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 might 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. A CCJ is sometimes referred to as a County Court Summons and in Scotland the process is called enforcing a debt by diligence.

What to do when you receive a CCJ claim form letter

If you receive a County Court claim form talk to a free debt advice service right away.

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The claim won’t come out of the blue. Before this stage, the creditor must send you a warning letter or default notice, letting you know that you need to repay what you owe, otherwise legal action will start.

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.

You’ll know when you have a County Court Judgment against you when you receive this letter or notice.

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.

How to respond to the claim

If you get one of these letters or notices, get advice straight away. This will let you deal with the claim correctly so 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. It’s important you don’t ignore it.

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:

  • Filing a defence if you disagree with the amount you owe. Get advice on how to do this from a free debt adviser.
  • 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.
  • Submitting an acknowledgement of service if you intend to defend the claim but need longer than 14 days to prepare your defence.
Find out more about filling in the forms on the free debt advice StepChange website

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’ve admitted the claim and made a monthly offer of payment, it’s likely that you’ll receive a judgment by instalments.

Use our Debt Health Check to prioritise your debts and work out a plan for paying a CCJ or any other outstanding payments.

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’ll still enter a judgment against you.

This is called a judgment in default and 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.

The CCJ process has different rules depending on whether you’ve met certain timescales.

Find out more about the CCJ process on the free debt advice StepChange website

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
  • Charging Order
  • Attachment of Earnings Order.

Bailiff action

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 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 free debt advisor to do this.

Attachment of Earnings Order

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.

Charging Order

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 makes it very important that you pay back your debt, otherwise it could mean you’ll lose the property the Charging Order is secured on, which could be your house..

If you have a Charging Order, 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. It’ll 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. This is another reason it’s important you don’t ignore a County Court Judgment.

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 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’re 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’.

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