CCJ enforcement

  • CCJ enforcement
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Overview:

This article will cover everything you need to know about CCJs, from why you might have received a CCJ to what can happen if you ignore a CCJ.

If you fail to make payments towards a debt as agreed, your creditor (the individual or company you owe) may contact the court and request that you be served with a County Court Judgment (CCJ).

But what exactly are County Court Judgments? And, how are they typically enforced? Receiving an order from the court can be worrying and it’s normal to have questions, but the more you know about the CCJ enforcement process, you more you can prepare.

What is a County Court Judgment (CCJ)?

‘CCJ’ stands for County Court Judgment and is a type of court order that can be issued against you if you fail to make payments towards a debt and your creditor has sought legal action to help them recover the money owed.

When you receive a CCJ, you’ll either be issued a judgment forthwith (where you pay the total amount upfront) or a judgment in instalments (where you make monthly payments until your total balance has been repaid). The judgment – which will arrive in the post – will tell you how much you owe, how to pay, how long you need to make payments, and where you should send your payments.

CCJs are legally binding, which means there can be serious consequences if you don’t pay. Failure to stick to the terms of a CCJ could result in money being forcibly taken from your wages or enforcement agents visiting you at home and seizing your belongings.

Why have I received a CCJ?

If you have received a CCJ, it means that the court agrees with your creditor and you do owe the amount being claimed. However, a CCJ should never come as a surprise and you will always be given an opportunity to make up for the money owed before being served with a judgment. 

Most people receive a CCJ after ignoring various letters and phone calls or a statutory demand about the debt and their creditor has sought court action as a last resort to get them to pay. This means a CCJ should never come out of the blue. 

There is also no minimum amount of debt required for a CCJ. So even if you’re only behind by one or two months, it’s up to your creditor if and when they want to apply for a CCJ. 

How does the CCJ enforcement process work?

There are certain steps your creditor must follow when issuing you with a CCJ. Here is a brief guide to what you can expect from the CCJ enforcement process:

Letter before action

Before your creditor can take legal action against you, they must follow the ‘pre-action protocol for debt claims’. This is a set of guidelines that the court expects both parties to follow before resorting to legal action.

This includes sending you a ‘letter of claim’ which outlines a summary of your debts, the total amount owed, and the deadline for making payment (usually 30 days). The letter will come with a reply form and financial statement enclosed which must be completed as soon as possible and can be used to request extra time or information if required.

Claim form

The next step in the CCJ enforcement process is being issued with a claim form.

Once your claim form has arrived, you’ll only have 14 days to respond, stating whether or not you agree to owing the amount being claimed. The court will, however, usually allow a few extra days to account for potential delays.

This can be your last chance to explain your financial situation to the court and ask for your repayments to be set at a rate you can comfortably afford.

Judgment

The final step in the CCJ enforcement process is being issued with a CCJ. The judgment will outline what your next steps should be and what could happen if you fail to comply with the CCJ.

Remember, if you cooperated with the court and submitted a reasonable offer of payment, the court is likely to honour this and set your repayments at a rate you should have no problem affording.

How will a CCJ affect my credit history?

Once you’ve been issued with a CCJ, it will be added to your credit file for six years. During this time, it will be extremely difficult to get approved for credit and, in most cases, you will have to wait until it has been removed before you can get a personal loan, bank account, mortgage, or phone contract.

However, while a CCJ will be visible on your credit record and lower your credit score during these six years, it’s important to note that the missed payments or defaults that led to the CCJ will have already dragged your credit score down.

CCJs are also added to the Register of Judgments, Orders and Fines for six years, which is a public database of all CCJs registered by courts in England and Wales. This information is publicly available but is usually only used by those requiring access to your credit history, such as credit reference agencies, legal professionals, debt collection agencies, and certain employers.

Can I get a CCJ removed from my credit file?

There are several ways to get a CCJ removed from your credit file, but whether you’re able to do so depends on your circumstances.

