Warrants of Execution and Writs of Fieri Facias

What is a Warrant of Execution?

A Warrant of Execution is a method for enforcing a County Court judgment. It is usually used to enforce a money judgment. Essentially it involves a Bailiff attending the home or premises of the judgment debtor (the person, business or organisation who owes the money) and seizing and then selling goods belonging to the judgment debtor to the value of the judgment.

What is a Writ of Fieri Facias?

A Writ of Fieri Facias is the equivalent of a Warrant of Execution but is used to enforce a judgment in the High Court rather than the County Court. Writs of Fieri Facias are commonly referred to as Writs of Fi Fa. Where enforcement is by way of a Writ of Fieri Facias a High Court Enforcement Officer will attend the judgment debtor’s home or premises instead of a Bailiff.

What are the advantages of enforcement by way of a Warrant of Execution or Writ of Fieri Facias?

The main advantage of using a Warrant of Execution or Writ of Fieri Facias to enforce a judgment is that it is a relatively inexpensive process. For that reason it tends to be used for enforcing judgments of low value.

What are the disadvantages of enforcement by way of a Warrant of Execution or Writ of Fieri Facias?

The main disadvantage is that a Bailiff or High Count Enforcement Officer is not generally allowed to gain entry to a house or premises by force. 

Another disadvantage is that not all types of goods can be seized, such as tools of the judgment debtor’s trade, basic clothing, bedding, basic furniture or basic household goods.

What is the process for enforcement by way of a Warrant of Execution or Writ of Fieri Facias?

The initial steps

  • In the case of a Warrant of Execution the first stage involves the judgment creditor (the person, business or organisation to whom the money is owed) making a request to the Court in which the judgment or order was made for a Warrant of Execution by completing the prescribed form. In the case of a Writ of Fieri Facias the judgment creditor is required to file with the Court a Writ of Fieri Facias, a “Praecipe” for its issue and a copy of the judgment or order.

  • In certain circumstances it is necessary to apply to the Court for permission to issue a Warrant of Execution or Writ of Fieri Facias, for example if the judgment is over 6 years old, if one of the parties has died since the judgment was made, if executors or administrators have been appointed since the judgment was made or if a receiver has been appointed.

  • The Court will then issue the Warrant of Execution or Writ of Fieri Facias. If the judgment debtor’s property is located in an area not covered by the County Court in which the judgment was made, the Court will send the Warrant of Execution to the judgment debtor’s local County Court for execution.

  • In the case of a Writ of Fieri Facias once issued it will be returned to the judgment creditor. The judgment creditor will then have to send it to a High Court Enforcement Officer for execution. 

  • In the Case of a Warrant of Execution the Court will send a warning notice to the judgment debtor at least 7 days before the Bailiff plans to visit the judgment debtor’s property. Generally a High Court Enforcement Officer will simply turn up at the judgment debtor’s property without giving them any notice.

The Bailiff or High Court Enforcement Officer’s initial visit

  • Initially the Bailiff or High Court Enforcement Officer can not gain entry to any property by force. They can enter a property through an unlocked door or through an open window. However, in not all cases will entry to a property be necessary as the judgment debtor may have assets of value outside of the property such as a car. 

  • If the Bailiff or High Court Enforcement Officer manages to identify goods of value belonging to the judgment debtor and such goods are not of a type which cannot be seized, they will generally take “Walking Possession” of such goods. When walking possession is taken over goods an inventory of such goods is prepared by the Bailiff or High Court Enforcement Officer and the judgment debtor is not allowed to sell, remove or otherwise dispose of the goods. Generally walking possession is taken to allow a judgment debtor additional time to pay the monies owed under the judgment or order.

  • If the goods over which walking possession has been obtained are located in the property then the Bailiff or High Court Enforcement Officer will be permitted to gain entry by force at a later stage.

  • The ability to remove goods of sufficient value will often depend on whether access to the property was obtained. Several visits to the property may be required. A Warrant of Execution or Writ of Fieri Facias is initially valid for a period of 12 months but either can be renewed by making an application to the Court.

Removal and sale of the goods

  • Where goods are removed by a Bailiff or High Court Enforcement Officer they will generally be sold at a public auction.

  • When a Bailiff removes goods he will hand to the judgment debtor or leave at the property a notice of the Warrant of Execution and an inventory of the goods removed. The inventory will be provided at least 4 days before the goods are to be sold and will give the judgment debtor notice of the time and place at which the goods are to be sold.

  • After the goods are sold the Bailiff’s or High Court Enforcement Officer’s fees and expenses incurred in connection with the removal and sale of the goods will be deducted from the proceeds of sale. The judgment creditor will then be paid and if there is any money left over the judgment debtor will receive this.

  • Where a Warrant of Execution has been used to enforce the judgment the Court will provide the judgment debtor with a detailed written account confirming the price received for the goods and the sums deducted. In the case of a Writ of Fieri Facias the High Court Enforcement Officer may be required to endorse on the Writ a statement confirming the manner in which the Writ was executed.