What is Civil Enforcement

What is an Enforcement Agent?

Enforcement agents were previously called bailiffs. Enforcement agents are certificated by the County Court. This certification must be renewed every two years. This is an independent process, and it is one that agents take seriously. 

A court certification process reinforces the fact that agents act as appointed officers of the court, and agents take pride in the fact that they are certificated by a judge. This ensures good conduct and upholds professional standards.

The enforcement sector employs close supervision and constant monitoring to ensure that standards of conduct are without reproach. 

All enforcement agents are required to pass an exam to qualify for certification and the final decision is made by a judge. The exam tests an agent’s knowledge of the law as well as the industry standards they must meet. 

Agents usually wear body-worn cameras to record their visits on film. Film footage is constantly reviewed to monitor agents’ conduct and performance. This includes checking that agents are adhering to standards of privacy, such as not filming minors and or personal information such as credit card details. 

Agents’ vehicles are often tracked by satellite and their phone use can be monitored and call centre calls are recorded.

The Enforcement Process

In 2014 new rules concerning the recovery of money from debtors were brought in.

CIVEA members enforce non-High Court orders this includes non-payment of council tax, business rates, parking and traffic offences, fines from the Magistrates’ Court’s, non-payment of child support, or a failure to pay commercial rent.

Below we’ve outlined the process of a non-High Court order and the fees to expect.

If you have not paid a debt or a fine, it is tempting to ignore letters and calls. But this might add more costs.

Always reply to attempts to contact you. You may be able to make an arrangement to pay.

Warrant of Control or a Liability Order is issued

If you have a debt that has not been paid, the individual body (usually a local authority or a Magistrates’ court) issues a court order. These orders are known as warrants of control or liability orders. This starts the process to recover the money.

Warrant of Control or a Liability Order given to enforcement company

The warrant of control or liability order may then be given to an enforcement agent or enforcement company to recover the debt. If so, a fee of £75 is added to the amount owed.

Compliance stage

The first step in the three-stage enforcement process is the compliance stage where you are sent a ‘Notice of Enforcement’. 

This gives details of:

  • The outstanding debt 
  • How and when to pay by
  • What happens if you don’t pay
  • The extra fees you could then also expect to pay
  • Contact details for the enforcement agent or company
  • Contact details for free debt advice

You will have at least seven days (not including Sundays or Bank Holidays) before any further action is taken by the enforcement agent or company, unless a court has decided otherwise.

At this point you should contact the enforcement agent or company immediately to arrange for payment to be made to them. 

Once a debt is with an enforcement agent, you are required to pay them, rather than the body you owe money to. 

If you are unable to pay you should still call the enforcement agent or company and explain why. 

Your ‘Notice of Enforcement’ also includes contact details for free debt advice services, so if you’re having difficulty then it might be a good idea to get in touch with them.

Enforcement stage

If the enforcement agent or company doesn’t hear from you by the date stated, they will move the matter to the enforcement stage. 

This means you’ll have at least one visit from an enforcement agent to arrange payment, and an additional £235 (plus 7.5% of the original debt over £1500) will be added to the amount owed. 

The enforcement agent will carry details of the warrant, their enforcement agent certificate and photographic ID.

They are not obliged to inform you of the precise date and time of a visit. It could be anytime from 6am – 9pm on any day including Sundays, and religious or public holidays. 

Sometimes the enforcement agent will enter into a controlled goods agreement with you. This means a list is drawn up of what could be removed at a later date if you do not come to an alternative arrangement. Making a controlled goods agreement gives you a final chance to pay your debt rather than having your goods removed. 

Sale stage

If full payment is not made you risk having your possessions removed for sale by the enforcement agent. This is the sale stage. 

A fee of £110 (plus 7.5% of the original debt over £1500) is added to the amount owed to cover costs for moving the possessions so they can be sold.  

Additional (actual) costs for other expenses, such as hiring a locksmith, storing goods or auction costs, may be applied. Further expenses are limited, and must be approved by the court.

The information contained on these pages is provided only as a guide. If you have a question or are unsure about what you should do, please contact the free advice services listed on your ‘Notice of Enforcement’ or seek legal help.

0844 893 3922


PO Box 745

If you wish to make a complaint against a member of CIVEA, please go to our complaints page and follow the procedure detailed there. Your email will be acknowledged within 5 working days.

CIVEA is unable to discuss complaint matters over the telephone and complaints should be sent in writing. This is to ensure that the details of your complaint are accurately recorded and understood which makes it easier in addressing your complaint thoroughly. Please advise if you have a disability, so that we can make reasonable adjustments.

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