What is a County Court Judgment?
A County Court Judgment, or a CCJ, is an order made against you by a County Court in England & Wales to repay a debt. Before the judge decides how to rule, the claimant (the creditor you owe money to) has to prove that the defendant (you) owes them money.
What’s the process for getting a County Court Judgement?
The CCJ process starts when you’re issued a with County Court claim form (N1).
Once you’ve got this, you’ll have at least 14 days from the start of the legal proceedings to take action. The proceedings will be deemed to have started 2 days after you receive the claim form (this allows an extra 2 days for postage time). This means you’ll have 14 days from the date of the postmark on the letter to respond to the claim form.
What do I do once I get the County Court claim form?
If you do receive a claim form, there’s more than one way to respond to it; how you choose to do so will depend on both your feelings about the ruling and whether or not you feel you owe the debt.
If you want to dispute the debt…
You need to file a defence. You might file a defence if you feel you don’t owe the money at all, or if you may think that the debt has already been repaid and your creditor has made a mistake. You might even have a claim against the creditor, and can use this form as a counterclaim if you wish.
If you want to admit you owe the debt..
You need to complete a N9A Admission form and send it to your creditor. By sending this, you’re admitting you owe all of the debt and are making an offer to repay what you owe. You’ll also need to complete an Income & Expenditure form and include it in the response.
If you dispute the jurisdiction, or are unable to file a defence within 2 weeks…
You must file an Acknowledgment of Service back to the County Court. This has to be done if you want to dispute the debt, but can’t do so within the 2-week time period; once you’ve done this you’ll then have to file your defence within 28 days. You can also file an Acknowledgement of Service if you want to dispute the County Court’s jurisdiction.
All you need to do after you’ve responded is wait for the County Court to make its judgment.
What do I do after the County Court has made its judgment?
Unless your dispute is held, the County Court will issue an order detailing how much you need to repay. There are three types of order, including:
Judgment in acceptance
A judgment in acceptance means that you’ve made an offer to your creditor on your claim form and they’ve accepted. Your creditor will notify the judge you’ve done this.
Judgment in default
You may get a judgment in default if you haven’t responded to the claim form in 14 days. If this is the case, the County Court will set the payment amount, which could mean that the whole balance has to be paid immediately.
Judgment after determination
This judgment will happen if your creditor rejects the payment offer you made via your claim form. If this happens, the County Court will set a payment after looking at your income and expenditure.
If you can’t pay the whole debt off within 30 days of the CCJ being made, the CCJ will become registered on your credit file via the Register of Judgments, Orders and Fines. It’ll be on your credit file for 6 years.
Alternatively, if you can pay the full debt off within 30 days the CCJ will not be registered on your credit file.
What happens if the payments aren’t affordable?
If the County Courts sets payments you feel you can’t afford, then you’ll need to complete form N245 to apply to vary the payments.
When you do this, you should include a competed income and expenditure as well as a list of any unsecured debts you’ve got. Submit this application to the court that set the CCJ in the first place (this costs £14) and your creditor will consider your offer.
If your creditor accepts this new offer of payment, the County Court will send you details of what’s been agreed to and your new payment plan.If your creditor rejects the offer, then the County Court will work out what you should pay based on the information you provided on the N245 form. You can choose to challenge this too if you wish, but you’ll have to do this within 14 days of the County Court’s judgment. Your case will then go to the court again for a redetermination.
Who do I make my CCJ payments to?You’ll need to make your payment(s) direct to your creditor or collection agent, not through the court.
What if I don’t make my payments?
If you don’t make your payment(s) as detailed in the order, your creditor can apply to the court for enforcement action.
This could result in an attachment of earnings order, an order for sale (if you already have a Charging Order), or a visit from an enforcement agent (bailiff).
Attachment of Earnings (AOE)If you don’t make your payments and are given an attachment of earnings order, then deductions will be taken directly from your monthly salary.
The court can order for this to happen if:
- You’re behind with your repayments;
- You’re an employee of a company (not self-employed or on benefits);
- You owe your creditor more than £50 on the CCJ
If your creditor applies to the court for an AOE, then the court will send you form N56 (Replying to an Attachment of Earnings Order). You must complete this form fully and send it back to the court as soon as possible.
In Section 10 of the form, you can ask the court to suspend the order, but you must give them a valid reason for this – e.g. you may lose your job or promotion prospects if your employer finds out you are in debt.
Your creditor can apply for a charging order, which secures the debt against your home, if:
- They have a CCJ against you, whether you have defaulted on the CCJ payment or not
- You own (or part-own) a property
The application for a charging order is in 2 stages:
Stage 1: Interim Charge
- The initial stage of the application
- A warning to you that the creditor intends to secure the debt unless it’s repaid
Stage 2: Final Charge
- The second stage is a hearing in the court where the District Judge considers the evidence put forward at the interim stage, and makes a decision on granting the charge. It’s really important you attend this hearing – it’s your chance to explain your situation and put your case forward.
If the charging order is granted, then your previously unsecured debt will now be secured against your property. You can challenge this if you wish, but you’ll have to raise an objection by writing to the court 7 days before the hearing.
If you’d like further help, please contact our Advice Team on 0800 316 1833.