What is a County Court Judgment (CCJ)?
A County Court Judgment (CCJ) is a type of court order in England, Wales and Northern Ireland that may be registered against you if you fail to repay money you owe. This page tells you more about what to do if you receive a County Court claim form.
In Scotland the process is called enforcing a debt by diligence.
- The CCJ process: the initial Claim
- How to respond to the Claim
- Deadline for replying to a Claim form
- Receiving the judgment
- If you don’t keep to the terms of a CCJ
- How a CCJ affects your credit record
- How to avoid receiving a CCJ
- In Scotland – enforcing a debt by diligence
The CCJ process: the initial Claim
Get free debt advice
If you receive a County Court Claim form talk to a free debt advice service right away.
If you have failed to reach an agreement with the people you owe money to (your creditors), you may be issued with a County Court Claim by the Court.
The Claim won’t come out of the blue. Before this stage, the creditor must send you a warning letter, letting you know that you need to repay what you owe, otherwise legal action will start.
The warning will be either a default notice or a letter before action, depending on the type of debt.
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 remedy the default and what action may be taken if you don’t.
It must also include a copy of the Financial Conduct Authority’s default information sheet.
How to respond to the Claim
If you get one of these letters or notices get advice straight away so that you deal with the claim correctly and the court can take your circumstances into account when they decide how you should repay the debt.
If you ignore the letter or notice, 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.
There are many free charities and debt advice services that can help you negotiate with your creditors.
Deadline for replying to a Claim Form
When you receive a Claim Form, you only have 14 days to reply.
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.
Your options include:
- Admitting the claim if you agree you owe the money your creditors are claiming. You will also need to fill in a form giving the Court details of your financial circumstances and you will be asked to make an offer of payment
- Filing a defence if you disagree with the amount you owe. Get advice to do this from a free debt adviser
- Submitting an acknowledgement of service if you intend to defend the claim but need longer than 14 days to prepare your defence
Receiving the judgment
The court 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
If you have admitted the claim and made a monthly offer of payment, it is likely that you will 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 don’t respond to the claim and the Court can’t take your circumstances into account they will still enter a judgment against you.
This is called a judgment in default and may 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.
The CCJ process has different rules depending on whether you have met certain timescales.
If you don’t keep to the terms of a CCJ
If you receive a CCJ 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
- Attachment of earnings
- Charging order
This creditor applies to the county court for a bailiff to collect the debt. If the court grants permission, it will issue a Warrant of Execution.
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 debt adviser to do this.
Attachment of earnings
An Attachment of Earnings Order asks for the money owed to be deducted by your employer from your wages. If this will cause you problems, get help from a debt adviser.
If you own a property (either with a mortgage or outright) the creditor can ask for a Charging Order to be secured on it. If this will cause you problems, get help from a debt adviser.
How a CCJ affects your credit record
Unless you pay off a CCJ in full within 30 days of receiving the judgment, it will be entered on your credit record at the Register of Judgments, Orders and Fines will remain there for six years.
This record can seriously affect your ability to get a mortgage, a credit card or even a bank account in the future.
How to avoid receiving a CCJ
If you find you’re struggling to make your repayments, speak to a free debt adviser. They can help you make an offer to your creditors and explain the options available to you.
Usually, you should be able to come to some an arrangement that allows you to go on making payments you can afford and avoid court action.
Make your loan repayments on time and pay off your debts early if you can. This shows lenders that you are a sensible borrower.
If you’re using savings to pay off debts, make sure you keep enough cash in an easy access savings account for emergencies.
If you need more help Get free debt advice.
In Scotland – enforcing a debt by diligence
In Scotland, the process is different, and called ‘enforcing a debt by diligence’.