If you have been issued with a County Court Judgment (CCJ), it can often be a frightening and worrying experience. Usually, a CCJ is combined with an underlying debt problem, so you should seek help and advice if you find that you are struggling to make your contractual payments.
What is a County Court Judgment CCJ?
CCJ stands for ‘County Court Judgment’. It is an order made by the court against someone who owes money (defendant) to another person or company (claimant). The judgment is entered onto the ‘Register of County Court Judgments’. These entries will remain on the register for 6 years from the date the judgment was obtained.
Organisations such as banks, building societies and credit companies use the information on the Register when someone applies for credit such as a loan or an overdraft. It helps them decide whether or not that person would be able to pay the debt back to the company.
How does the person I owe money to obtain a CCJ against me?
Firstly, in order to obtain a judgment, you must owe the person or company money. Generally the collection process will start with creditors sending reminders to pay and if these are ignored the debt is often referred to a debt collection agency. Many creditors have in-house collection departments who will chase you for payment. Generally they will give you a time limit to pay the debt following which they will issue a default notice which will stay on your credit record for 6 years. This does affect your credit status and may cause you issues opening further lines of credit.
If during this process you agree to a payment plan which is acceptable to the creditor, they are likely to cease further collection action as long as you stick to the agreed plan. If you do this early enough you could avoid getting a default notice.
If for whatever reason you don’t communicate with the creditor, they will step up their collection efforts. This could include referral to a specialist debt collection business who will contact you via post, telephone and email requesting payment.
What should I look out for when being issued with a CCJ?
A CCJ starts out with a claim form being sent to you. This form will have been stamped by the court and is usually blue in colour (but this can vary from each court).
You will also get a response pack that will include the following forms:
- Defence and Counterclaim Form (N9B) – you should complete this if you disagree with the the claim.
- Admission Form (N9A) – if you complete this form, you are admitting to owing the full amount or amount you specify on the claim.
- Acknowledgement of Service – this form is to be used if you wish to defend the claim and require time to put together your defence.
On the Claim Form there will be specific details about the case explaining what the creditor says you owe to them, the payment deadline and the details of which you need to pay.
There is a time limit in which you will need to reply to the Claim Form. This is 14 days from receipt of the form. The court also allows 5 days for postage, giving a total of 19 days from the date the Claim Form was issued.
If you get one of these letters or notices you should try to make every effort to reach an agreement with your creditor to pay back what you owe.
Once issued with a CCJ, what are my options?
When you receive your ‘Claim Form’ you need to respond within the time period given. Whatever you do, don’t ignore the claim or miss the deadline. If you do this, the company claiming against you can request a default judgment. If the default judgment is granted the courts will set a monthly repayment, or you may ordered to pay the money in full at once.
Pay the amount you owe within 14 days of the judgment (plus any interest and court fees shown). If you do, you don’t need to send the forms back. There won’t be a court hearing and you will not have a CCJ recorded against you.
Ask to pay the amount later or in instalments. If you do decide to offer this, you will need to complete the N9A form saying how you would like to pay. A CCJ will still be issued.
Dispute the amount owed. If you think that you owe less than is claimed, you need to send the forms back explaining why. You should pay what you think you owe straight away or alternatively ask for time to pay. The court will decide whether you or the creditor is right. If the court decides that the creditor is right, they will issue a CCJ against you.
Dispute the claim. If you believe that you don’t owe anything, return the Defence Form that is sent to you within the Claim Form pack to the court explaining why you are disputing the claim.
Claim against the creditor. If you think you are owed money instead (i.e. if an electrician sues you for non-payment, but you think he owes you money for breaching the contract) you’ll need to fill out the counterclaim form included within the Claim Form pack.
How do I pay my CCJ?
The judgment form will explain how you should repay your debt. It’s important that you keep a record of the payment as proof you have cleared the outstanding balance. The payment should be made before the deadline.
What happens if I can’t pay the CCJ?
If you can’t afford to make the payments ordered by the Court, there are a couple of steps you can take.
Firstly, you can obtain a form from any County Court online and make an ‘Application to Vary an Order’ (N245). This allows you to tell the court how much you can reasonably afford to pay back to your creditor every month once you have taken into account every day living expenditure (i.e. bills and food). If the creditor doesn’t agree to the amount you have stated, then the court will decide how much you’ll repay.
What happens if I don’t make the correct payments on time?
If you don’t make the correct payments on time then the creditor can ask the court to enforce payment using one of the following methods:
A Warrant of Execution
This gives a county court enforcement agent the power to visit your home or business to collect the money you owe, or see whether you have any goods to the value of the money which you owe.
If you cannot pay, the enforcement agent will look at your belongings and decide whether you own anything that could be sold at auction to repay the debt.
If your creditor has asked for a Warrant of Execution, you will usually be sent a letter stating that if you pay the amount owed to the court within seven days, the enforcement agent will not come to your home or business. If you don’t pay, the enforcement agent will come to your home to collect payment or take goods to sell at auction.
A Charging Order
This is an order of the court placing a ‘charge’ on your property, such as a house or piece of land. The charge will be for the amount owed to the creditor. The charging order will not mean that the creditor obtains the money immediately, but it does safeguard the money for the future.
A charge on a property usually means that if the property is sold, the charge has to be paid first before any of the proceeds of the sale can be given to you. However, a charging order does not force you to sell your property.
How do I find out if I have a CCJ entered against me?
If you are unsure if you have CCJ registered against you, you can search the Register of County Court Judgments. A fee will be payable for this service. You can search the register by writing to:
Registry Trust Ltd
173/175 Cleveland Street
Alternatively you can check the register online on the Trust Online website.
You can also look at your credit report which should show any CCJ registered against you. You can use the well known credit reference agencies such asEquifax and Experian. We’re a big fan of Noddle which is a service that supplies you with a free credit report.
How will a CCJ affect me?
If you have a CCJ registered against you, you may find it difficult to obtain credit. However, a CCJ may not be the only factor preventing you from obtaining credit and a CCJ does not in itself prevent you from obtaining credit.
How does a CCJ affect my Credit Rating?
If you have been issued a CCJ or a High Court Judgement, it will stay on the Register of Judgments, Orders and Fines for 6 years.
However, if you pay the amount you owe within one month of the date the CCJ was issued to you; you can apply to have your CCJ entry on the register removed.
If you pay the amount you owe after a month, you can get the judgment record marked as satisfied on the register. This means it will still appear on the register for 6 years, however people who search the register will see that you have paid. Please note however, that having an entry as ‘satisfied’ or having it removed from the register does not guarantee that you will be given credit.
If you don’t pay the amount owed, it will appear as a negative factor on your credit report and this will therefore lower your overall credit score. This means it will be hard to obtain quality credit after the record has been made and rebuilding your credit rating in the future will be harder for you. It’s therefore important to pay the required amount should you in any way be able to afford to do this.
If you have a CCJ or you have financial difficulties and problems with debts, you should seek financial advice.
The Debt Advisor is fully regulated and authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority (Reg No:606669) and is a member of the Debt Resolution Forum.