The biggest concern is often, how much does High Court Enforcement cost? Afterall, the reason you need to consider enforcement as an option is because you are already out of pocket. (Read ‘What is High Court enforcement?’)
Depending on what side of the judgment you’re on, different fees will apply. Either way the fees charged by High Court Enforcement Officers (HCEOs) are regulated by The Taking Control of Goods (Fees) Regulations 2014 (2014 Regulations). These follow on from the way HCEOs operate under the Taking Control of Goods Regulations 2013 (2013 Regulations).
Since 2014 the fees charged by HCEOs are set out in the 4 stages of enforcement which are:
- First Stage Enforcement
- Second Stage Enforcement
- Sale or Disposal Stage
So, who pays what?
For creditors, or judgment creditors, as they are officially known under a Writ of Control, the fees charged are limited to the Compliance Stage fee of £75.00 plus VAT for each Notice of Enforcement which is sent to the judgment debtor. If there is only one address where the judgment debtor is believed to have goods then it will just be one Compliance Stage fee. If the HCEO or the judgment creditor finds more than one address, then a Notice of Enforcement will have to be served at each address. This in turn will attract a Compliance Stage fee for each address. So this means its important to do the groundwork in finding the best address for enforcement as early as possible in the collection process. In addition to the Compliance Stage fee. the judgment creditor will have to pay the £66.00 court fee to issue the Writ of Control unless they can prove a fee exemption (see https://www.gov.uk/court-fees-what-they-are).
The bottom line is that a judgment creditor can expect to invest £156.00 for any judgment they send to an HCEO for enforcement. This sum will be recouped from the debtor if the debtor either pays the judgment in full or makes an arrangement to pay over an agreed period.
Judgments transferred to an HCEO attract interest at 8% from the date of transfer to the High Court if under £5000, or from the date of the judgment itself if over £5000. On larger value judgments this interest figure can be valuable and can help to offset the cost and inconvenience of enforcement action.
- Compliance Stage
This fee will be added to the judgment debt, along with costs, interest and the costs of execution when a judgment is sent to an HCEO for enforcement. This fee, as mentioned already, is £75 plus VAT, making a total of £90. When we receive an instruction to enforce a money judgment we add this fee on to our case management system, and depending on the outcome of the enforcement action, either the debtor will pay the fee, or it will fall on the creditor if we are not able to recover the judgment debt.
2. First Stage Enforcement | Stage 1
- This fee is added to the judgment debt when the HCEO’s enforcement agent attends at the address on the Writ of Control. The fee comprises both a fixed fee and a commission fee as follows:
- Fixed fee of £190 plus VAT – making a total of £228
- Commission Fee of 7.5% plus VAT of the sum to be recovered under the Writ of Control – over the sum of £1,000
If a judgment debt pays the enforcement agent in full at the time of the first visit, or sets up an agreed payment arrangement, then only the Compliance Fee plus this fee will be added to the judgment debt, along with costs, and interest. The HCEO’s office calculates the full amount and negotiates the payment arrangements with the judgment debtor.
3. Second Stage Enforcement | Stage 2
This fee becomes payable when the judgment debtor either:
- Refuses to make a payment at the time of the enforcement agent’s visit; or
- Refuses to set up a payment plan with a signed agreement in place – which is referred to as “a controlled goods agreement”
The amount of this additional fee is set at £495 plus VAT – making a total of £594
4. Sale or Disposal Stage
Ultimately if the enforcement agent and the HCEO can’t achieve payment in full, or an agreed payment arrangement, the HCEO will escalate the enforcement of the Writ of Control to the Sale or Disposal Stage. There are many factors which can decide if this fee is going to be charged – not least the value of the goods taken into legal control and their forced auction sale value. You shouldn’t be surprised if a decision is made only to remove goods if an indemnity is given by the creditor to cover the cost of removal of the goods. Particularly with cars – it can be expensive to remove a car which has a low second-hand value.
So it comes down to a question of economics. Sometimes the only leverage the HCEO and creditor have is to escalate the Writ to this stage to underline to the debtor the seriousness of the situation.
If that happens, or the natural course of the Writ is to go to this stage, then the following fees are added to the judgment debt:
- A further fixed fee of £525 plus VAT – making a total of £630
- A further commission fee of 7.5% plus VAT of the sum to be recovered – again where the amount of that sum is over £1,000
By this stage the total commission payable by the judgment debtor is 15% of the judgment debt, plus VAT and the fixed fees for Compliance, Stage 1, Stage 2, and Sale and Disposal Stage.
When dealing with Writs of Control involving high value assets such as aircraft or valuable works of art, an HCEO can apply to the Court for the specialist costs of removal, maintenance, insurance, and storage to be added to the judgment debt. If this becomes necessary our expert team will discuss the matter with you directly.
Other More Routine Disbursements
The HCEO is permitted to add the cost of storage, auctioneers fees and locksmiths to the final charges made under the Writ of Control without the need to apply to the Court.
In a Nutshell
If you are a creditor, your investment in transferring your judgment to the High Court is going to be £156. You will be entitled to get back £66.00 plus £51.75 against this investment in the event a Writ of Control is issued and the debtor has the funds to pay either immediately or over an agreed period. You may be asked to indemnify the HCEO if it’s a borderline case but in our experience, we only allow cases to go to the Sale and Disposal Stage if there is a real chance of recovery.
If you are a debtor, our advice is pay what is due on the Notice of Enforcement, and contact our office as soon as you receive this Notice. The Notice is clearly marked and will come to you via email or postal service. You have 7 clear days to arrange payment of the outstanding judgment before the enforcement agent attends. If you pay the judgment in this period in full you will only be charged the £75.00 plus VAT.
If you can’t pay in full or ignore the Notice of Enforcement then further fees will be added. These can become expensive so please take legal advice or go to your local Citizen’s Advice Bureau to seek support on what to do next.
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