- The Bailiff Section in Hong Kong serves two key
roles as part of the Judiciary. Both roles help to
ensure that justice is fairly administered and carried
to its proper conclusion.
- On the one hand, the Bailiffs and their assistants
serve summonses and other important legal documents
on parties as required by a Court or Tribunal or as
requested by a person who is a party to litigation,
for example, a court or tribunal hearing which parties
are required to attend clearly cannot proceed unless
there is proof that the parties concerned have had
the summonses to attend properly served on them in
a manner specified by law.
- On the other hand, the Bailiff Section plays an
important role in promoting full compliance with Court
and Tribunal judgments and orders, for example, if
a judgment debtor who has been ordered to settle a
debt, or a person who has been ordered to vacate premises,
fails to do so, application can be made to the Bailiff
Section to take the appropriate steps to try to recover
the debt or deliver the premises to the applicant.
As briefly summarised above, the Bailiff Section
is responsible for serving summonses or legal documents
and effecting the execution of court orders and judgments.
Bailiffs and Bailiff's Assistants also carry out
judicial and extra-judicial services in co-operation
with the judiciary authorities of jurisdictions outside
Hong Kong in respect of legal proceedings and enforcement
Bailiffs further have the power to arrest ships
under Admiralty proceedings.
Courts and Tribunals that issue summonses or legal
documents need to serve them on the parties to the
litigation and their witnesses. Typical examples include
writs of summonses in civil proceedings, Magistrate's
summonses in traffic and miscellaneous cases, notices
of hearing in various Courts, notices of trial in
criminal cases, notices of claims in various tribunals,
charge sheets and indictments, summonses to witness,
subpoenas, interpleader summonses, and foreign process
issued by foreign courts for service in Hong Kong.
Not only do the Courts and Tribunals need to serve
such papers, when you are a party to civil litigation,
you yourself bear the responsibility for serving documents
such as a writ, an originating summonses, or a notice
of claim, on the other party. You will have to prove
to the Court that the service has been carried out
as the law provides before your case can proceed any
further. You may well wish to seek the Bailiff Section's
assistance in effecting service, especially if you
have not appointed a lawyer to act for you.
The actual mode of service - how the document concerned
is physically transmitted or delivered - is either
laid down in the Ordinances or will be directed by
the Judges or Registrars of respective Courts and
Tribunals. The most common methods of service are:
- ordinary post
- registered post
- personal service
Service of the summonses and legal documents can
be done by solicitors acting on behalf of parties.
If you are acting in person, you can request the service
of the Bailiff's Assistants, for example, if you are
a claimant in a small claim or labour dispute, where
no legal representation is permitted, the summonses
to the defendant / respondent(s) /witness(es), etc.
may be served on the other party by the Bailiff’s
Assistants rather than by you personally.
If a document cannot be successfully served on the
other party, you may apply to the Court for an order
for “substituted service”, in which case the Court
will decide what steps must be taken to bring the
document to the attention of the other party.
Charges for service of documents for each level of
court are set out in the relevant Ordinances.
Before reading the rest of this booklet, it
is worth bearing the following points in mind:
- While the Bailiff Section will always use its best
efforts under the law to assist you, you should be
aware that judgments cannot always be enforced, for
example, if the defendant is penniless or his whereabouts
- You should also note that Bailiffs carry out execution
of orders and judgments upon your instructions as
applicant. It is not the job of the Bailiff Section
to trace the whereabouts of the debtors or to ensure
that the sum owed to the applicant is recovered.
- Further, there is no guarantee that the Bailiffs
will succeed in getting any sum or seizing any goods
of value. In such cases, you, as judgment creditor,
still have to bear the costs of execution.
- As an applicant, you must be very careful in the
instructions you give to the Bailiff. This is because,
if goods and chattels are seized from the wrong persons,
then any claim for wrongful seizure will be made against
you and not the Bailiff.
- Bailiffs execute orders and judgments of the court.
They are authorised to:
- seize goods and chattels at a value equivalent
to the judgment debts plus the incidental expenses
of the execution; and
- repossess lands / premises.
After you have obtained an order / judgment or award
from the Court or Tribunal for payment of money to you,
you can apply for its enforcement by the Bailiff if
the order / judgment or award is not complied with.
You can apply for a writ of execution depending on
the nature of your case.
Examples of such writs include:
- Writ of Fieri Facias (where you cannot obtain the
- Warrant of Distress (where you have filed a distraint
case in the District Court)
- Writ of Possession (where you are unable to repossess
the land / premises after the award of the judgment)
You should go to the Court or the Lands / Small Claims Tribunal where the order / judgment or award was made to apply for a writ of execution.
For a judgment made by the Labour Tribunal, you should obtain a Certificate of Award from the Tribunal, and
register it with the District Court Registry, applying for the issue of a writ of execution.
The registry staff will give you an application form
(called a "praecipe") and a writ form on which
you should fill in the particulars of the defendant
and the amount of money you wish to recover. To ensure
successful execution of a writ, you must provide the
correct address of the judgment debtor / defendant.
The authorised officers in the Court will approve the
issue of the writ.
You will be required to pay deposits covering both
the cost of a private security guard service and the
travelling expenses incurred by the Bailiff.
For High Court cases, take the approved writ of execution together with the endorsed note of the deposit to the Bailiff Office (Admiralty and High Court) of the Bailiff Section.
