There are three ways you may find out you have a County Court Judgement (CCJ):
- you get a letter from the court;
- the creditor tells you, asking for payment; or
- you see it on a credit report – possibly after you have been unexpectedly rejected for credit.
A CCJ is a decision by a judge that you (“the defendant”) should pay someone (“the claimant”) an amount of money. There were 1.15 million CCJs against consumers in England and Wales in 2019.
A CCJ is not a criminal offence. You can’t get sent to prison for not being able to pay this money.
But 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.
Do you know the details of the CCJ?
When you get a letter from the Court which says Judgment for Claimant at the top, you have a County Court Judgment (CCJ). Someone has taken you to court and won a case against you. If you didn’t reply to court papers, or you never received them, this letter will say Judgement for Claimant (in default).
Be careful – if the letter says Claim Form at the top, you don’t yet have a CCJ. Here a creditor is taking you to court trying to get a CCJ. If you do not do anything, you will get a CCJ even you do not owe the money or the debt is very old. So don’t ignore it, see What to do if you get a Claim Form for details.
The letter will have all the CCJ details. It will say who the creditor is and how much you have to pay. It will either say:
- you have to pay this all immediately, called a “forthwith judgment”; or
- monthly payments, called instalments, have been set.
If you have been contacted by the creditor, the creditor can give you the details and you can ask the court for a copy of them. Perhaps it was sent to an old address.
But if you discover the CCJ by checking your credit record or you are told that a credit application or a tenancy has been refused because your records show you have a CCJ, then you first have to find out the details. You need to phone the court and ask who the creditor is.
Five common situations
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 one calendar month, 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 loan when his income fell. He didn’t reply to the Claim form because he was worried as he couldn’t pay the debt. He thinks he can afford to pay £70 a month.
Next Steps 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 a judgment”. To do this he has to complete Form N245 which he can download.
This will cost £50. If Mr Green is not working or has a low income he can apply online for this to be reduced.
National Debtline has a fact sheet that describes how to vary a CCJ. 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.
If Mr Green had admitted the debt and offered monthly payments on the forms included with the Claim Form (which he didn’t, he ignored the Claim Form) but his payments have been set at a higher level he may be able to ask for a “redetermination” of the amount he should pay. There is no fee for this but it has to be done very quickly – within 14 days. National Debtline can explain if this is a suitable option for you.
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 and she is worried about bailiffs.
Next Steps Ms Red needs 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 which will sort out all her debts, not just this one.
She should contact National Debtline for help to look at her whole financial situation, not just this CCJ.
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.
National Debtline has a fact sheet on how to set aside a CCJ which looks at when you should do this. It also includes an example of a completed N244 form. There is a fee to pay, currently £255. 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 just goes back to the stage before the judgment so Dr Purple will then 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 for a 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 seem to have a good 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. If he gets the CCJ set aside, the creditor will just apply for a new CCJ, which will be on his credit record for longer. This is a waste of time and money.
Instead 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 cases
Your situation may not fit one of these scenarios or there may be some extra complications. For example the debt may be a joint debt.
National Debtline is an excellent source of advice on all matters relating to CCJs. If you don’t know what to do, or you would like to check to be sure, give them a ring on 0808 808 4000.