FAQ 4 People in Debt
In this area of our website, we would like to answer some of the questions you might have. We aim to explain:
- Who a High Court Enforcement Officer is;
- On whose authority the Shergroup High Court Enforcement Officer is acting;
- Why a Shergroup High Court Enforcement Agent has visited you recently;
- What you can expect to happen next;
- What action you can take; and
- What to do if you have reason to complain about the Shergroup High Court Enforcement Agent’s actions, or with any action taken by a member of the team of Shergroup Limited.
We also recognise that if you are reading this part of the website, you may be in financial trouble and need help.
Why did the Shergroup High Court Enforcement Agent call?
Because someone you owe money to, known as ‘the creditor’, has asked the High Court Enforcement Officer to collect that money from you on their behalf. The High Court Enforcement Officer from Shergroup is responsible for collecting money on orders for payment made by, or registered in, the High Court. The process of the creditor asking Shergroup for help is called “enforcing the court’s order”. Shergroup High Court Enforcement Agents actually collect the money, acting on the instructions of the court.
Shergroup High Court Enforcement Agents belong to our national panel of enforcement agents who have agreed to act in accordance with the National Standards for Enforcement Agents issued by the Ministry of Justice. These are a set of best practice guidelines to be followed when enforcement is being carried out. They set out, among other things, how the enforcement agent (being the Shergroup High Court Enforcement Officer in this case) is expected to behave. They also include requirements that Shergroup High Court Enforcement Agents:
- Produce relevant identification on request (as we do in our stated code of conduct);
- Act within the law;
- Respect confidentiality;
- Do not exaggerate the powers they have;
- Are professional, calm, dignified and appropriately dressed;
- Are firm but fair; and
- Do not discriminate.
Shergroup High Court Enforcement Agents will never offer violence or aggression when carrying out their duties; neither will they expect to be subjected to violence or aggression. Any assault on a Shergroup High Court Enforcement Agent may lead to a criminal penalty such as a fine or imprisonment.
When a creditor:
- Obtains a Court Order against you for the payment of money (a “Judgment”); and
- You do not pay.
That creditor can ask the High Court to issue a Writ of Control, which is addressed to an Authorised High Court Enforcement Officer. It asks the Authorised High Court Enforcement Officer to enforce the judgment. The Writ is the Authorised High Court Enforcement Officer’s authority to enforce the Court’s judgment either:
- Collecting the money owed from you; or
- Taking (“impounding”) sufficient of your goods to be sold at auction to raise what is owed.
You should note that the main aim of Shergroup High Court Enforcement Agents is to collect the money owed, not to deprive you of possession and use of your goods. They will try, so far as it is possible, to protect both your interests and those of the creditor. They can help and advise you in the best way if you are honest about your circumstances from the outset.
You can pay the Shergroup High Court Enforcement Agent by debit card, by setting up a direct debit payment plan for agreed amounts over a period of time, or by cash.
It is important to note that the court’s judgment will be registered against you with the Registry of Judgments and Orders. Once listed, the entry remains on the register for a period of six years and cannot be removed. The fact that you have a judgment registered against you may make it difficult for you to obtain credit. Banks, building societies and other lenders search the information held by the Registry before deciding whether to grant credit.
Once you have paid the judgment in full you can apply to have the entry against you marked as “satisfied”. This will be an indication to anyone making a search that although you have owed money you have since paid it. Details of how to have the registration marked “satisfied” can be obtained from any County Court or the High Court, or via an application to the County Court or the court that last dealt with your case. The details as to what entries may be registered against you can be found on the online register with Registry Trust at www.trustonline.org.uk/. This site has all the information you will need to understand the judgment against you and how you can either remove or satisfy the judgment.
The High Court Enforcement Officer can execute:
- Any High Court Judgment; or
- Any County Court Judgment where the amount to be enforced is £600 or more and the original claim did not arise from a Consumer Credit Agreement.