For other cases, the writ of execution should be filed directly with the respective Court Registry.
Your case will be scheduled for execution on a first
come, first served basis.
Fill in Form BF 59
very carefully. This instructs the Bailiff how execution
should be carried out. The Bailiff Section can arrange
private security guard service on your behalf. The security
guard will accompany the Bailiff to carry out execution
and safeguard the goods and chattels seized after a
Yes. You should, if at all possible, accompany the
Bailiff when he goes to execute the writ. This enables
you to give any further instructions on the spot.
All executions are scheduled in the order in which
the writs are received. No request for priority of an
execution will be considered unless you have obtained
permission or approval from the Registrar, High Court
or the Registrar, District Court.
You have to pay:
- a filing fee for the writ of the execution;
- a deposit for the Bailiff's travelling expenses, which are $400 for execution address in the Hong Kong and Kowloon areas or $800 for execution address in the New Territories area; and
- a deposit for the cost of a maximum of 8 days’ services by the security guard.
Regardless of whether or not the execution is successful,
the Bailiff’s expenses and the security guard service
fees are deducted from these deposits for each attempt
at execution. The more attempts you make, the greater
are the costs incurred, and you may in fact have to
pay a further deposit if the number of attempts warrants
it. The costs you incur may only be recovered if the
execution is successful and the payment of the defendant
or the proceeds of the sale of goods and chattels are
enough to cover the judgment debt plus the costs incurred.
You can get back any unused portion of your deposits
if you decide not to proceed with the execution at any
stage. You should write to the Bailiff Section stating
that you intend to close the case and asking for a refund.
The Bailiff Section will inform the Accounts Office
of the Court concerned. The Accounts Office will calculate
the amount refundable to you and will then notify you
when the money is ready for collection.
What happens on the date of execution?
On the date of execution of either of these writs,
a Bailiff, together with a security guard, will visit
the defendant's premises. You should, if at all possible,
accompany this team.
If there are sufficient goods and chattels on the
premises to justify a seizure, the Bailiff will seize
them up to the amount endorsed on the writ, plus the
estimated costs of the execution. Unless you give an
undertaking to pay the necessary cost involved in effecting
a seizure, the seizure will be withheld and treated
The seizure will be withheld if the judgment debtor
settles the debt (plus the execution costs incurred)
on the spot in cash or by a cashier's order made payable
to "The Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative
Region". An official receipt will be issued to
the judgment debtor.
To execute a Warrant of Distress, you can apply for
a break open order to break into the premises after
two unsuccessful attempts.
The Bailiff will take an inventory of all items seized.
One copy will be passed to the security guard responsible
for keeping watch over the items to ensure that they
will not be tampered with or removed unlawfully.
The defendant has a period of 5 working days (excluding
the seizure and auction dates) to settle the debt plus
the estimated costs incurred for the execution. If the
defendant does not pay the total amount due, then the
seized items will be sold on the first working day after
this period by public auction.
The proceeds at auction will then be used to settle
the money due to you after defraying the necessary execution
If there are any specific instructions you would like
to give to the Bailiff in connection with the sale of
the distrained property, you should write to them within
the next 24 hours after the seizure effected.
The auction is normally held at the Sales Room of the
appointed auctioneer. It will be in your interest to
attend the auction if you can spare the time. If you
are interested in the sale, you are at liberty to made
offers to purchase at the auction. In the event that
the highest bid at the auction could not reach the reserve
price, the Bailiff will contact you by telephone for
your instructions. In case you are not satisfied with
the result of an auction and wish to make other arrangement
for the sale, further court order has to be applied.
You can collect the money from the Court’s Accounts
Office after 14 working days from the date of payment
into the court by the debtor or from the date of the
auction, as the case may be.
If there are no goods or insufficient goods to justify
a seizure, you can give instructions to the Bailiff
immediately if you are on the spot. If you are not on
the spot, the Bailiff will inform you of the outcome
in writing and you will be required to give further
instructions to the Bailiff Section within 14 days.
If you decide not to proceed with the execution, you
should write to the Bailiff Section. Upon your request,
the Bailiff Section will arrange for the unused portion
of the deposit to be refunded to you.
Normally, the execution of a Writ of Possession involves
the following steps:
If the site is vacated, vacant possession will be
delivered to the applicant.
If the site is still occupied, the Bailiff will
notify the occupants of the scheduled delivery date.
Yes. If you are entitled to repossess the land / premises
as well as to claim back the judgment debt, you can
enforce both executions together. The main difference
is that a security guard will go with you and the goods
and chattels found in the land or premises will have
to be guarded for at least 8 days before they can be
- The Bailiff will attempt execution with a security
guard upon receipt of the Writ of Execution.
- The Bailiff will within an average period of 10
days serve the "Notice to Quit" which demands
removal of the occupants upon receipt of the Writ
- Wherever possible, the Judiciary will reply at once
to correspondence from members of the public. In any
case, we will give you an interim reply within 10
days and a full response within 30 days of receiving
- We welcome all comments and suggestions for improving
our services. Please send them to the Judiciary Administrator
at the High Court, 38 Queensway, Hong Kong.
For general telephone enquiries, please call 2802 7510
to enter our interactive voice response system. This
system provides members of the public with information
about the Bailiff Section including its responsibilities,
opening hours, appointment and execution of Court orders/judgments,
and service of summonses and legal documents.
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