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 the court forms and processes,
- problems after a CCJ has been issued, and
- issues about credit records.
What exactly is a CCJ?
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 the payments details 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 court claims involving money. 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 go a Magistrates Cout, not a County Court, and you would get a Liability Order, not a CCJ.
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.
Often people are worrying unnecessarily. Read:
Those articles explain what you can do manage your situation. The worst thing you can do is try to ignore the problem – by taking action it is massively 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.
How many people get CCJs?
In the first three months of 2019, there were 320,000 CCJs. Many of these were for quite small amounts of money – half were less than £650.
CCJ numbers dropped dramatically in 2020 because of covid-19 when the courts were largely shut. They are now going up again in 2021.
My guess is that most of these CCJs were for people who were trying to ignore a debt. Some will be for people who had no idea about it as the court papers went to a previous adress.
If you are making even small monthly payments, most lenders and debt collectors will not want the bother – and cost – of going to court.
CCJ letters, forms and court processes
Before a case goes to court
Before a creditor can take you to court, they have to follow the Pre Action Protocol for Debt that was introduced in October 2017. This means you should get a Letter Before Claim (it may have a slightly different name), with a Reply Form where you can ask for more information, including a complete statement of your account and a copy of your written agreement for the debt. Until you have been sent this, the creditor can’t go to court.
This may look complicated, but it’s good news! Read How to Reply to a Letter Before Claim for details, including a list of reasons you may have to challenge this debt and not get a CCJ.
It is much easier to ask for more information at this stage or say why you are challenging it than to wait and have to defend a court case. Don’t assume these letters are a bluff, if you ignore them you are very likely to get taken to court next.
A Claim form is the start of a court case
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. 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 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?
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.
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 you do 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 within six years, they have to get court permission to start enforcement afterwards and this is very rare.
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 ones you have paid makes it very hard to get a mortgage.
The CCJ on your credit file is in the “public records” section of your credit report – this is separate from the debt it relates to. So 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.
Your credit report doesn’t tell you who the creditor is for a CCJ. Not helpful! If the CCJ wasn’t expected, you need to find out who this is.