A County Court Judgment (CCJ) is a decision (“a judgment”) by a court in England, Wales or Northern Ireland that you have failed to repay money you owe. The CCJ sets out how much is owed, how the money should be repaid and when – it is possible to get these changed. A CCJ is not a criminal conviction and you cannot be sent to prison for not paying a CCJ.
CCJs are used for all types of consumer debt – credit cards, loans, overdrafts, catalogues etc. These are the main types of debts considered here, but CCJs are also used for other contracts between people and / or companies – for example you could sue a builder for defective work, or your builder could sue you if you haven’t paid his bill. They aren’t used for all types of debt, for example Council Tax debts are subject to a different court process called a Liability Order.
This page brings together many of Debt Camel’s articles about CCJs to answer the common worries people have: concerns that you might get a CCJ, questions about what you should do with the court forms and processes, problems after a CCJ has been issued, and issues about credit records.
Worried you might get a CCJ?
If you can’t make the usual debt repayments you may be worrying about courts and bailiffs – perhaps you have already had scary letters or phone calls. Read Threats of CCJs and bailiffs – are debt collectors bluffing? to find out more about what can happen, what can’t happen (there is no danger of bailiffs coming round before the creditor has gone to court for a CCJ) and what is unlikely to happen (it’s rare to get a visit from a debt collector). And, most importantly, what you can do to make it much less likely that any of these worrying things will happen.
It’s important to consider your full situation: your income, expenditure and other debts. There is no point in trying to sort out one problem creditor by offering an amount of money which means you won’t be able to pay your other debts so they will take you to court… You need to look at what your good debt options are.
CCJ forms and court processes
The start of the court process is when you are sent a Claim Form. Don’t worry if the form says Northampton County Court – you don’t have to go to Northampton, in most cases there isn’t a court hearing at all and if there is it will be in your local County Court.
Read What to do if you get a Claim Form – that covers:
- making sure it really is a claim form (N1), not just a letter from a debt collector or firm of solicitors threatening court action;
- deciding if you dispute the debt (is the amount wrong? have you repaid it? is it too old so it is statute barred? etc);
- what to do if you agree you owe the money and want to make an offer of monthly payments – how to complete the N9A Admission form is covered in more detail in How much should I offer to a CCJ?
For more information, National Debtline are a great source of advice on everything to do with CCJs, from guidance on court forms, proceedings, laws, etc to discussing your possible alternatives.
If the Claim Form is sent to an old address you may not find out about it or it may be forwarded to you too late for you to reply. In this situation the court will award your creditor a judgment “in default” as it will assume you agreed that you owed the money, see below for what to do if this happens.
After you get a CCJ
Your creditor won the case, you have received a letter from the court saying you have a CCJ, so what are your options? The worst thing to do is to ignore it, no matter how impossibly large the debt may feel. Briefly your options are:
- pay it in full- if you can do this within a month then the CCJ will disappear from your credit record;
- start making the monthly payments the court set;
- if the court said you have to pay the whole amount immediately (“forthwith” is the legal term for this), or set monthly payments that you can’t afford, you can ask for this to be changed; or
- if you want to challenge the decision, perhaps because you didn’t get the papers in time to put in a defence, you can ask for the decision to be “set aside”.
For more details about each of these see I have a CCJ – what should I do?
If you don’t do anything, then your creditor may decide to take further action:
- send bailiffs to your house – see this Bailiffs Information;
- take money directly from your wages see this Attachment of Earnings Factsheet;
- take the money from your bank or savings account with a “third party debt order” (it is called this because you and your creditor are the first two parties and the order is to your bank, who is the third party). It is not commonly used; or
- get a “charging order” that secures the debt against your house. See Are you worried about a charging order? (NB you can still get a charging order even if you are making the payments set by the court.)
These actions are called “enforcing the CCJ”. Phone National Debtline for further information about CCJ enforcement and for advice about what you should do.The creditor may also apply for an “Information Order” – you will be asked to attend a local court for an interview about your income, expenses, savings and other assets and may be asked to produce bank statements, pay slips etc. It is essential you attend court or get the hearing rescheduled to a date you can make as the court can send you to prison if you do not co-operate.
A CCJ never becomes “statute barred”, but if the creditor doesn’t take enforcement action withing six years, they have to get court permission to start enforcement afterwards.
In most cases interest isn’t added after a CCJ. If your creditor tells you interest is being added, read this fact sheet and contact National Debtline to discuss your situation and what your options are.
CCJs and your credit file
A CCJ is recorded on your credit record for six years, after which it will be deleted. There are three exceptions:
- if you pay it in full within 30 days it drops off immediately;
- if the judgment is “set aside” (see above) the CCJ is removed;
- if an insurance company pays the debt and they supply evidence of this.
If you pay the CCJ over a period of a few years say, the CCJ will still remain for the rest of the six years but it will be marked as “satisfied”. Having a CCJ on your credit file damages your chance of getting further credit, but it is regarded as less bad if it is satisfied. Having any CCJs on your record, even satisfied ones, is likely to make it very hard to get a mortgage.
The CCJ on your credit file is in the “public records” section – this is separate from the debt it relates to. So for a period your problem debt is likely to show in two places. The debt itself will drop off your credit file six years after the default date, this will have been before the CCJ so the debt will disappear first, then the CCJ.
If you aren’t sure if you have a CCJ, perhaps because you have been abroad or moved around a lot, then your credit record is a good place to look. Alternatively you can search the Registry Trust information see How can I tell if I have a CCJ?
CCJs in the news
Huge increase in CCJs, up to 300,000 in first quarter 2017 This article looks at why CCJ numbers are going up – more people are being taken to court for smaller debts
Debt Pre Action protocol now finalised This will go live in October 2017. I’ll be writing a “how to respond” to the new letter people will be getting before a court case starts nearer the time.
Large increase in Court fees (2016)