How to Enforce a County Court Money Judgment (CCJ)
So, you’ve obtained a County Court Judgment (or “CCJ”). What now?
Obtaining a Judgment and / or costs order against a Debtor is often unfortunately only the first step in recovering the sums owed to you. If the Judgment itself didn’t encourage the debtor to pay, you may need to take steps to enforce the Judgment. The type of enforcement action you can choose will depend on the Debtor’s circumstances, or at least what you know or can find out about them. It is therefore crucial to know your Debtor to maximise your chances of making a recovery.
This article is designed to give you a snapshot of some of the options available to you in enforcing a County Court Judgment.
High Court enforcement
If you have obtained Judgment for a debt of over £600, and your debt is not regulated by the Consumer Credit Act, High Court enforcement can be a valuable option for recovery. This is the process of transferring up the Judgment from the County Court to the High Court to obtain a writ of control. High Court Enforcement Officers (“HCEO’s”) can then take steps to enforce the debt by making attendances on the debtor in order to seize and sell goods to settle the debt and costs owed. Using HCEO’s is by far the most effective way to encourage immediate payment from a Debtor and HCEO’s are paid on results so they have an incentive to recover the debt for you. High Court enforcement of a CCJ can also be used simultaneously with any of the other enforcement or security options mentioned below.
Attachment of earnings order
Where a Debtor is working (i.e. not self-employed, unemployed or receiving only pension income) and you know the name and address of their employer, an Attachment of Earnings Order can require the Debtor’s employer to deduct instalment payments from the Debtor’s salary and pay them directly to you. In bypassing the Debtor you pass the liability of ensuring that the ordered instalments are made on time to the Debtor’s employer. This may not be appropriate in all situations, because information on the Debtor’s income and employer will be key in making the lengthy application to enforce your County Court Judgment (CCJ).
Third Party Debt Order (“TPDO”)
If you know that a third party (such as a bank) owes money to your Debtor, it is possible to obtain an order requiring the third party to pay that money to you instead. This TPDO initially freezes the sums that are owed to you, that are in the hands of a third party and prevents the Debtor from using the money until the Court decides if the frozen assets should be used to settle the debt owed. Third Party Debt Orders are not used very often as they can be tricky and time consuming, however there are circumstances where this option can be very useful
Order to Attend Court for Questioning
Whilst not strictly an enforcement option, this option is a means to deciding which other enforcement option is the most appropriate. This Order does not require the Debtor to make payment, however it can be a useful tool to uncover information regarding the Debtor’s assets, employment status and other information that might factor into your decision regarding which CCJ enforcement option to use. If obtained, this order will require the Debtor to attend Court to answer formal questions regarding their income, assets and expenditure. If they fail to attend when ordered they can be sent to prison for a short period for contempt of Court.
If the Debtor owns property e.g., a house or land, we can take steps to secure the Judgment debt against their interest in the property. Once registered, although it does not guarantee immediate payment, your position as a creditor is secured as a restriction against any equity in the property. You can then sit back and wait for the debtor to sell the property, or progress with an order for sale if and when appropriate. Charging Orders can also be obtained against other assets belonging to the Debtor such as shares, or other securities. Please contact us for further advice regarding this option.
Bankruptcy / Winding Up Proceedings
If the Debtor is an individual and the debt owed is more than £5,000, applying for the Debtor’s Bankruptcy may also be an option. Likewise, if the Debtor is a company and the debt owed is £750 or more, proceedings can be issued to wind up the company. More often than not the threat of bankruptcy or winding up proceedings is enough to prompt the Debtor to make payment of the debt, or at the very least payment proposals. Please contact us to discuss the Insolvency options available to you.
We hope this guide on how to enforce a County Court Judgment (CCJ) has been useful. Please contact our Dispute Resolution Team for further advice and to discuss your available options.