Warrant of Execution and Warrant of Control

Sometimes, it is necessary to take further action to enforce a court judgment against a debtor for money owed to a creditor. In the County Court, the creditor can obtain a Warrant of Execution; and in the High Court, the creditor can obtain a Warrant of Control (formerly called a Writ of Fieri Facias).

These are relatively inexpensive ways in which to enforce a money judgment, and are typically used for low value claims. However, a Warrant of Control is a more expensive process so, in practice, should only be considered if you are certain the debtor has enough goods that can be seized and sold to pay off their debt to you.

What is a Warrant of Execution?

A Warrant of Execution is a method of enforcing a money judgment obtained in the County Court – up to the amount of £5,000. Once obtained, a Bailiff can go to the home or premises of the judgment debtor (the person, business or organisation who owes the money), and seize goods belonging to the judgment debtor to the value of the judgment, and sell them to pay off the debt.

What is a Warrant of Control??

Warrant of Control is used to enforce a judgment in the High Court. Where enforcement is by way of a Warrant of Control, it will be a High Court Enforcement Officer who attends the judgment debtor’s home or premises. You can generally choose whether to enforce a County Court judgment by way of a Warrant of Execution, or a Warrant of Control in the High Court.

However, it will only help if the judgment debtor has enough goods at the address you give which could be sold at auction to raise money for you; or if they have enough money to pay the amount you are claiming for on the warrant (to stop goods being sold).

What are the limits to a bailiff’s or enforcement officer’s powers under these warrants?

Bailiffs and High Court enforcement officers are not allowed to gain entry to a house by force.
However, if no one is there and a door or window is open, they are allowed to get into the property by those means. They can, of course, enter the property with the owner/occupier’s permission.

They may only collect goods belonging to the debtor, or those he or she owns jointly with someone else. They cannot collect goods which, for instance, belong to the debtor’s spouse or adult child; nor can they collect a car on hire purchase.

They can break into business premises that do not have any living accommodation – if they have reason to believe the defendant’s goods are there.

Not all types of goods can be seized, including tools of the judgment debtor’s trade, basic clothing, bedding, basic furniture, or basic household goods.

How do I obtain a Warrant of Execution?

The judgment creditor (the person, business or organisation to whom the money is owed) applies to the Court where the judgment or order was made, for a Warrant of Execution by completing the prescribed form. In some cases, for instance, if one of the parties has died since the judgment was made, or if executors or administrators have been appointed since the date of judgment, the court’s permission to apply will be needed.

The Court issues the Warrant of Execution, and the Court will send a warning notice to the judgment debtor at least 7 days before the Bailiff plans to visit the property.

How do I obtain a Warrant of Control?

First, you will need a Certificate of Judgment from the court that issued the judgment. This must state the date of judgment and the amount the order was made for, including any additional costs allowed by the court since the judgment. You must also state the total of any interest that has accrued on the judgment, and if appropriate, the daily rate.

You will then need to use a standard form – Request to issue a warrant of control. The High Court enforcement officer writes to the debtor saying that a warrant has been issued and requiring payment within seven days. If they still fail to pay – the enforcement officer goes to the address to identify goods to be sold at auction, or to collect payment. A Warrant of Control is valid for 12 months.

What happens when goods are identified?

If the bailiff or High Court enforcement officer identifies goods that could be sold to raise money, they will take ‘walking possession’ of goods. They must prepare an inventory of such goods, and by way of a ‘controlled goods agreement’ (formerly, a walking possession agreement’) between the enforcement officer and the debtor, those goods remain in the debtor’s possession on the condition that the amount owed is paid as agreed.

This allows a judgment debtor yet more time to pay the sum up. However, if no payment is forthcoming – the bailiff/enforcement officer can then return and seize the goods.

What happens when good are seized?

Where goods are removed by a bailiff or High Court Enforcement officer, they will generally be sold at a public auction. The enforcement costs incurred in relation to 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 receives the balance.

Article written by...
Nicola Laver LLB
Nicola Laver LLB

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A non-practising solicitor, Nicola is also a fully qualified journalist. For the past 20 years, she has worked as a legal journalist, editor and author.