You see County Court Judgments, or CCJs, mentioned on debt-related adverts all the time, but what are they, and how do you enforce one?
Well, a CCJ is a means to force a debtor to pay you what you are owed – it formalises the fact that they cannot get away without paying you any longer.
However, the story doesn’t end there, and some creditors still have difficulty getting their money – so what are your options?
Back in the courtroom
When all else fails, and even a CCJ wasn’t enough to get you your money, you can go back to court.
In this instance, the court can take action to enforce payment – and you may even be able to have your debtor declared bankrupt, if you are owed over £750.
Any fees you incur can technically be added to the amount owed, but if the defendant still refuses to pay – or is unable to settle the full amount due to financial difficulties – you could end up covering those costs yourself.
Like any attempt to recover a debt, it’s always worth weighing up the potential costs and the possible returns, and deciding whether it’s worth putting yourself and your debtor through the courts for the sum you’re owed.
Investigating the debtor’s finances
One way to gain some peace of mind about your debtor’s ability to pay you is to investigate their finances and determine just how much money they have available.
This is called an ‘order to obtain information’ and can force the defendant to bring their bills, pay slips and bank statements into court.
There’s a cost associated with this – the claimant must pay £50, with an extra £50 if the order is handed to the defendant by a bailiff, but again this should be able to be reclaimed on top of the original debt.
A bailiff can be sent to the debtor’s home for a £100 fee; they will demand payment of the outstanding balance within seven days.
However, bailiffs are salaried civil servants and results can vary dramatically depending on a number of factors. For debts in excess of £600 a better choice might be to use the services of a High Court Enforcement Officer (HCEO).
Unlike bailiffs, HCEOs have far greater enforcement powers and always look to recover their charges from the debtor. The fact that the debtor pays the HCEO means that they have a far greater incentive to ensure payment is made.
Deductions from wages
One of the easiest options is to have what you’re owed taken straight out of the debtor’s wages, which is achieved by having the courts send an ‘attachment of earnings order’ to his or her employer.
There’s a £100 fee for this (which you can usually add to the amount owed) and the debtor can again prevent it by settling the full amount owed, or by having an offer to pay in installments accepted.
Even if the deductions go ahead, they will be based on what’s left after essential costs have been met by the debtor, including rent, bills and food costs.
More tips on enforcing a CCJ are available from the Safe Collections website, which can help you to find out more about what to do when the defendant refuses to pay you.