Here are some of the ways in which you might be able to get a CCJ removed from your credit file:

Pay the full amount owed within one month

When you pay the full amount owed within one month of receiving a CCJ, you must write to the court and inform them that you’ve cleared your outstanding balance. Once the court has confirmed that this is true, the CCJ will be removed from your credit file and the Register of Judgments, Orders and Fines – as if it never existed in the first place.

This is the best option if the CCJ is less than a month old, you admit to owing the money, and you’re in a situation to repay the total amount upfront. Even if you don’t believe you should pay, doing so may be the best option for your credit history – especially if it’s only for a small amount – as it will prevent your credit score from being damaged for six years.

Paying the full amount owed after one month has passed won’t get it removed from your credit file but it will get it marked as ‘satisfied’ on the Register of Judgments, Orders and Fines, which can make it slightly easier to get approved for credit.

Apply to have the judgment set aside

The court may agree to cancel or ‘set aside’ your CCJ if you can prove that it shouldn’t have been issued in the first place.

However, this is usually only granted in exceptional circumstances, such as if your creditor didn’t follow the correct procedure or sent the claim form to the wrong address and didn’t attempt to find the correct address. There may also need to be some sort of argument against the amount the creditor is claiming (e.g. the amount being claimed is significantly more than what you owe).

There is also a non-refundable court fee required to set aside a CCJ (currently £275), so you should only apply if you’re confident you don’t owe the money.

Wait six years for it to be automatically removed

The only other way to get a CCJ removed from your credit file is to wait six years for it to be automatically removed.

This will happen regardless of whether it’s been paid and is the best option if you admit to owing the debt but don’t currently have the funds to repay it in full.

However, waiting for a CCJ to be automatically removed can be risky and your creditor will be free to take further action against you at any point during these six years. This can include sending bailiffs to your door, taking the money owed from your wages, or freezing your bank account.

What can happen if I ignore a CCJ?

When you’re issued with a CCJ, it’s important to cooperate fully with the court and make payments as instructed. Failure to do so will put you at risk of further legal action and you may end up owing more in hidden costs and legal fees than if you were to just repay the debt as originally instructed.

Here are some of the actions your creditor can take if you ignore a CCJ:

Send bailiffs to your property

One of the first things your creditor is likely to do when you ignore a CCJ is send bailiffs to your property to help them recover the money owed.

When a bailiff visits you, they will usually ask if you can pay the debt upfront and make a list of items they can sell to help them repay the debt. They will then ask you to sign a ‘controlled goods agreement’ where you agree to pay the debt in regular instalments in exchange for keeping your belongings.

Take the money from your wages

The next thing your creditor is likely to do when you ignore a CCJ is apply for a court order to take the money directly from your wages. This is called an ‘Attachment of Earnings Order’ (AEO) and instructs your employer to send a set amount to the court each month until the debt has been repaid or the court instructs them to stop.

However, before your creditor can apply for an AEO, they must be able to prove you are behind on your CCJ payments, are an employee (not unemployed, self-employed, or in the army), and owe at least £50.

Freeze your bank account

Finally, your creditor may choose to freeze your bank account and order your bank or building society to send them the money owed. This is called a Third Party Debt Order (TPDO) and is a way for your creditor to recover the money owed before it reaches you.

However, it’s worth noting that Third Party Debt Orders are rare and your creditor is much more likely to use another, less-serious form of legal action, such as county court enforcement officers, to help them recover the debt.

How do I get a CCJ set aside?

The process of getting a CCJ set aside is relatively straightforward, but you will need a genuine reason for not owing the amount being claimed and will be asked to provide proof to support your argument.

Complete and send an application form

The first step towards getting a CCJ set aside is completing and sending an application form or application notice (form N244) to the court that issued the CCJ.

This can be obtained as a paper copy from the court or as a digital form from the GOV.UK website.

