend the address you have for the debtor. Unlike the County Court Bailiff, the HCEO is paid on results and therefore has an incentive to collect the debt. The HCEO will seek to collect their costs from the debtor.

      The HCEO also has additional powers over and above a bailiff – for example they are allowed to force entry to commercial premises if they have reasonable grounds to believe that goods belonging to the debtor will be found at that location.

    • Unlike the High Court Enforcement Officer, a County Court Bailiff can enforce debts under £600 or debts under that are regulated by the Consumer Credit Act and under £25,000. However, the Bailiffs are employed by the Court and not necessarily incentivised to collect the debt. They will often only make visits during office hours whereas a High Court Enforcement Officer is more flexible.

    • A Third Party, formerly known as a Garnishee Order, is a method of legally enforcing a County Court Judgment (CCJ) by obtaining payment from a third party that owes money to your debtor. This approach is often used by creditors who know the debtor’s bank account details or they are aware of a large contract the debtor may have.

      The major benefit of using a Third Party Debt Order to enforce your debt is that you retain an element of surprise. The debtor will not know when you make the application and they will not be notified until after you have served the third party with the Court Order. By the time the debtor is made aware of your application and Court Order, their bank account or funds held by a third party have already been frozen either in full or part.

      Timing is crucial with Third Party Debt Orders as funds are frozen on the day of receipt of the Order by the Third Party, therefore if there are no funds available on that day, the application for the Third Party Debt Order will fail.

    • If your debtor is an individual who is employed and you have the name and address of his/her employer, an Attachment of Earnings Order can be made which results in a proportion of the debtor’s salary being deducted by their employer each month or week to satisfy the Judgment debt. An Attachment of Earnings Order cannot be made against a debtor who is self-employed, unemployed or against a pension income.

    • A Judgment Order can be secured against any property your debtor owns, whether as a sole or joint owner, by way of a Charging Order which is then registered with the Land Registry. If the debtor jointly owns the property, the charge will then be on their share of the property and not on the property itself. This is much less secure and is often known as a restriction.

      Unfortunately, a Charging Order or restriction does not guarantee swift settlement of your debt and payment is usually only received if your debtor re-mortgages or the property is sold. You may therefore not receive payment for a number of years; if at all.

    • An Information Order is a Court Order that requires the debtor to attend Court for questioning. It does not require the debtor to make payment, however it may be used to enable you to make a more informed decision on which enforcement method to use

      The Order to attend gives the debtor a date and time they must attend Court to answer formal questions on their income and expenditure. If the debtor fails to attend, they can be held in contempt of Court and committed to prison for a short period. It is therefore a requirement that the Information Order is personally served on the debtor

      At the appointment, the debtor is also given the opportunity to offer payment proposals. If these are accepted, the Court will create a Variation Order which can be enforced in the same way as a Judgment Order should the debtor fail to keep to the arrangement.

    • A Winding Up petition can be issued against a Company if your County Court Judgment (CCJ) is more than £750.

      The Winding Up Petition is drafted and sent to the Court. The Court will then seal the petition and give a date for a Court hearing. The petition is then served upon the company. The petition can be advertised in the London Gazette 7 days after service and this will freeze the debtor’s bank account therefore, there is an incentive to make payment as quickly as possible.

      Once the petition has been advertised, other creditors may wish to support the petition. Care is needed in any withdrawal after advertisement, as the Court will require an explanation.

    • In order to start insolvency proceedings against an individual, the Judgment debt must be worth more than £5,000.

      The first step in the process is to issue a Statutory Demand. This sets out the basis of the debt and gives the debtor 21 days from service to pay. It must be served personally on the individual, and service proven.

      If the debt is not paid (and no application is made by the debtor to set it aside) then the next step is to issue a bankruptcy petition to the Court. The Court will give a date for a hearing and the bankruptcy and the petition should also be served personally, and proof of service must be produced to the Court.

      All formalities must be strictly complied with to be successful in obtaining an Order at the hearing of the Petition.