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Rights of entry and removal

Amy Gates looks at the powers available to the HCEO (High Court Enforcement Officer) when he is on the trail of a debtor who has failed to pay up. 

The rights of entry vary depending on whether the property is classed as residential or commercial. Residential property can be entered via any open/ unlocked doors or windows or by climbing perimeter walls and fences. Once inside, the HCEO may break down interior doors if necessary. If he is forced from the property (and he should not be), he can force reentry. If there are garages or other outbuildings that are not attached to the main residence, he can force entry into those.

The HCEO has more rights over commercial properties. He can force entry on a first visit to levy (seize) on goods and on subsequent visits to remove the goods. If the property is rented he should, however, contact the landlord before forcing entry.

He may visit the home of a company director if he believes goods belonging to the company (eg a car) may be located there. He may also enter the premises of a third party (with prior consent) if he believes goods belonging to the debtor are to be found there. If consent is refused and the HCEO believes the goods have been taken there to avoid execution, he may force entry.

In practice, it is rare for debtors’ goods to be sold at auction. However there is a long list of items that may be seized by the HCEO, ranging from vehicles, stock and machinery to jewellery, firearms and livestock.

Care has to be taken to ensure that any seized goods are owned by the debtor because costly legal proceedings can follow if a third party claims ownership of the goods.

We can advise in greater detail on the specifics of any particular case.