If you get a letter which says “”Judgment for Claimant” at the top, a County Court Judgment (CCJ) has been made against you. If your letter is just threatening to take you to court, read this previous article about whether it is bluffing. If it says ‘Claim Form’ at the top, then you are being taken to court but don’t yet have a CCJ – in this case you need to respond urgently as described here.
What is a CCJ?
A CCJ is a decision by a judge that you (“the defendant”) should pay someone (“the claimant”) a sum of money, either immediately or by installments.. If you find these terms confusing, an easy way to remember them is:
- C = Claimant = Creditor
- D = Defendant =Debtor.
A CCJ is not a criminal offence, you can’t get sent to prison for not being able to pay this money. However if you ignore a CCJ, your creditor may send bailiffs round to your house or try to get money deducted from your wages. If you take action speedily, these can usually be avoided. What you need to do now depends on whether you owe the money and if you can afford to pay it. This article looks at the most common scenarios using some invented cases.
Mrs Blue – owes the money and can pay it
Mrs Blue had a dispute with a builder over some work and an unpaid bill. He sued her, she defended the claim because she said it should be lower. The judge accepted this so she got a judgment for an amount that she agrees she owes. She can pay it in full.
Next steps Mrs Blue should pay the claimant the money ordered as soon as possible. She should send a cheque to the “Name and Address for Payment” on the form, or phone them to get bank details if she wants to make a transfer from her bank. If this is done within 30 days, the CCJ’s entry in the Register of Judgments, Fines and Defaults will be removed and the CCJ will not damage her credit record.
Mr Green – agrees he owes the money but can’t pay it all at once
Mr Green stopped paying a consolidation loan when his hours were cut. He didn’t reply to the Claim form because he wasn’t sure what to do. He thinks he can afford to pay £70 a month.
Next Steps If Mr Green acts fast – within 14 days of receiving the Order – he can ask for a “redetermination” of the amount he should pay. To do this, he needs to write to the court, state his case number, enclose an income and expenditure statement and ask for a redetermination. There is no charge for doing this and no court form. Sometimes the judge will make a decision on the details provided (that’s why it’s worth including an income and expenditure statement), sometimes a hearing in your local county court will be ordered.
If more than 14 days has passed, Mr Green needs to make an application to the court to pay monthly – this is sometimes called an “application for an Instalment Order” or “varying the CCJ”. To do this he has to complete Form N245 which he can get from his local county court. This will cost £50, but as Mr Green has a low income he can apply for this to be reduced. National Debtline have a fact sheet that describes how to vary a court order. If Mr Green isn’t sure what amounts to put on the form, eg for housekeeping, or how much he can afford to pay each month, then he should call National Debtline.
Ms Red – has a lot of debts and isn’t sure what she can afford
Ms Red lost her job a year ago and since then hasn’t paid anything to her credit cards debts. She is struggling to live on JSA. Other debt collectors are also threatening CCJs.
Next Steps Ms Red needs to get good debt advice urgently. She could make an offer of monthly repayment to the CCJ like Mr Green – her offer would be low, perhaps £5 a month. But she may have better alternatives such as a Debt Relief Order or (if her debts are less than £5,000 in total) an Administration Order. She should contact StepChange or National Debtline for help with her situation.
Dr Purple – didn’t receiver the original papers in time and disputes the debt
Dr Purple has been abroad and returned to find that a judgment has already been made. She doesn’t agree she owes the money as she says the loan was paid in full several years ago.
Next Steps Dr Purple has a good reason to ask for the judgment to be “set aside” as it was recent, she has a reason for not having returned the original court papers and she has a defence to the claim. She needs to complete form N244, which she can get from her local court. National Debtline have a fact sheet on how to set aside a CCJ which looks at when you should do this and includes an example of a completed form. There is a fee to pay, currently £155, and Dr Purple is not on a low income so she won’t qualify for a reduction. When the judgment is set aside, the court case still exists, it is just goes back to the stage before the judgment so Dr Purple will need to submit a Defence to the Claim.
Mr Orange – has just found out he received a CCJ a year ago
Mr Orange moved a couple of years ago and didn’t tell his creditors his new address. He was recently refused a new mobile contract. When he checked his credit score, he discovered he has a CCJ from one of his credit cards that he had stopped paying.
Next Steps Mr Orange wants to get rid of the CCJ as he never received the court papers. However he doesn’t have a reason to defend the claim and he should have informed his creditors when he moved. If you don’t have a defence, there is little point in trying to set aside the judgment – this is a waste of time, money and the Court may refuse anyway. Mr Orange should work out if he can afford to pay the full debt (like Mrs Blue) or if he should apply to make a monthly payment (like Mr Green.)
More complicated situations
Your situation may not fit one of the above scenarios or there may be some extra complications, for example the debt may be a joint debt or it may be very old and you think it may be statute barred. National Debtline is an excellent source of advice on all matters relating to CCJs, so if you don’t know what to do, or you think you do but you would like to check to be sure, give them a ring on 0808 808 4000.