If the judgment was obtained in a County Court, it can be transferred up to the High Court and registered as a High Court Judgment. The High Court Enforcement Officer can then enforce it.
All High Court Judgments attract interest from the date of judgment, or transfer, until they are paid in full. Interest is added to the debt on a daily basis at a rate of 8 per cent per annum. It follows that the sooner you pay the judgment, the less interest you will pay.
You will. The High Court Enforcement Officer’s fees will be added to the amount you already owe. They will be collected by the Shergroup High Court Enforcement Agent at the same time as the judgment and the interest on it.
The fees charged are set out in The Taking Control of Goods (Fees) Regulations 2014 (http://www.legislation.gov.uk/).
These Regulations, approved by Parliament, set out the fees that can be charged by enforcement agents and reflect the amount of work that High Court Enforcement Officers have to do to collect payment. If, for example, a Shergroup High Court Enforcement Agent has to take action to secure the goods at your address or remove goods for sale, the fees you have to pay will increase accordingly. The sooner you pay the judgment and the High Court Enforcement Officer’s fees, the less the total fees and interest will be.
If you want to know more about how fees are calculated, you should ring the Shergroup Debtor Services Team on 0845 890 9205 and ask to be given a breakdown of fees added to your judgment.
If you do not agree the fees charged, you can apply to the court for the fees to be reviewed. However, you must carefully consider the amount of costs that could be awarded against you if the court decides the fees charged are reasonable and fair. It will be better to pay the Shergroup High Court Enforcement Agent as soon as possible in full to prevent unnecessary fees being charged.
It is important that you take immediate action and contact the High Court Enforcement Officer on the number provided. Payment should be made in full to settle the outstanding judgment if at all possible. This will prevent the matter escalating and avoid additional fees and interest being added to the judgment,
If you cannot afford to pay the judgment in full you should contact the High Court Enforcement Officer to discuss making an offer which you can afford to repay.
If you are unable to pay the judgment in full, the High Court Enforcement Officer will still need to attend your address to take control of goods pending full payment being made.
The High Court Enforcement Officer has a duty to enforce any Writ issued in his or her name. That duty is carried out by taking legal control of goods in the absence of full payment. By attending at your address, the High Court Enforcement Officer fulfils this duty and can claim priority against any other enforcement agent who may also be instructed to attend your address to take legal control of goods.
At the time of this attendance a Shergroup High Court Enforcement Agent will make a full report as to your situation, note the goods available at your address and make enquiries as to ownership. We would encourage you to co-operate with the agent and to seek independent advice if you are concerned that this may happen to you.
Yes, there are. The Taking Control of Goods Regulations 2014 set out the goods which are exempt from being taken into legal control.
You and your family cannot be deprived of all your goods, particularly those you need to be able to live and work on a daily basis. The Regulations set out in Regulation 4 and 5 what goods must be classed as “exempt” and which cannot be subject to legal control.
Please see links to the Regulations below |
The Shergroup Court Enforcement Agent will ask you, or any third party claiming to own goods at your property, to produce the relevant agreement(s) or evidence of ownership, where this is appropriate.
Any claim to ownership by a third party may lead to a court hearing at which a Judge will decide who owns the goods. They can be very costly for the losing party and any claim should not be made lightly. A third party must say, specifically, that they own the goods and support their claim with evidence of ownership.
If you wish to claim that the goods that have been taken into legal control by the Shergroup High Court Enforcement Agent are “tools of trade”, then you need to take independent advice to ensure that you make your claim to the court in accordance with the Civil Procedure Rules.
You should also be aware that a limited company cannot in any capacity make a claim that goods are “tools of trade”. Again, an application to decide whether an item is a “tool of trade” can be very costly if you lose, and therefore a claim should not be made lightly to the court for a decision to be made.
