County Court Judgment Explained
Published 22 June 2021
What is a County Court Judgment (CCJ)?
A creditor may apply for a CCJ against you if they think you will not repay a debt you owe them. It is one option your creditors have as part of the debt collection process.
If the courts agree with the creditor, they’ll issue the judgment and tell you to pay the money back
You can only receive a CCJ in England or Wales. The court process that creditors use in Northern Ireland and Scotland works differently.
What Happens If a Creditor Wants To Apply For a CCJ?
There are several steps a creditor must take before it gets to the stage of you receiving the County Court judgment claim form.
Stage 1: Receiving a Letter of Claim
Your creditor must try and reach an agreement with you before they begin any Court action.
They will send you a ‘letter of claim’ in the post providing the details of your debt.
You have 30 days to respond with the reply form provided. However, it’s important to reply to the letter of claim within the timeframe given, as a creditor can begin court action if you don’t.
Use the reply form to:
- Respond to the creditor
- Fill in the enclosed financial statement (if you agree you owe the debt) to make an offer of payment if you can’t afford to pay the debt in full
- Let the creditor know you’re seeking debt help
- Request more information from the creditor about the debt, if you need it
You will avoid court action if you and your creditor can agree on a repayment arrangement.
Stage 2: Receiving a Default Notice
If you are unable to come to a debt repayment arrangement with your creditor, or you do not reply to the letter of claim within 30 days, you will receive a default notice or warning letter.
This is the last step before court action will begin.
For credit agreements regulated under the Consumer Credit Act, you must be sent a default notice, at least 14 days before any action is taken.
The letter or notice should tell you how you can respond and what action might be taken if you don’t.
It must also include a copy of the Financial Conduct Authority’s default information sheet.
Stage 3: The CCJ Claim Form
The creditor will issue a County Court judgment claim form if you were unable to reach an agreement, or did not respond to the default notice.
You will need to fill in the reply form which includes an Income and Expenditure form – detailing all your income and outgoings. This will show the court how much money you have to pay off the debt.
It is important that you respond, as the court will still issue the judgment but they won’t be able to take your circumstances into account.
They could, for example, order you to pay back the debt all in one go when it would be impossible for you to do so.
Deadline for replying to a CCJ claim form
When you receive a CCJ claim form you usually only have 14 days to respond unless you need to ask for an extension
Your Options When You Receive a CCJ Claim Form
You can choose:
- Pay back the full amount straight away. You can choose to pay the amount in full straight away (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 won’t have a CCJ recorded against you.
- Ask to pay later or in instalments. If you owe the money claimed, but don’t have the money to pay the claim in full you can ask to pay later or in instalments. If you want to offer to do this, fill out the form saying how you’d like to pay. A CCJ will be issued but the court will set your repayments of the CCJ based on information you provide about your income and spending.
- Dispute the amount owed (if you think the creditor’s claim is incorrect). If you admit to owing the creditor some money, but think you owe less than they are claiming you owe, send the forms back explaining why. You should pay what you think you owe straight away or ask for time to pay the amount that you think you owe.
- Dispute the Claim. If you don’t think you owe anything, return the Defence Form to the court, setting out your side of the argument. You can ask for more time if you fill out the ‘Acknowledgement of Service’ form. You must have good legal reasons for defending the claim. You can’t defend a claim just because you can’t afford to pay the debt, or you forgot you owed the money.
- Claim against the creditor (if you think the creditor owes you money, e.g. for breaching a contract). You might think you’re owed money instead. A good example of this would be if a builder sues you for non-payment, say, but you think he owes you money for breaching the contract. You’ll need to fill out the counterclaim form (there may be a fee to do this).
- Submit an acknowledgement of service if you intend to defend the claim but need longer than 14 days to prepare your defence.
Stage 4: Receiving the Judgment
Once the court has looked at all the paperwork, they can issue:
- a judgment by instalments, where you pay the debt off over time, or
- a judgment forthwith, where the whole amount you owe is due immediately.
It’s a good idea to go to court as it might give you a chance to tell your side and agree a suitable repayment if judgement is made against them. But it’s not compulsory.
If you’ve admitted the claim and made a monthly offer of payment, it’s likely that you’ll receive a judgment by instalments.
The monthly repayment rate will be set by the court using the information you provided in your admission form.
If you did not respond to the claim the court will issue a judgment in default and it might be a judgment by instalments or a judgment forthwith.
