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If you have obtained a CCJ against your tenant for rent arrears (either online or via your local county court) and they still haven’t paid, you can use High Court Enforcement Officers “HCEO’s” to enforce it.
This is done by transferring the County Court judgment up to the High Court for enforcement under a writ of control (this used to be called a writ of fieri facias). This writ is the HCEO’s warrant and permits them to seize the tenant’s goods if necessary and to sell them and raise the sums due. Sales are rare with most people paying to prevent removal and sale of their goods.
Why should you bother to get a CCJ?
You might feel that the tenant has no money or assets, so it’s not worthwhile bothering to get a CCJ. But people’s circumstances do change – a better paid job, or an application for a mortgage, which can prompt the tenant to clear any CCJs off their record. The CCJ will be valid for six years.
We have had cases where we weren’t initially successful, but performed new traces after a year or two, and were then able to successfully enforce – but we can only do this if you had the judgment in the first place.
We find using the government’s own Money Claim online website is the easiest and cheapest way to obtain judgment against your tenant.
How do you transfer up?
You do not need court permission to do this. As long as the CCJ is for £600 or more, it can be transferred up using form N293A. If you instruct an HCEO first, they will usually manage this process for you (at no charge). There is a court fee of £60 for the transfer up, and this is added to the sum to be recovered from the debtor.
What if the tenant has moved?
The enforcement can be against a tenant who has moved out of your property, as well as one still living there.
If the tenant has moved, it is advisable to trace them first and make sure you have the correct address for them. This will mean that the notice of enforcement is sent to the right place (if it is sent to the wrong address, you may be giving them grounds to get the writ set aside).
Most HCEOs, including my firm, will offer a full tracing service, and a simple low cost desktop trace is usually sufficient to find the majority of tenants.
Make sure you get all the details right
It is very important that the person’s name is accurate and spelt correctly on both the CCJ and the writ. Any errors can stop enforcement action and may mean you have to go back to court to get them changed or a new judgment.
If you got a personal guarantee from the tenant, you will need to sue both the tenant and the guarantor.
It is normal practice to enforce against the tenant first, only turning to the guarantor if that proves necessary. If we do enforce against the guarantor, then their personal possessions can be seized to satisfy the writ.
What will it cost?
There is a court fee to transfer the CCJ up to the High Court – this is a flat fee of £60. If enforcement is successful, this will be recovered from the tenant, along with the rent arrears, court costs, interest at 8% per annum and our own enforcement costs.
Sometimes it is not possible to enforce – most commonly because there are no assets to seize that might prompt payment, the tenant has been declared bankrupt or entered into an insolvency arrangement, or they cannot be found. In this case, you will just pay a Compliance Fee of £75 plus VAT.
Is there anything else you can do to help?
Yes – give us as much information about your tenant as possible – details of any vehicles they own, a photograph or description of the tenant, all their contact details especially landline and mobile phone numbers, any other names they may use, for example their maiden name or a stage name, and any social media profile details.
It can also be helpful to know whether the enforcement address is the tenant’s parents’ address, any habitual behavioural patterns, such as walking the dog at a set time, taking and collecting children from school, and if the property is a flat, whether it has an entry phone system.
— Mark Alexander (@iAmALandlord) October 20, 2014
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