Following the implementation of the Tribunals Court Act 2007 on 6th April 2014, the government has made a number of changes to enforcement via the High Court Enforcement Officers.
Reason for the changes
The changes have been brought about in order to bring into line all the different forms of enforcement via the High Court Enforcement Officers ("HCEO"), being High Court Writs, Council tax, non-domestic rates, rent distress, magistrates warrants and road traffic debts. It also seeks to change the perception of over aggressive bailiff's who overcharge, and to make it easier for all to understand the process, when it happens, and the charging structure.
What has changed and how it affects you
Whilst there are a number of changes, the major changes are covered within this article.
Terminology - the terminology used has changed to make it easier to understand.
- Bailiff's are now known as 'Enforcement Agents' ("EA").
- The Defendant is now referred to as 'The Debtor'.
- The Writ of Fi Fa, which is the document obtained from Court to allow the EA to deal with the matter, has become the 'Writ of Control'.
- Levy and seizure of goods have become 'Taking Control of Goods'.
- Walking Possession Agreements, which is the agreement signed by the debtor when goods are levied upon, is now known as the 'Taking Control of Goods Agreement'.
Notice of Intention - following the Writ of Control being obtained by the HCEO, the EA is no longer able to attend a debtor's property unannounced. Instead, they have to first send a Notice of Intention to the debtor. This Notice gives the debtor 7 clear days written notice before the EA's first attendance at the debtor's property, so it is estimated that this first attendance will be no earlier than 13 days after the Writ of Control is obtained. This Notice allows the debtor to make contact with the EA within this 7 day period to make payment, or alternatively to discuss a repayment arrangement. If payment is agreed at this stage, the Debtor will only be liable to pay the HCEO an additional 'compliance fee' of £75 plus VAT.
Right of Entry - the EA's will now be able to attend a Debtor's property 7 days a week, although they are now unable to gain access through an open window.
Tools of Trade - the value of any goods being claimed by the Debtor as being tools of trade has been set to a maximum of £1350.
Third Party Claims - it is now a requirement for a third party to make an application to court claiming ownership of goods, rather than the HCEO on behalf of the Claimant. At the same time, the third party will need to pay the costs of any application, and may also be required to deposit funds equal to the value of the goods with the Court.
Sale of goods - when goods have been removed from a Debtor's property for sale, the HCEO will need to advise of the auctioneers valuations of these goods before going to sale. The HCEO will also then provide a detailed breakdown of the sale proceeds, split by item.
Renewals and Re-issues - previously, a writ would run for a period of 12 months, and irrespective of what happened during the course of this period, it would need to be renewed or re-issued after this 12 month period to remain valid. However, when a Writ of Control is now passed to the HCEO for enforcement, whilst it will still run for the 12 month period, if an arrangement is entered into with the Debtor, the 12 month period will be frozen during the course of the payment arrangement, and will only re-start when attendances are required after the arrangement is defaulted upon.
HCEO's fees - The fees charged to the Debtor by the HCEO have been streamlined, and are now split into three different categories, being Compliance (when paid following Notice of Intention), Enforcement 1 (when paid following just one visit by a EA), and Enforcement 2 (when paid following more than one visit by a EA).
Abortive fee - should the HCEO be unable to recover any monies from the Debtor, the abortive fee charged has increased from £60 plus VAT to £75 plus VAT.