In both cases, you can ask the court to look at this again if the repayments are more than you can reasonably afford. This is called a redetermination.
Stage 5: Paying the CCJ
The CCJ process has different rules depending on whether you’ve met certain timescales.
If you pay the debt within 1 month of the date of the CCJ
If you pay the debt in full within 1 month of the date of the CCJ, you can apply to the court have your entry in the Register removed. You’ll need to get a certificate from the court to prove you’ve paid off the debt.
You’ll have to pay for the certificate but the fee can be waived or reduced if you’re on a low income.
If your entry is removed from the Register, the credit reference agencies will be told and details of your CCJ will be removed from your record.
You might be able to get credit again once the CCJ has been removed.
If you don’t keep to the terms of a CCJ
If you receive a County Court judgement and don’t keep to the terms it sets out, the creditor can ask the court to enforce the debt.
There are several ways that they can do this:
- Bailiff action
- Charging Order
- Attachment of Earnings Order.
A creditor can apply to the county court for a bailiff to collect the debt. If the court grants permission, it will issue a Warrant of Control.
This gives the bailiff the power to visit your home or business to collect the money you owe, or to seize goods that could be sold to repay the debt.
You can ask the court to suspend the warrant and let you pay back the money at an affordable rate. Get help from a free debt adviser to do this.
If you own a property (either with a mortgage or outright) the creditor can ask for a Charging Order to be secured against it.
This means your debt will be repaid when your property is sold or re-mortgaged and you can deal with the repayment of the debt at that point.
As a last resort, your creditor may force a sale to reclaim the money they’re owed but it is unlikely if this is your main home and especially if you’ve got people who depend on you living there too.
If you have a Charging Order, you can get help from a debt adviser to find out more about what this means for you.
Attachment of Earnings Order
An Attachment of Earnings Order asks for the money owed to be deducted by your employer from your wages.
What happens if I ignore a CCJ?
If you’re going to struggle to make the payments on your CCJ, you might be tempted to ignore it altogether. But if you don’t respond to it, in some way at least, you could face further and more serious action.
The action your lender might take if you don’t act on your CCJ could include:
- Discuss with you an attachment of earnings, where the money you owe would come directly from your wages
- Send High Court Enforcement officers to your home, they’d ask you to pay the debt, and if you can’t they might look for goods in your home that could be used against the debt
- Have bailiffs visit your home, where they could ask for goods or money to be used against the amount on the CCJ
Neither High Court Enforcement Officers or Bailiffs can force entry and push past you when they visit you for the first time, but it’s still a stress and strain that’s best avoided. Even if you’re struggling, it’s best to ask if you can pay the money back in more manageable instalments, or at a later date – ignoring a CCJ completely is never a good idea.
How long does a CCJ stay on your credit report?
If you pay off a CCJ in full within 30 days of receiving the judgment, you can apply through the court to have it removed; otherwise it will remain on the Register for six years. If your CCJ is recorded on the Register, it will be added to your credit report.
Having a CCJ on your report will significantly lower your credit score. Your credit information is checked by lenders when you apply for credit, and a CCJ can negatively affect your ability to get a loan, credit card or even a bank account. Employers and letting agents may also check your credit report – and therefore see your CCJ – before they hire you or let you rent property.
A CCJ will stay on your credit report for six years, even if you pay it off during this time. After six years it will no longer appear on your credit report, even if you’ve not paid it all off by then.
Who will see my CCJ?
Your County Court judgment will be registered at the Register of Judgments, Orders and Fines (maintained by Registry Trust Ltd and made public on its website TrustOnline where anyone can carry out a search on an individual or business)
Your CCJ will be added to a public database called the Register of Judgments, Orders and Fines. There are two exceptions to this:
- If you pay the full amount within one calendar month of the CCJ being issued, it won’t be recorded
- If you dispute the CCJ and prove to the courts it was issued in error, your CCJ may be cancelled or ‘set aside’, meaning it won’t be recorded
If recorded, your CCJ will remain on the register for six years. Anyone can check the public register for a small fee – they’ll be able to see your name and address, the case and court number, and the amount of money owed. This CCJ check won’t show them who you owe the money to.
Getting a Car Lease with a CCJ through Compass Vehicle Services
6 years is a long time and even if you were having financial difficulty then, does not mean you are having financial problems now. It is for this exact reason that CVS Ltd do not look at credit scores and credit checks as their first port of call.
We look at affordability and traceability – see how it works.
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