What is a High Court Writ and What Should you Do About it?
When a limited company receives one, the notice explains you have a seven-day window to settle a business debt before a visit by a High Court enforcement officer (HCEO)Trusted Source – .GOV- Bailiffs Powers.
The HCEO will be tasked with collecting the debt on behalf of the creditor and a range of powers to enforce the debt. At every stage of the process, additional charges will be applied.
In this guide, we will explain what a High Court Writ is, the powers it gives to High Court enforcement officers, and explore your options for dealing with it.
What is a High Court Writ?
In the United Kingdom, a writ is a formal written order issued by a court that requires a person or organization to take a specific action or refrain from taking a specific action. A high court writ is issued by one of the high courts of England and Wales and is typically used in cases that involve significant amounts of money.
Formally known as a High Court Writ of Control, these formal written orders give enforcement officers the power to visit business premises to seize and remove business assets that can be sold to ensure the debt is repaid.
The priority for the High Court enforcement officers (HCEOs) is to get paid upfront or to arrange a payment plan to repay the debt over some time. However, if that is not possible, they will remove business assets.
In many cases, the value of the assets removed will far exceed the value of the debt. That is because the price of the assets sold at auction will often be considerably less than their actual market value. That is why it is never a good idea to let it go this far.
High Court Writs tend to have a specified timeframe that the enforcement officers must act within, which is usually one year. However, once a High Court Writ has been issued against your business, it will be held on the registry trust for six years, which could make it difficult to obtain credit in the future.
What is the Process for Issuing a High Court Writ?
High Court Writs are used by creditors to enforce unpaid County Court Judgements (CCJs).
The process involves the following steps:
- A party wishing to issue a writ against a business files a claim form with the high court. The claim form must state the claim’s nature and the relief sought.
- The claim form is reviewed by a judge, who will decide whether to issue the writ. If the writ is issued, it will be served on the business by a process server or post.
- Once the writ has been served, the business will have time to respond to the claim.
- If the debtor does not pay after receiving the court order, the creditor can ask the court to send bailiffs to collect the money.
- They usually take between 7 and 28 days to obtain.
What Powers do High Court Enforcement Officers have to Collect Outstanding Debts with a Writ of Control?
A High Court Writ of Control allows a High Court enforcement officer to take control of goods to cover the value of the debt and the additional charges that have been incurred to sell at auctionTrusted Source – Legislation – The Taking Control of Goods (Fees) Regulations 2014. If the debtor business is a limited company, HCEOs can only visit the business’s premises and seize goods that belong to the limited company.
That means any assets that are owned by the company directors personally or assets that are rented, on hire-purchase or finance agreements cannot be seized. Under the terms of the Writ of Control, HCEOs are also not permitted to take assets that are essential to the business, known as ‘tools of the trade’, that are worth up to £1,350.
Business assets that can be seized include:
- Business vehicles
- Moveable plant and machinery
- Office furniture
» MORE Read our full article on What Powers do HCEOs Have?
Can I Stop a High Court Writ?
Here are a few ways that a business in the United Kingdom may be able to stop a high court writ:
- Settling the case: One option is to try to settle with the other party through direct negotiation, mediation, or arbitration. If the parties can agree, the writ can be withdrawn.
- Defending against the claim: If the business believes the claim is without merit, it can defend itself in court by filing a defence and possibly counterclaiming against the other party. If the business successfully defends itself, the writ will be dismissed.
- Applying to set aside or suspend the writ: If the business believes that the writ was issued improperly or that there are other legal grounds for challenging it, it may be able to apply to set aside the writ. This will require the business to make a legal argument as to why the writ should be set aside. download and complete form N244 from the HM Court Service website, make a witness statement and send it off to the High Court in London along with a £100 fee to apply for a stay of execution. You will need evidence to show that you didn’t know about the judgement or a reasonable prospect of defending the original claim.
- Pay off the debt – To prevent the High Court Writ from progressing further, you could pay off the debt in full or contact the creditor and the enforcement officers to arrange a payment plan. Doing this before the seven-day notice period is up will reduce the charges you pay.
- Explore your finance options – If you cannot afford to repay the debt in full or negotiate an acceptable payment plan, you may need to seek alternative ways to free up the cash to pay off the debt. Finance options such as asset-based lending and invoice finance could allow you to release some of the value from business assets to enable you to make the payment.
- Propose a Company Voluntary Arrangement (CVA) – If you cannot repay the debt all at once or agree to an affordable payment plan and are unable to access external finance, you could propose a Company Voluntary Arrangement. A CVA is a legally binding agreement to repay all of the company’s debts via a single monthly payment for up to five years. This will have to be agreed upon with the company’s creditors as a whole and not just the creditor who has issued the High Court Writ.
FAQs about High Court Writs
Can I Ignore a High Court writ?
If a business is served with a high court writ, it is vital to take the matter seriously and seek legal advice as soon as possible. Ignoring the writ could result in the business being found in contempt of court, leading to fines, legal fees, and more severe consequences.
The primary sources for this article are listed below, including the relevant laws and Acts which provide their legal basis.
You can learn more about our standards for producing accurate, unbiased content in our editorial policy here.
- Trusted Source – .GOV- Make a Court Claim for Money
- Trusted Source – .GOV- Bailiffs Powers
- Trusted Source – Legislation – The Taking Control of Goods (Fees) Regulations 2014