How do I get rid of a County Court Judgement?
What is a County Court Judgment (CCJ) and how can I stop it?
You might have received a claim form or had the term “County Court Judgement” or “CCJ” thrown at you by a creditor. If you’ve heard the words County Court Judgement before, alarm bells might start ringing in your head. You don’t fully know what it means but what you do know (somehow) is that it’s not good.
The truth is that having this claim form in your hand is not as bad as a lot of people think, if it’s handled correctly from the get-go. That’s why it’s important that you understand what exactly a County Court Judgement is, the process surrounding it and what you can do to stop it or at least prevent it turning into something bigger.
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What is a County Court Judgement?
A County Court Judgement (CCJ) is an order granted by the court if you fail to repay money owed to someone. This can happen when a creditor takes you to county court for a debt and the court rules that you owe the money. The term usually used is judgement granted against you. The result is called a County Court Judgement.
That’s keeping it simple as we like to do, however, it’s not always as straight forward as that. There is a process before you get to this stage. Hopefully you’re at a stage before the CCJ has actually been granted. For example, you may have only received the claim form, or you might just be worried about the prospect of a CCJ.
Whatever your position, you’ve come to the right place. The first thing to understand is that you should not ignore the situation. Instead, you need to understand the process...
The claim form
It’s important to know that to even get to the stage of court action it generally means that one or both parties have been unreasonable, have not been able to resolve the situation or the party owing the money has not responded or made payments.
For example, with unsecured debt, to get to the stage of court, means you have not communicated with the creditor and have not been making any payments towards the debt.
Let's break this down so you know what to expect. When you receive the claim form you will usually see:
- The name and address of the claimant – this is who is taking you to court it could be a person or a business depending on the situation.
- Address for sending documents and payments (if different) – you'll find that most of the time this will be a solicitor’s details. Claimants generally instruct a solicitor to manage the situation. If this area is blank, it is likely that the claimant has not instructed a solicitor. This may be because the claimant cannot afford a solicitor or wants to push you to contact them/settle the debt. In other cases they may just believe their case is so strong that they don’t require a solicitor to win, even if you decide to appoint one. If the claimant is a solicitor, then you would expect this area to be blank.
- Your details as the defendant – these are your details. Your name/company name and address. Make sure you check this correctly as if the name written is not your name, then you may wish to send the court papers back as incorrectly sent.
- The particulars of claim – this is the main part of the claim form and will have the reasons the claim has been brought before the court, the timeline, account details if applicable and the amount being claimed. You should read this area carefully to see if you agree or disagree with what the claimant is claiming. This will help shape your defence if you intend to defend the claim.
- The claim number – this is the reference number for this case. You need to include this number when communicating to the court or the claimant about this case.
- Issue date – this is the date that the claim form was issued. You’ll use this as the start date for process timelines. Don’t worry if that sounds confusing as it will make more sense a little later...
- The court details – If you need to write to or phone the court, these are the details you will need to use and will detail the name, address and phone number of the court where the claim has been filed or the court assigned to administer the case.
- How much the claim is, including costs – this is the amount that the claimant expects you to pay to settle the claim.
How long do I have to respond to the claim?
This is a very important question; the court works on deadlines and if you miss them, you will find it can be complicated to reverse any action or judgement.
Earlier we mentioned that you need to take note of the ‘issue date’. Here’s why:
You have 14 days from the issue date to provide an initial response of some sort. Whatever your response is you need to make sure it is made to the court via post or submitted online within this time frame.
Now, if you are intending to defend the whole claim or part of the claim but need more time to write and file your defence. Fill out and submit the ‘Acknowledgment of Service’ form within 14 days, to give you an extra 14 days on top of the 14 days you were initially given to respond. In total you will have 28 days to file your defence.
We’re guessing you want to know what your response options are. Keep reading, we got you…….
I admit the claim, but I can’t pay it right now
You may want to admit the claim, but you need time to pay - you will need to complete and send admission form N9A. Specify how much you intend to pay, whether it will be via instalments or what date you believe you will be able to settle the debt in full.
There is also an income and expenditure form should you wish to complete it. Alternatively, you can complete our budget planner and attach it to your form. Depending on your response the court may pause the claim (this is called a “stay”) temporarily.
I do owe an amount, but not the amount being claimed
You can admit part of the claim – you might believe you owe an amount but not the amount being claimed by the claimant. Cases are not always black and white, so you need options and flexibility. In cases like this you will need to complete and send form N9A (as above) with the amount you believe you owe.
You’ll also need to send the defence and counterclaim form N9B. Remember if you have completed and sent the acknowledgment of service form you will have 28 days from the claim issue date to file the form N9B. Do note - the remaining amount that you believe you do not owe may still have a CCJ granted against it if you lose the argument.
All making sense so far? Ok let’s continue...
I don’t owe anything, in fact the claimant owes me money
Let’s say you totally dispute the claim and in fact not only do you dispute the claim you want to make a counterclaim. Form N9B (as above) is the one for you. You will need to complete this and have it filed with the court within 14 days of the issue date or 28 days of the issue date if you have filed an ‘Acknowledgment of Service.’ You can still use this form if you do not want to counterclaim.
I need more time
If you need that extra 14 days to file a defence here is the acknowledgement of service form we keep talking about.
Where’s the bin?
Last but not least is option five, do nothing at all (we don’t recommend this choice). If you pick this last option, then you may have judgement entered against you. Meaning you may receive a CCJ.
So, what happens if you defend the claim?
What’s mediation and how can I stop the CCJ?
The court prefers to not have cases brought before them if it can be avoided. A court case is the last resort, so the court offers another option called mediation.
This is usually done via phone by a mediator from the court, it’s often suggested if you defend the claim. The court will speak to both parties to try and find a resolution without having to have a court hearing. If either party refuses mediation the court may want to know a good reason why.
Mediation is your opportunity to stop the CCJ going through! You may not think you owe the money but there may be undeniable proof that you do. Don’t worry though as you may still be able to stop the CCJ during mediation by suggesting things like:
- Agreeing to pay a reduced amount as a settlement
- Agreeing to the full amount but at later date
- Agreeing to a legally binding agreement to pay in monthly instalments over a defined period of time
You may also have undeniable proof that you do not owe the money, therefore the claimant may withdraw the claim as a result of mediation.
Now, if after mediation there is no resolution, a hearing date will be set for both parties to battle it out in court.
Bad news TRDG, I’ve had a judgement granted against me. What now?
Don’t stress! If you have received a letter from the court saying you have had judgement granted against you, it’s important to know a fact that many people do not know. It takes 28 days for the judgement to be registered on your credit file as a County Court Judgement.
What does that mean for you? It means that if you can pay the full amount off within that time period, it will be as if the case never happened.
Here are some important steps to follow:
- Make sure you make the payment in a way that gives you proof that the payment has been made (i.e. electronic transfer)
- Get a letter or email from the claimant confirming that they have received the payment.
- Contact the court before the 28 days has passed (that’s the deadline before the CCJ is registered), to inform them that the debt is now clear so therefore the CCJ should not be registered. They may ask for proof and/or confirmation from the claimant.
- This part is optional as there’s usually a fee attached to this – obtain a Certificate of Satisfaction from the court using this form. You can use this as proof to send to any credit reference agency if you find the CCJ has shown up on your credit file.
If you cannot make the payment within the 28 days, the CCJ will be registered on your credit file. Again, do not stress because after six years, whether you have cleared the debt or not, the mark will come off your credit file.
Don't forget to read The Real Debt Guy's final thoughts below!
The information in this article is considered to be true and correct at the date of publication.