Attend a hearing at your local court

Sometimes, you will be asked to attend court to discuss the reasons for setting aside your CCJ. This will almost always be held at your local county court hearing centre – even if the CCJ was issued from a different court.

However, some courts will review your application without a hearing and, when this happens, you’ll simply receive a decision in the post.

Wait for the court’s decision

The court will then review your application and write to you with a decision.

When a CCJ is successfully set aside, any ongoing enforcement action will be cancelled and your case will go back to the claim stage. This will give you another chance to complete the claim form, make an offer of payment, or put in a defence or counterclaim.

Remember, getting a CCJ set aside cancels the judgment but doesn’t make the debt disappear or stop your creditor from taking other forms of legal action against you.

How long does my creditor have to enforce a CCJ?

From the date the CCJ was issued, your creditor has six years to pursue you for the money owed. They can still enforce the CCJ after this time but only if they have successfully obtained an extension from the court.

However, if your CCJ is on the brink of expiry and your creditor applies for an extension, they will typically be asked to explain why a successful collection wasn’t made during those six years.

When can a CCJ be enforced by the high court?

Typically, CCJs are enforced by the country court. However, if certain criteria are met, creditors can apply to the high court for a ‘writ of control’ which allows them to escalate a CCJ to the high court and use more serious methods of debt recovery. Here are the only situations in which a CCJ can be transferred to the high court:

  • The CCJ is for a debt worth £600 or more
  • The debt is not regulated by the Consumer Credit Act (1974)
  • The CCJ is less than six years old
  • The creditor hasn’t received CCJ payments as agreed

Once a CCJ has been transferred to the high court for enforcement, high court enforcement officers (HCEOs) can seize your goods and use the money made from selling them to repay your debt (including any additional court costs and interest). This is known as ‘taking control of goods’.

HCEOs also have greater powers than county court bailiffs, which means they can enter your home on their first visit – as long as they have your permission to do so – and force entry if they’re forced to return at a later date (e.g. you broke the terms of an agreement made during their first visit).

Why has my CCJ been transferred to the high court?

There are several reasons why your CCJ might have been transferred to the high court to be recovered by a high court enforcement officer instead of a county court bailiff. Here are some of the most common reasons:

  • Creditors can add 8% statutory interest to judgments debts in the high court 
  • Higher HCEO fees tend to pressure people into paying 
  • HCEOs are often paid based on the amount they can recover so they can be more persistent 

Conclusion

Receiving a CCJ can bring about more questions than answers but as long as you (the judgment debtor) cooperate with the court and make payments as instructed, you shouldn’t have anything to worry about.

There are various steps included in the CCJ enforcement process, meaning you’ll be given several chances to repay what you owe before receiving a judgment and a CCJ should never come as a surprise.

Failure to repay what you owe (the judgment debt) or respond to letters about the debt could result in enforcement officers being sent to your home or money being deducted from your wages.

Key Takeaways

Key Takeaways

A County Court Judgment (CCJ) is a type of court order your creditor can issue against you if you fail to make repayments toward a debt
Before your creditor can serve you with a CCJ, they must follow the 'pre-action protocol for debt claims' and try to come to an agreement with you without the help of the court
Having a CCJ will negatively impact your credit rating for six years and make it difficult to obtain further credit
There can be serious consequences for ignoring a CCJ and your creditor is likely to respond by sending bailiffs to your door or deducting a certain amount from your wages each month
Once a CCJ has been issued, your creditor only has six years to enforce it (unless they apply for an extension)
Maxine McCreadie

Maxine McCreadie

Author/Debt Expert

Maxine McCreadie, prominent personal finance writer featured in Vogue and Yahoo News, delivers practical guidance, simplifying money management and championing financial literacy.

How we reviewed this article:

HISTORY

Our debt experts continually monitor the personal finance and debt industry, and we update our articles when new information becomes available.

Current Version

February 28 2024

Written by
Maxine McCreadie

Edited by
Ben McCormack

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