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The march of HMCTS to modernize and digitize its function continues – and on many levels, we support these initiatives. The delivery of justice is vital in our democracy and should be as accessible and cost-effective as we can make it.

What is warrant of control?

A warrant of control is a legal document given to creditors by the high court. It allows them to send an enforcement agent to take control of debtor goods, which can be used to raise funds for payment of their debts

Writ of Control or Warrant of Control

Writ of control was previously known as Writ of Fieri Facias (FiFa). It is a legal paper that provides enforcement agents, bailiffs etc the right to take control of the belongings of debtors. Any debtors property can be seized then sold at a sale to recover money. Each county court in England and Wales has an enforcement section, and the bailiffs enforce Warrants of Control and Warrants of Possession.

Obviously, our heritage services of enforcing County Court judgment debts using High Court Writs and orders for possession, again using Writs of Possession, cross over with the work of HMCTS (Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service) in its own enforcement function. County Court bailiffs are the equivalent of Writ of Control which needs to be executed by High Court Enforcement Officers and High Court Enforcement Agents.

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High Court Writ of Control

A person or company can appeal for a Writ of Control in the High Court, enforce a judgment made against a debtor, and recover the unpaid payments owed to them. If complete payment of the debt is being obtained or payment is not paid, the High Court Writ of Control gives the order for the seizure, removal and trade of the debtor’s goods.

What is the difference between a warrant and a writ?

Any direct order which is issued under authority is a writ. A warrant is a writ issued by a judge or magistrate that provides a sheriff or enforcement officer to examine a person or property.

The Difference between Writ of Control and Warrant of Control

The principal difference between a Writ of Control and Control warrants that creditors seeking a debt worth over Β£5,000 must appeal to the High Court for a Writ of Control. Any debts under Β£5,000 must be appealed through the County Court, who grant Warrants of Control. Typically a High Court Enforcement Officer will only perform duties when executing a Writ of Control, whereas a County Court Officer is assigned to act on a Warrant of Control.

Suspend Warrant of Control

You can appeal to suspend a warrant of control by presenting an N245 form to the court. The court cannot reject your application, even if the bailiffs have not yet visited – but bailiffs can continue visiting you until the court agrees to suspend the warrant of control.

How long does a warrant of control last?

A warrant of control lasts for 12 months from the date of issue. It is, however, possible to apply to the county court for it to get renewed where more time is required to enforce a judgment.

How to apply for a warrant of control?

Form N323: Apply for a warrant of control to recover the money

Ask the court to direct bailiffs to collect money owed by a debtor and identify the debtor’s goods that may be sold. Known as a ‘warrant of control’.

How do I request a Warrant of Control?

Request at Court:

Re-issue a Warrant of Control

You will need to complete N445 – Request for reissue of the warrant, N445 form – Request for Re-issue of Warrant of Control. Fees may be required for reissue of warrant of execution or County Court of execution.

How will the new process work?

HMCTS provide Government with a universal enforcement branch of the civil courts. And we as private sector operators doing essentially the same job question the need for the duplicity of function and the investment that is made to get it right. We do so on the basis that this is easily a piece of HMCTS that could be moved to private operators – namely High Court Enforcement Officers – and yes, we must declare a vested interest in saying this. But High Court Enforcement Officers and the enforcement agents who operate under their authority deliver their service at no cost to the public purse.

Warrant of Control Support Centres

Warrant of control support centres is initiated by HMCTS to manage the volume of enforcement applications per year. So, a piece caught our eye when it was reported that HMCTS are creating 12 Warrant of Control support centres across England and Wales to centralise and standardise services. The cost of these centres was not reported, but their idea is to engage with debtors using the information supplied on the Warrant of Control form and warrant of control fee. Really? We have been doing that for 20+ years here at Shergroup.

We engage with our debtor community right from the time the Notice of Enforcement is served and continue to do so even when the High Court Enforcement Agent is on the doorstep.

The key concerns for creditors

Beyond that, we continue to engage and manage warrant of control payment plans and report back to Creditors Voluntary Arrangement (CVA) on any issue of vulnerability. Apparently, these new centres set up at an undisclosed cost to the taxpayer will give the debtor 12 days to pay before the warrant control is handed over to the county court bailiff. Our CEO, Claire Sandbrook, wonders if they got the idea from Shergroup!

The advisors in these new centres will be β€œable to signpost debtors to appropriate debt advice charities”. They will also be tasked to look for signs of vulnerability and signpost and advise the debtors to support systems (emphasis added by us).

Don’t get us wrong – the need to engage and support people in debt is an issue that we strongly support but in the enforcement arena it has to be balanced against the rights of the judgment creditor or claimant to enforce their judgment or order.

Transfer Judgments and Orders

They are all sorts of reasons why this initiative lacks the appearance of balance. Even as we write this blog one of our client community solicitors has written to advise us to expect an Order for Possession to be received while she is on holiday, but she is experiencing severe delays with Willesden County Court. This Court is renowned for being slow to transfer judgments and orders and there are other Courts we could name.

Judgment Creditors will receive limited support from this new 12 centre system. They can inform the centre that the request for a warrant of control has been suspended, tell the Centre what to do if the debtor is found to be vulnerable and respond to a request for further information.

Not much customer service there for those waiting for the court system to complete the task of enforcing the judgment or order. In our world, we do all this very differently. Firstly, the creditor and the claimant get the sort of service you would hope for if you walked into M&S. The product is explained, the pricing is set out, and our expert Business Solutions Advisors are there to support the client through the entire enforcement process.

So, what is the cost of all this management and support for both parties to the judgment or order? Our infrastructure is in place. The innovation is paid for from the fees we charge as High Court Enforcement Officers which are set by statute. There is no cost to the public purse. And in both areas, we are engaged and interested in the needs of the parties.

If you have used the Government online systems to issue a money judgment or money claim online and you have entered a county court judgment (CCJ) which is over Β£then we have an entire alternative enforcement service to support you in a streamlined way.

And you can always request for any past or current Warrant of Control to be transferred to the High Court. Call us on 0845 890 9200 or chat to us on www.shergroup.com (24 x7) and we can give you the support you need.

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Last updated | 19 July 2023

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