Take Back Control - how to enforce a debt
We’ve all seen those shows on TV about what happens when a debtor fails to pay their creditors and High Court Enforcement Officers are engaged. The process will probably seem fairly straightforward to some of us. As a creditor, in order to taken enforcement action of this kind, you need to obtain a writ of control, which is then sent to a High Court Enforcement Officer. But what happens when two separate creditors have issued writs of control against the same debtor? Which one comes first in the order of priority? In this blog, Elliot Cousins, a Trainee Solicitor in our Civil Litigation & Dispute Resolution department, summarises recent caselaw which confirms the position.
Let’s imagine, your business sells cars on hire purchase agreements. One of your customers hasn’t made their payments in time and you have successfully obtained a County Court Judgment (more commonly known as a CCJ). The customer has ignored the CCJ and you are looking to take enforcement action. You obtain a writ of control and you are ready to engage a High Court Enforcement Officer. However, that same customer, already had another CCJ entered against them, following their failure to meet repayments on their credit card. The credit card company obtained a writ of control and submitted it to the High Court Enforcement Officer, two weeks before you submitted yours.
It would be easy to simply assume that the creditor that secures payment or seizes goods from the customer first will have priority. However, that is not actually the case.
Recently, in the case of Court Enforcement Services Ltd v Burlington Credit Ltd  EWHC 1920 (QB), the Court decided that priority will be given to the creditor whose writ is first received by the High Court Enforcement Officer, rather than the creditor whose High Court Enforcement Officer receives the fruits of the writ. The order of priority is, therefore, determined by the date and time that the writs are lodged with the High Court Enforcement Officer; it does not matter which Officer secures payment or seizes the goods first.
The case highlights the importance of being proactive in seeking enforcement action, should that become necessary. It is imperative that you take action at the earliest opportunity. The case also, however, serves as a significant reminder of the impact that having a CCJ entered against you or your business can have; it is important that you seek the assistance of solicitors as soon as you can, should you or business face a dispute.
If you need advice on Court action, whether that be in relation to the initial steps of a claim, the civil proceedings or subsequent enforcement action, our Civil Litigation & Dispute Resolution team can help. Speak to one of our friendly team on 01702 477106 or get in touch by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.