Debtor’s name wrong on the writ

I tried to get my judgment enforced under a writ of control, but the debtor said that their name was spelt wrongly, so that made the writ invalid and unenforceable. Is that true?

Unfortunately incorrect spelling of the defendant’s name (the individual or company name), either on the judgment or on the writ, can cause enforcement to cease. This is also the case if the wrong name is given, for example putting down ABC Limited, when the company name is actually ABC (UK) Limited.

It is worth trying to go to court to ask them to vary the judgment and/or writ (depending on which is incorrect). This can take time and there is likely to be a court fee to pay. However, there is the possibility that your request may be refused and you have to start from scratch and go through the entire court process again.

Using an HCEO to enforce a £400 debt

I am owed £400 and have got a CCJ – can I use an HCEO to enforce it?

Currently HCEOs are only permitted to enforce judgements of £600 and above (although this can include court fees and interest). However, there are other options available to you to recover this debt. You can have the judgment enforced by a County Court bailiff under a warrant of control.

Or you could obtain a third party debt order, which allows you to take the money from the debtor’s bank account, provided the money is in the account at the point at which you request payment. If your debtor is an employed individual, you can apply for an attachment of earnings order. The best method will depend on the debtor’s circumstances.

Can I instruct an HCEO directly?

Can I instruct you directly or do I have to go to the court?

You can instruct an HCEO (High Court Enforcement Officer) directly. You can go to the courts, who operate a “taxi rank” system for allocating cases to HCEOs, but we would advise that you take control and decide who to use based on their reputation, service levels and track record, as well as the areas of the country that they cover, rather than accepting whoever the court happens to have next on their list.

Tenant won’t accept deposit return

I have a tenant and am trying to return their deposit (under the section 21 notice rules) but the tenant won’t accept the deposit. What should I do?

Assuming you do not have the tenant’s bank details to return the deposit by bank transfer, try to return it to them in cash, with good evidence of having done so. If they refuse the cash, and they are clearly trying to avoid receiving the deposit, then they are using the law as a blunt instrument to defeat the landlord’s interests. In those circumstances a recent High Court case provides binding authority that the court should consider the deposit as having been returned for the purposes of serving a Section 21. But you may need good evidence of having tried to return the deposit in order to persuade the court that your Section 21 Notice is valid.

Compliance fee

I don’t understand what this compliance fee is and why I might have to pay it?

The Taking Control of Goods (Fees) Regulations 2014 state that, should enforcement be unsuccessful, the creditor is required to pay the compliance fee to the HCEO, which is currently £75 plus VAT. If a part of the debt is recovered by the HCEO but he is unable to recover the balance, then no compliance fee is payable.

It is worth remembering that if a HCEO does not recover any money, then he does not receive any money either, so as well as covering the administration, the compliance fee may also need to cover up to three visits.

Seizing and selling a car

Can you seize and sell the debtor’s car to get me my money back?

When enforcing your judgment (via a High Court writ), we are able to seize and sell vehicles for sale, with a number of exceptions. Vehicles which are exempt from seizure are those with a valid disabled person’s badge, vehicles used for police, fire or ambulance purposes, or vehicles with a valid British Medical Association badge or other health emergency badge because it is being used for health emergency purposes.

If a vehicle not falling into those categories is used exclusively by a sole trader for their business, then it may be seized if it is worth more than £1,350. The first £1,350 of the sums realised will be returned to the debtor and the rest will be used to satisfy the debt.

Section 21 notice changes

I am planning to let out a flat next month and gather there have been some changes recently regarding serving notice. What are they?

These changes regarding the serving of a section 21 notice apply to an assured shorthold tenancy (AST) starting on or after 1st October 2015. Firstly, landlords can only serve a section 21 notice after 4 months of the first tenancy and the form of the notice must be in the new ‘prescribed form’. Secondly, there is a 6 month limit after which a section 21 notice expires.

Thirdly, any health and safety improvement notice served by the local authority means that no section 21 notice can be served for 6 months. The landlord also has to give the tenant a gas appliance safety certificate, an energy performance certificate (EPC) and the Government document called “How to rent.” This is just an overview, and we recommend you seek legal advice to make sure you have everything up-to-date.

Bankruptcy changes

I am owed £2,000 but she’s refusing to pay it. I want to threaten to make her bankrupt to force her hand a bit and make her pay. But she’s told me I can’t do that – why not?

There is a minimum threshold of money owed before you can start a bankruptcy petition. For many years this was set at £750, but on 1st October 2015, this minimum level was raised to £5,000. As a result, this option is no longer available to you.

However, you may find that starting a court claim could have the same result you are looking for. You can start your claim via Money Claim Online. If she still doesn’t pay, then you can proceed with your claim to get a CCJ. If she doesn’t pay after that, then we can enforce it for you. Hopefully, you will see your money before it gets that far!

Court fee increases?

I am owed quite a bit of money – about £5,000 – but have heard that court fees might be going up again. Is this true and should I start a claim before they do?

The court fee to make a claim for less than £10,000 did not change in the last set of fee increases. Where the claim is for £10,000 or more, the court fee is 5% of the claim, capped at £10,000 for a claim of £200,000. The Government has recently launched a consultation to increase this cap to at least £20,000.

They are also proposing a 10% increase to a wide range of fees for civil proceedings, but, as far as we are aware, they are not planning to make changes to the court fee to make a money claim. It is usually a good idea to start a claim sooner rather than later, in case your debtor becomes insolvent and you get nothing.

Why do I have to wait 14 days?

My judgment has just been enforced and got all my money back – hurray! However, I’ve had a letter from the enforcement agent saying that they have to wait 14 days before they can send me the money – why is that?

The money recovered is kept in a “in suspense”, i.e. neither belonging to the creditor or debtor, in a separate client account for 14 days before sending it to you. This is stipulated in the Insolvency Act 1986. If a winding up order is issued against a limited company or a bankruptcy petition against an individual or partnership during this 14 day period, then the money recovered is returned to the Liquidator or Official Receiver for the payment of all creditors, not just the judgment creditor. Once the 14 day period is complete, and no winding up order or bankruptcy petition has been issued, the money is no longer “in suspense” and is paid to you, so it will be with you very soon!