County Court & High Court Enforcement – What’s the Difference?

County Court & High Court Enforcement, What’s the Difference? An enforcement officer (also known as a bailiff) is required when there is a possession order which has ordered the defendant(s) to give possession of a property and the deadline for doing so has passed. It is unlawful for any unauthorised person to enforce a possession order, it must be enforced by a certified enforcement agent acting under the warrant or writ of the Court.

There are two types of enforcement officers in this respect, a County Court Bailiff and a High Court Enforcement Officer (‘HCEO’).

It usually takes 3-4 weeks in most Courts for the County Court Bailiff to carry out the eviction. In some Courts, such as those in London, it often takes 4-6 weeks, or sometimes longer. In contrast, a HCEO can often carry out evictions within 7 days, and in some cases, within 24 hours. For these accelerated time scales, the HCEO or their clerk would usually personally attend the High Court to obtain the Writ for Possession immediately, giving the HCEO authority to enforce the Possession Order.

A landlord can only use a HCEO to enforce a possession order if permission to do so has been granted by the County Court that made the possession order. The County Court has the power to make such transfer under s.42 of the County Courts Act 1984. Many firms were previously seeking permission to transfer under s.43 of the County Courts Act 1984, which is not the correct provision of law to seek such order.

If the Possession Order has been made against trespassers, then the permission to use a HCEO is an automatic right.

In broad sense, a HCEO has more powers than that of a County Court Bailiff such as how they may gain entry to a property, the fundamental difference however, which makes HCEO’s appealing to landlords is that they carry out eviction in most cases substantially quicker than a County Court Bailiff.

A HCEO operates under the authority of a Writ of the High Court where a County Court Bailiff operates under the authority of a Warrant of the County Court. In some cases, a HCEO may enforce the landlords right of forfeiture for commercial property if instructed to do so in which case a writ would not be required from the Court. There are different rules in relation to evictions and debt recovery for residential and commercial premises.


In executing the warrant or writ, the enforcement officers can evict anyone they find on the premises, including occupiers who were not a party to the original possession proceedings (see R v Wandsworth County Court ex parte Wandsworth LBC [1975] 3 All ER 390, 1 WLR 1314). This means that where there is one named tenant on the tenancy agreement, but the tenant occupies the let property with their family who are not a party to the tenancy agreement, the tenant and their family would be evicted by an enforcement officer, even though the Possession Order was only made against the tenant named on the tenancy agreement.