A County Court Judgment is a kind of court order that’s issued in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. It’s a step that a creditor (a company or person you owe money to) will take to try to force you to pay back what they think you owe.
Some companies use the term “County Court Summons” when talking about CCJs. Also, if you live in Scotland, the process is different and will be referred to as “enforcing a debt by diligence.”
If you’re threatened with a CCJ, it can feel very worrying, especially if you don’t know what’s involved and what rights you have.
What exactly is a CCJ (County Court Judgment)?
Before we get started, it’s useful to really understand what County Court Judgments are.
CCJs are usually only used if you’ve fallen behind on a debt and haven’t made any attempt (or just haven’t been able) to catch up on what you owe.
If the lender feels this is the case and their normal debt collection process hasn’t worked, they will apply to the court for an order that demands you repay the debt.
When people think of CCJs, they often think it’s a type of punishment for slipping behind on debts, but this isn’t the case.
The court doesn’t take sides until all the information has been looked at – so it’s a way of getting a legal decision on the repayments. If the court decides you owe the debt, they will set out a way for you to repay it. If the court decides you don’t owe the debt, the creditor will be told to put an end to the matter.
Do you need help with a CCJ
Speak to our team and get expert advice
The CCJ process
From beginning to end, the CCJ process has to be carried out according to strict guidelines. Take a look at the steps involved here:
Letter of claim
Before a creditor can try to start any court action, they have to abide by a process called the “pre-action protocol for debt claims.” This is a way of making sure they have tried to come to an arrangement with you before turning to the court.
This letter will warn of court action and will usually give you some options for paying the debt back. You have 30 days to respond to this letter before the creditor takes the next step – a “default notice.”
If you don’t reply to the letter of claim or you haven’t been able to come to an agreement with the creditor, they have to send you a “default notice.” This is a letter that tells you legal action will begin if you don’t pay back what you owe.
Some debts involve credit agreements. These are contracts that you sign when you take a loan, sign up for a mobile phone plan, get a credit card, etc. If you have signed a credit agreement, the Consumer Credit Act requires that you are sent a default notice at least 14 days before they can begin court action.
The default notice should also include a default information sheet that’s provided by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).
At this stage, you can usually still avoid court action if you contact the creditor and come to a repayment agreement.
CCJ claim form submission
If you haven’t come to an agreement with the creditor that’s owed money, the company will issue a County Court claim form.
This form is also known as a “N1” form and lays out the full details of the legal claim against you.
It will include the following details:
- You name and contact information
- The name and contact information of the person or company you owe money to
- A detailed description of the debt, including the amount owed, any interest added, and why the claim is going to court
- Details of the costs that the creditor is also asking to be recovered (often including court costs and other related expenses
The CCJ claim forms will also include a response pack. This is a set of documents that you are required to fill out and return if you want to respond to the claim.
The documents will be numbered and titled and will include:
- N9 Response Pack
- N9A Admission Form
- N9B Defence and Counterclaim Form
Each of these forms will show the name of the court that’s involved, your name, your creditor’s name, account and reference numbers, and the court claim number.
If you fill out these forms, you’ll be able to either admit that you’re responsible for the money owed, dispute the debt, or file a counterclaim against the company.
You will usually only have 14 days to respond at this stage. If you think anything is missing from these forms, you should contact the court or the creditor as quickly as possible to let them know.
At this ‘judgment’ step, the court looks at all the paperwork and makes a decision about whether or not you are responsible for the debt.
You will be invited to the court when your case is considered, but you don’t have to go.
If you have admitted to owing the money and asked for a payment plan to be considered, there’s a good chance this will be put into place, assuming it is reasonable and affordable. This is called a ‘judgment by instalments’.
If you do not dispute the claim, make a counterclaim, or simply do not reply at all, the court is likely to issue a CCJ against you without a ‘hearing’.
Hearing is the name given to a formal meeting in the court where you are given a chance to explain your circumstances and discuss the situation. If this happens, the court is more likely to make a ‘judgment forthwith’, which means the whole amount owed is due immediately.
CCJ issued and recorded
Assuming a CCJ is issued, it will be recorded on the Register of Judgments, Orders, and Fines for 6 years.
Since this information is used by credit reference agencies, your CCJ will also appear on your credit report shortly afterwards.
Here’s an example of how we can help
Let’s say you owe..
Short Term Loans
Total amount owed:
After an IVA
Example case completed in 2023. Repayment calculated using income and expenditure data. Monthly payments and write off percentages are based on individual circumstances.
Does a CCJ damage your credit report?
If you receive a county court judgement, it will have an impact on your credit rating. It will usually drop your credit score significantly.
It’s difficult to put an exact number on how much your credit score will drop as each of the main credit reference agencies have different ways of calculating your score.
All County Court Judgements are different, and people run into problems with money for different reasons. Despite this, credit reference agencies tend to treat all CCJs the same, so it will usually mean it’s much harder for you to get credit while the CCJ is showing on your credit file. In some cases, it can make getting things like phone contracts or even a bank account less likely.
What happens if you don’t pay towards your county court judgment (CCJ)?
When your CCJ is issued, the court considers the matter done, and you will be required to set up the payment plan (or make full payment) to the company you owe.
This is now considered a ‘priority debt’, which means you’re expected to prioritise it over lots of other kinds of unsecured debts. It’s a good idea to work on paying this debt off – but no one can force you to pay.
If you can’t or don’t pay, the company you owe can return to the court and ask for further action to be taken to force you to repay money owed. If required, this further action will usually involve one or more of the following steps:
If the court grants permission for bailiff action, it will issue a legal document called a ‘warrant of control. This gives a bailiff company permission to visit your home to collect the money you owe.
If you can’t afford to pay the bailiffs, there are steps they can take to take certain things you own and sell them to help pay the debt off.
An attachment of earnings order
If the court decides an attachment of earnings order is required, it means that money will be deducted from your wages or benefits before they get to you.
The amount varies depending on how much you earn or get through benefits, but it can often be a large percentage of what you earn.
A charging order
If you own a property, the creditor can request that a charging order is secured against it. This means the debt will be paid off when your property is sold or re-mortgaged. This applies to property owned outright or mortgaged.
In rare cases, the creditor may ask the court to force the sale of your property so the repayment can be made more quickly.
Can I get a CCJ cancelled or ‘set aside’?
In some situations, a County Court Judgment (CCJ) can be cancelled. The official term of having a CCJ cancelled is having it ‘set aside’.
This usually only happens if one of the following applies:
- The CCJ has been entered in error
- The full amount was paid before the court date
- Full payment is made within one month of the judgment date
If the CCJ is set aside, the Register of Judgments, Orders and Fines and the credit referencing agencies will be ordered to remove it from their records.
Debt Solution Finder
Discover the ideal debt solution for your needs with our debt solution finder.
How to avoid a County Court Judgment (CCJ)
As you can see from the information above, there are a lot of steps that come between first missing payments and receiving a CCJ.
The best way to avoid a debt getting out of control and receiving a CCJ is to communicate with the company you owe money to and always try to arrange a plan that will help you get caught up with payments.
However, thousands of people every month find themselves facing a CCJ. If you’re in this position and it feels like the time for negotiating is gone, try not to worry. Even if a court date is close, you can still contact your creditor and talk to them about setting up a payment arrangement.
Doing this can help to avoid any additional court costs being added to what you already owe.