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High Court Writ

Understanding High Court Writs

What is a High Court Writ?

A High Court Writ, officially known as a High Court Writ of Control, is a legal document issued by a court which authorises High Court Enforcement Officers (HCEOs) to recover debts by seizing and selling a debtor’s assets.

This form of enforcement action is generally pursued after a creditor wins a County Court Judgment (CCJ) against a debtor and the debtor fails to comply with the terms of the judgment.

Process of Issuing and Executing a High Court Writ

  • Application and Issuance: A creditor with a CCJ can apply for a High Court Writ if the debt exceeds £600. Upon approval, the court issues the Writ of Control.
  • Notice of Enforcement: The enforcement officer must first issue a notice to the debtor, providing a minimum of seven days to pay the debt before any action can commence.
  • Seizure of Assets: If the debtor does not settle the debt within the notice period, HCEOs are permitted to enter the debtor’s premises to seize goods. However, they are required to act within the bounds of the law, respecting the debtor’s rights and ensuring that entry into the premises is lawful.
  • Selling of Seized Assets: Seized assets are typically sold at auction to recover the amount owed to the creditor. The process must be conducted transparently and fairly to ensure that assets are sold for a reasonable market value.

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    Legal Rights and Considerations

    • Restrictions on Entry: HCEOs can enter business premises to seize goods but cannot use force to enter residential properties without specific court permission.

    • Controlled Goods Agreement: If the debtor agrees, a controlled goods agreement can be signed, allowing the debtor some time to arrange payment before goods are physically removed.
    • Stopping a High Court Writ: To stop the enforcement process, the debtor can pay the debt in full or negotiate a payment arrangement. Alternatively, applying for a Stay of Execution or disputing the debt through legal channels are options if there are valid grounds such as disputing the owed amount or the legality of the initial judgment.

    Impact on Business and Directors

    The receipt of a High Court Writ indicates a serious financial issue that requires immediate attention. For business directors, it is crucial to act swiftly to manage the situation as ignoring a Writ can lead to significant disruption of business operations and potential loss of business assets.

    It is advisable for directors to consult with insolvency experts or legal advisors to explore all possible options, such as arranging suitable payment plans or considering formal insolvency procedures if the business is not viable.

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    What to do if you're issued a High Court Writ

    1. Understand the Writ: Carefully read the High Court Writ to understand exactly what is demanded and the timeline you are dealing with. A High Court Writ is typically issued to enforce a judgment debt, and the document will specify what is owed and how the enforcement will proceed.
    2. Seek Legal Advice: As soon as you receive a High Court Writ, consult with a solicitor or a legal advisor who specialises in debt and enforcement law. They can provide advice specific to your circumstances, including any possible legal defences you might have.
    3. Respond to the Enforcement Officer: Communication with the High Court Enforcement Officer (HCEO) assigned to your case is crucial. If you intend to pay or if you believe there is a mistake, inform the officer as soon as possible. This can prevent further actions, such as the seizure of assets.
    4. Arrange Payment or Settlement: If the debt is valid and you are able to pay, arranging payment promptly can stop the enforcement process. If you cannot pay the full amount immediately, discuss the possibility of a payment plan with the HCEO. They may allow you to pay the debt over time, which can prevent the seizure of assets.
    5. Consider a Stay of Execution: If you believe the writ was wrongly issued or there are compelling reasons why enforcement should be halted, you can apply to the court for a Stay of Execution. This legal process requires presenting evidence and arguments as to why the writ should not be enforced.
    6. Protect Your Assets: While you cannot unlawfully obstruct the HCEOs, ensure that they do not take items that are exempt from seizure (such as tools of your trade up to a certain value or items not owned by you). Be present or have a representative present to oversee the process if the seizure of assets begins.
    7. Address the Underlying Issue: Long-term resolution involves addressing the root cause of the debt. This might include restructuring business finances, negotiating with all creditors, or considering formal insolvency procedures if necessary.

    Conclusion

    Navigating the complexities of a High Court Writ requires a clear understanding of legal rights and obligations. Business directors must handle such matters with diligence and prompt action to mitigate adverse impacts on their business operations. For detailed guidance and personalised advice, directors should seek the expertise of legal or financial professionals specialising in debt and insolvency matters.

    This overview provides a fundamental understanding of High Court Writs and the implications for businesses facing such legal actions. For directors, maintaining informed and proactive management of business debts is essential to avoid legal complications and ensure the sustainability of their business operations.

    For businesses that are insolvent, addressing VAT debt becomes more complex. Here are a few considerations:

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      Andy Slinger

      Andy is Head of Marketing for Business Helpline with a wealth of experience Marketing in the financial sector. He has a passion for helping business owners struggling with debts.

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