County court judgments
Find out what to do if you receive a county court judgment and how it will affect you.
What's in this guide?What is a county court judgment?What to do if you receive a county court letter of claimWhat to do if you receive a default noticeWhat to do if you receive a CCJ claim formReceiving a judgmentIf you don’t make your CCJ paymentsHow a CCJ will affect your credit rating
What is a county court judgment?
You might receive a county court judgment (CCJ) if you don’t repay money you owe. A CCJ is a court order telling you to repay that money. You can get a CCJ in England, Wales and Northern Ireland (although the process in Northern Ireland is different). In Scotland the equivalent process is called enforcing a debt by diligence. This guide deals with the process in England and Wales.
What to do if you receive a county court letter of claim
To start a county court claim, a creditor must first send you a letter of claim. This letter will provide details of the debt.
You have 30 days to respond. A reply form and financial statement will be included with the letter.
It’s very important to respond before the deadline. A creditor can start court action if you don’t.
If you agree the debt amount is correct, but you can’t afford to pay it in full, you should fill in the financial statement to make an offer of payment.
You should also let the creditor know you’re seeking debt help.
Agreeing a payment arrangement will allow you to avoid court action.
If you need any more information about the debt, ask the creditor. If you don’t believe you owe the money, explain why.
If you don’t respond or you’re unable to come to an arrangement, you will receive a default notice.
What to do if you receive a default notice
The default notice will give you at least two weeks to pay what you owe. If you don’t and you still can’t come to a payment arrangement, your account will default. The creditor will then issue a CCJ claim form.
What to do if you receive a CCJ claim form
You usually have 14 days to respond, unless you’re granted an extension.
You should fill in the reply form including details of your income and essential costs. This shows the court how much you can afford to pay towards the debt.
You can respond in one of three ways. You can:
- file a defence if you disagree with the debt amount
- admit the claim and make an offer of payment
- submit an acknowledgement of service if you want to defend the claim but need longer than 14 days to prepare
Receiving a judgment
It’s a good idea to go to court when the judgment is being made. This will give you a chance to put your case forward and try and make sure the payment arrangement is affordable. But you don’t have to attend.
The court will issue either:
- a judgment by instalments, where you'll be asked to make regular payments towards the debt; or
- a judgment forthwith, where you’ll be asked to pay off the full amount immediately
If you didn’t respond to the claim, the court will still enter a judgment against you. You can ask the court to reconsider if the repayments are unaffordable. This is known as a redetermination.
If you don’t make your CCJ payments
The creditor can ask the court to take further action if you don’t make your CCJ payment(s).
They could ask the court to get bailiffs to collect the debt.
They could ask the court to have the money taken out of your wages using as attachment of earnings order.
Or, if you’re a property owner, they could ask for the debt to be secured against that property. This would mean your debt would be repaid when the property was sold or remortgaged. Or, in rare cases, you creditor may force you to sell the property to recover the money they’re owed.
How a CCJ will affect your credit rating
CCJs are recorded on the publicly available Register of Judgments, Orders and Fines. They will also appear on your credit file.
If you pay off a CCJ in full within 30 days of the judgment, you can ask the court to remove it from the Register. This will mean it will also be removed from your credit file.
Otherwise, it will stay on the Register and your credit file for six years. This will make it difficult for you to borrow during this time.