Seizing goods as payment for a debt: The key points

If you have obtained a Court Judgement and the debtor still refuses to pay you can apply to have their goods seized.

Simply telling the debtor that a warrant of control (County Court) or writ of control (High Court) has been issued is often enough to make a debtor settle, provided they have the means to pay.

Different Courts and officials will take care of things, depending on the size of the debt:

  •  Below £600:  County Court Bailiff (CCB)
  •  £600 to £5,000: CCB or High Court Enforcement Officer (HCEO)
  •  Over £5,000:  HCEO

For debts of over £1,000 we would generally recommend taking the High Court route. High Court Enforcement Officers tend to be more robustin their pursuit of debtors.

What will it cost?

For the County Court service you will pay a £70 warrant fee. There are no further charges and you should get this back, provided the debtor pays or the money can be realised by selling their assets.

The High Court service charges for each phase of the enforcement process, as and if required:   

  •  Issuing the 7 day notice(s): £75 + VAT per notice
  •  Initial visit, if required: £190 + 7.5% of the total owed minus the first £1,000
  •  Taking control of goods: £529 + VAT, plus 7.5% of the total owed, minus the first £1,000.

Again, you can recover these costs from the debtor, provided they have the means to pay.

The enforcement process, step by step

The County Court and High Court processes are similar but they will only be successful if the debtor has the funds or assets to cover the debt. If you know the debtor has an expensive car, or antiques etc. give details to your lawyer because this will improve your chances of recovering the money due to you.

1:      7 day enforcement notice

Upon a warrant of control or writ of control being issued the Court will instruct the enforcement officer or bailiff to take action.

This begins with a notice, sent to the debtor, giving them 7 days (excluding Sundays and Bank Holidays) to pay up in full.

In our experience if a debtor ‘can pay, but won’t pay’, most will give in at this point and settle.

2:      Taking control of goods: part one

If the debtor ignores the notice or wants to negotiate payment terms the Enforcement Officer or Bailiff will visit them.

At this point the debtor can pay up or agree instalments. This settlement will include your costs.

3:      Taking control of goods: part two

If the debtor still refuses to cooperate, the Enforcement Agent will take the debtor’s goods under his or her ‘control’.

They may secure goods at the property or take them away for ‘sale or disposal’, generally at auction. There are strict rules governing things such as right of access and what can or cannot be taken.

What happens next?

Any goods recovered are generally sold at auction. The money raised will first go to pay any enforcement fees you owe. The remainder will then be paid to you to cover the debt.

If the amount raised is not enough to clear the Judgment the Enforcement Officer or Bailiff can repeat the process, taking control of further assets.

Additional costs

There are some additional costs to consider, such as court fees and legal fees, so it is important to weigh up your debtor’s financial circumstances before you choose this route.

I have been practising in the debt recovery sector for over 30 years and joined Verisona Law in May 2012. We set up the debt recovery team the following February.

I have extensive experience of dealing with and advising on commercial and consumer matters from pre-legal action and the issuing of proceedings through to enforcement of Judgments, bankruptcy and winding up. 

The debt recovery team acts for businesses across all sectors including manufacturing, service providers and construction, as well as for individuals. 

Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives

Jackie has previously acted for national and international clients in a wide range of sectors including IT, vehicle finance, insurance and debt purchase.

Jackie was awarded Credit Today Litigation Specialist of the Year 2003

  • Commercial and consumer claims from the issue of proceedings to Judgment
  • Enforcement of Judgments by Writ of Fi Fa, Orders to attend Court for questioning, Attachment of Earnings, Third Party Debt Orders, Charging Orders and Orders for sale
  • Bankruptcy and winding up proceedings
  • Debt purchase
  • Recruitment
  • Independent schools
  • SME businesses