The Shergroup High Court Enforcement Officer will come to an agreement with you about when payment is to be made. At the same time, the Shergroup High Court Enforcement Agent will identify a list (an inventory) of any of your goods that might be sold if the debt is not paid; this process is called “taking legal control”. There are two reasons why this is done:
- It allows you to retain and use the goods while you raise the money and, if you pay, you do not have to pay the Shergroup Enforcement Officer’s fees of taking the goods for sale, which can be more expensive; and
- It protects your creditor’s interest in the event you are unable to find the money, or all of it, to pay. The goods can still be taken and sold as necessary.
Whenever the Shergroup High Court Enforcement Agent takes goods into legal control a person is asked to sign a “Controlled Goods Agreement”.
This is your undertaking not to remove or dispose of any of the goods listed in the inventory until payment has been made in full. It is a serious offence to ignore your undertaking – it can lead to you being fined or imprisoned.
If you can only offer payment by instalments over a period of time, the Shergroup High Court Enforcement Agent will have to contact the creditor to ask if the terms you are offering are acceptable. You will normally be asked to pay an amount on account as a sign of your intention to pay. If the creditor does agree to your terms, you must pay on time, as agreed. Remember, an agreement to pay by instalments does not prevent a writ being escalated to the sale and disposal stage for fee purposes (see the Fees Regulation mentioned above) if you do not keep to the arrangement.
It is also worth noting that a creditor does not have to accept your offer, and indeed may be minded insisting that the Shergroup High Court Enforcement Agent attends to remove your goods for sale. In that situation you are advised to take independent legal advice as to your position, as the consequences of this can be serious. A list of providers of independent advice are set out at the end of this section.
It is important to point out that the High Court Enforcement Officer cannot break into a residential property for the purpose of levying on goods. We would not expect a Shergroup High Court Enforcement Agent to take that step in any shape or form.
That said, once an officer has taken legal control of goods, if there is a failure to pay the amount outstanding then the officer is entitled to return to the property and, if necessary, force entry for the purposes of removing goods for sale. We have to stress this is an extremely rare occurrence and would only be done after all lines of communication have been exhausted.
In relation to commercial property, the situation is slightly different. If the officer attends at the premises and considers that the goods could be at “risk” then goods can be removed immediately and without any prior notice.
It is vitally important that if you return to your property and find correspondence to confirm that a Shergroup High Court Enforcement Agent has attended your property then you contact the Debtor Services Team immediately. Their direct number is 0845 890 9205.
The team is available from 8:00 am to 4.00 pm Monday to Saturday. Failure to contact the Debtor Services Team may result in an escalation of enforcement action, so we ask you please to contact Shergroup Enforcement as soon as possible.
We encourage you to think carefully before you complain. Remember that the High Court Enforcement Officer and any member of her team is acting on the instructions of the court and the creditor. If, for example, you think you do not owe the money being claimed or are upset because your offer of payment by instalment has been turned down, this is not the High Court Enforcement Officer’s fault or the fault of Shergroup. These are matters which you have to sort out with the creditor, either by direct contact or through applications to the appropriate court.
If you still wish to continue with your complaint, there are various ways in which you can make that complaint to Shergroup.
You can complete the online complaints form, or you can send a letter to the Complaints Officer for Shergroup at 1st Floor Holborn Gate | 330 High Holborn | London WC1V 7QT
or you can email your complaint to the Complaints Team at [email protected].
We can say that we take all complaints extremely seriously, and all such matters will be investigated through our complaints procedure.
There are many links on the internet to help you if you are having problems involving your financial position which may have left you in debt or at risk of losing your home.
Below are a number of links where you can seek independent legal advice about your financial situation.
Citizens Advice Bureau | www.citizensadvice.org.uk
T 08444 111 444 England or T 0844 77 20 20 Wales
Money Advice Service | https://moneyadvice.co.uk
T 0300 500 5000
Visit the Credit Action website for advice on how to manage your finance at |
Or speak to an advisor at The National Debt Helpline | https://nationaldebtline.org/
Alternatively use the services provided by the StepChange | https://www.stepchange.org/
This charity offers free, confidential debt advice and support to anyone who is worried about their financial situation.