Depending on your circumstances, you may find yourself with debt you can’t – or won’t – repay. There are various legal avenues that your creditors can explore in order to force you to repay what you owe. One of the most common is a County Court Judgement (CCJ).
In this article we’ll examine CCJs – what they are, how you find out if a creditor has taken one against you, and where you can get the debt advice you need to fight court action.
County Court Judgements are part of the debt collection process in England and Wales – in both Scotland and Northern Ireland, the court system and the debt collection process work differently.
When a lender (the people you owe money to) fails to collect debt from a borrower (you), they might apply for a CCJ: a court order which instructs you to settle the unpaid debt.
Once you receive a CCJ you will have a fixed period of time – usually two weeks – to respond and arrange a repayment plan. If you don’t, you may face further legal consequences, including having to settle your debt in full within an unrealistic timeframe.
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It’s not always immediately obvious whether you have a CCJ against you. You might be concerned about an old debt to a creditor, or maybe someone has threatened you with a CCJ and you’re not sure whether they went through with it. There are several ways to check if you have CCJs against you.
The Register of Judgements, Orders, and Fines is public register of certain legal actions that may have been taken against you. The register will hold details of any CCJs against you for a period of six years from when the claim was first lodged.
You can access the register online via the Trust Online website. You can search for yourself via your name or post-code, and you should be able to see public information like the name of the court who ordered the action, the case number, and the date the judgment was made.
One of the easiest options for finding a record of any CCJ or claim against you is to access your credit file through one of the credit reference agencies.
Your credit file is a detailed history off all of your major financial transactions, from mortgage payments to unpaid credit cards. If a creditor has taken a CCJ against you, you should be able to find it on your credit report.
For some people, it’s a complete shock to discover the court has issued a judgment against them. Often they’ve went to take out a new form of credit and discovered their credit score has been badly damaged due to a CCJ being issued for an old debt.
If you have a court order against you and you’re not sure what it’s for, the first step is to visit Trust Online and find the relevant case number.
Once you have it, your best bet is to contact the court directly, whether that’s via your email address or a phone number. If you ask the court about your CCJ, they should be able to inform you of the circumstances under which it was issued, including the creditor and the finances involved.
The first and most obvious way to get rid of a CCJ is to come to an agreement with your creditors to pay back the money you owe.
If you can arrange a debt repayment plan your creditors are content with, you’ll be able to repay what you owe over time and eventually remove the CCJ removed from your record.
Unfortunately the CCJ will still be listed on your credit record for a period of six years, but it will be removed thereafter and, by paying what you owe, you will avoid the threat of enforcement action and won’t have to face bailiffs coming to your home.
If you disagree with the CCJ against you, you can ask the court to remove it, which is legally known as having your CCJ ‘set aside’. You will first have to apply to the court using a claim form, known as an N224 application notice.
Once you have sent your claim form letter away, you will be expected to appear before the court to plead your case. If you successfully argue that you don’t owe the money, the CCJ will be ‘set aside’ and removed from the Register of Judgments, Orders, and Fines, although this process may take up to a month.
A CCJ is manageable if you take action on it, but it is serious. If you’ve been given a CCJ, it means a county court agrees with your creditors that you should repay the money you owe, and that you should face legal consequences if you don’t.
There are a range of punitive actions available to the court if you fail to acknowledge your CCJ and pay back the money you owe, from doing serious damage to you credit report, to having bailiffs force entry to your home to collect payment.
Creditors are empowered to take legal action against you if you fail to make the repayments ordered in your CCJ. Creditors will usually follow a similar process when pursuing your debt, with actions getting progressively more serious.
Under the Consumer Credit Act of 1974, a creditor must send you a warning letter or default notice at least 14 days before taking any legal action. Once you receive this letter, you should take it as confirmation that a CCJ is being out against you, and seek debt advice and information immediately.
The CCJ claim form will provide information about the County Court Judgment being taken against you. You have two weeks to respond by filling out the reply form, including information of your income and expenditure (which gives the court details of how much you can afford to repay). At this point you have the option to agree to repay, or dispute the claim after consulting with a debt adviser.
If you continue to ignore your CCJ, you may face enforcement action. The courts could grant a warrant of execution against you, meaning creditors can engage the services of debt collectors and order them to visit your home. It is possible to ask the court to suspend the warrant, but this would involve you agreeing to repay what you owe.
If you continually fail to engage with your creditor, they might seek an attachment of earnings order. This court order involves the court asking your employer to deduct what you owe directly from your income, before your salary hits your bank account or savings account.
In the most serious cases, a creditor might ask for a charging order to be placed against your home – a court order that increases the pressure on you to repay your debt or face the possibility of losing your home. If you’re being threatened with a charging order, seek professional guidance at once.
Every debt or defaulted payment you carry is noted on your credit record, a documented history of your financial life. Black marks on your credit history will impact your credit score, making it harder for you to apply for a credit card or reach credit agreements with lenders in the future.
Like any other debt, having a CCJ taken out against you will lower your credit score and remain on your credit rating for six years. During that time, lenders and employers can in theory access your credit file or contact the credit reference agencies to view the details of your CCJ.
The only way to prevent this is by repaying your CCJ in full within 30 days of receiving the judgment. If you take action within this timeframe, the CCJ won’t go on your record. This will protect your credit score and make it easier for you to take important steps in your financial life.
Receiving a County Court Judgment isn’t fun. People live in fear of the letter appearing through the door, and once it does they can face legal action, visits from bailiffs, and a credit score that takes years to rebuild.
If you’re being threatened with a CCJ and you’re not sure what to do, speak to IVA Plan. As UK debt specialists, our team can offer you the guidance, information, and expert debt advice you need to help you settle your debts and protect you from the courts.
Don’t live in fear of a CCJ. Speak to IVA Plan today.