Enforcing County Court Judgments

So you’ve got a County Court Judgment against someone and they still do not pay, what should you do next? This blog looks at the various methods of enforcing County Court Judgments.

A County Court Judgment (or “CCJ”) is just a piece of paper saying that someone (or it could be a company) owes you money. This blog looks at the main methods of enforcement.

(1)          COUNTY COURT BAILIFFS

You could apply to the County Court for a Warrant of Execution. The Warrant of Execution gives the County Court bailiff authority to take goods from the debtor. The Court bailiff will try to either  collect the money you are owed or take goods to sell at auction.

Pro’s:                          The application is simple enough.

Con’s:                         Bailiffs cannot enter into a residential house unless invited to do so by the debtor. This is a serious limitation to their effectiveness against private individuals and also businesses working out of a private residential address.

Process:                     You apply to the County Court for a Writ of Execution on form N323.

Court fees:                 £100 to be paid when the application for a Warrant is made.

(2)          HIGH COURT ENFORCEMENT OFFICERS

If the debt is over £600 you could apply to have the debt transferred to the High Court for enforcement and then instruct High Court Enforcement Officers to collect the debt.

Pro’s:                          Most solicitors are of the opinion that High Court Enforcement Officers are more effective than County Court bailiffs at collecting debts.

Con’s:                         The application is slightly more complicated than instructing the County Court bailiff because the debt has to be transferred up to the High Court first.

High Court Enforcement Officers have the same problems when enforcing against private individuals as County Court bailiffs.

Process:                     You apply to the County Court for a combined certificate of judgment and to enforce the judgment by a Writ of Fi Fa on form N293a.

Court fees:                 £60 to transfer the debt up. Then there are the High Court Enforcement Officer’s fees on top. If the HCEO is unsuccessful in collecting the debt these will be limited to £60 plus VAT. If the HCEO is successful then they recover their fees from the debtor.

(3)          ATTACHMENT OF EARNINGS 

If the debtor is employed you can apply for an attachment against earnings. The Court will write to the debtor and ask them to provide details of their income and outgoings. The Court will then decide how much money should be deducted from their income each month. 

Pro’s:                          The application is simple enough.

Con’s:                         There are a number of limitations including (a) the amount which the debtor is ordered to pay can be pitifully low, (b) if the debtor moves jobs or stops paying further applications (and further court fees will be payable) and (c) it doesn’t work against self-employed people.

Process:                     You apply to the County Court for an attachment of earnings order on form N337.

Court fees:                 £100 to be paid when the application is made.

(4)       THIRD PARTY DEBT ORDER

If you know the debtor’s bank account details you can apply for a third party debt order whereby the bank or building society will be ordered to pay money to you.

Pro’s:                          The application is simple enough. 

Con’s:                         If there is nothing in the account when the application is made then the application will fail.

Process:                     You apply to the County Court for a third party debt order on form N349.

Court fees:                 £100 to be paid when the application is made.

(5)       A CHARGING ORDER OVER LAND

If the debtor owns land you can apply for a charging order over that land.

Pro’s:                          If the debtor owns land this is an excellent way to secure the debt. 

Con’s:                         The application is slightly complicated for novices and does require attendance at a court hearing. Further it only secures the debt and does not guarantee payment without further action being taken, usually an application for an order for sale of the property.

Process:                     You apply charge on form N379.

Court fees:                 £100 to be paid when the application is made.

(6)       ORDER TO OBTAIN INFORMATION

This is not a method of enforcement as such but is a way of finding out more information about the debtor and whether they will be able to pay.

Pro’s:                          It’s a starting point if you have limited information about the debtor and their assets and liabilities. 

Con’s:                         The application is slightly complicated for novices. Further, the order must be personally served on the debtor. If you are not willing to personally the order then you will need instruct a process server or the court bailiff can be instructed however a fee of £100 is payable.

Process:                     You apply for an order on form N316.

Court fees:                 £50 to be paid when the application is made. If you require the court bailiff to serve the order on the debtor there is a further fee of £100 payable.

(7)       BANKRUPTCY OR WINDING UP PETITION

In the case of a private individual you could apply to make that person bankrupt, or in the case of a company you could apply to wind the company up. Ironically, this method is more likely to succeed in making a recovery from a solvent person / company than an insolvent one. Solvent people/companies will often try and raise the money to prevent the bankruptcy / winding up going through. 

Pro’s:                          It’s a starting point if you have limited information about the debtor and their assets and liabilities. 

Con’s:                         The application is complicated for novices. Further, it is quite expensive compared to the other methods of enforcement.

Process:                     The application is complicated and beyond the scope of this blog.

Court fees:                 There are various fees payable including a deposit payable to the official receiver, court fees, process server’s fees for serving documents on the debtor. These fees only will exceed £1,000.

Hastings & Co Solicitors are solicitors based in Chelmsford, Essex specialising in litigation and experienced in all methods of enforcing County Court Judgments. Telephone 01245 835 305 for advice.

Disclaimers:

(i)            Court fees correct at time of publishing. The Court publishes up to date information about fees on form EX050.

(ii)          This advice sheet is only intended to give a brief overview of the different methods of enforcement and is not a substitute for legal advice.

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