What enforcement options are available when recovering a County Court Judgment debt?
Once you have obtained a County Court Judgment against a person/business that owes you money, you can usually then take enforcement action against the debtor in a bid to try to recover the sums owed to you.
One of the first things to consider is the debtor profile:
- Are they employed?
- Do they own property?
- Do they have dependants?
- Do you have their most up-to-date contact details?
If it is a business:
- Are they a limited company?
- Are they still trading?
You are trying to establish whether the debtor has the financial means to repay the debt. If the debtor is unemployed and in shared or rented accommodation with a young family or other dependents, it is possible that they may not be in a financial position to repay the sums owed.
You must consider the costs versus benefits of enforcing the County Court Judgment. If it will cost you more money than you are likely to recover, you may decide to wait and review the debtor’s financial circumstances at a later date.
Under section 24 (1) of the Limitation Act 1980 (1980 Act),"an action shall not be brought upon any judgment after the expiration of six years from the date on which the judgment became enforceable”, therefore a creditor ordinarily has a maximum of six years to recover the debt from a debtor.
Once you have assessed the debtor’s financial profile, one or more of the following enforcement options may be suitable for you:
- Bailiff–You can ask the court to send the bailiff to try to collect the debt or, if the debt is over £600.00, you can ask the High Court Enforcement Officer to try to collect the debt for you
- Attachment of earnings–You can ask the court to deduct a regular payment from the debtor’s wages. You must know the name and address of the debtor’s employer
- Third-Party Debt Order–You can apply to freeze money held in the debtor’s bank account. You must have knowledge that there are sufficient funds in the debtor’s account to cover the entire debt owed to you. The debtor may apply to the court and claim hardship if by freezing their account they will not be able to pay for accommodation or necessary utilities, food etc
- Charging Order–If the debtor owns a property, you can apply to the court for a charge to be registered against their property. This charge will give you some security. You will then be a secured creditor. Once a charge is registered, you can consider applying to enforce the charge and seek an order from the court to force the sale of the property. If the property was ordered to be sold and there was sufficient equity in the property, your debt would be repaid out of the proceeds of the sale
There may be other options available to you such as bankruptcy/insolvency proceedings. These options can often be complex and you should seek independent legal advice before going down this route.
All enforcement options attract a fee, payable to the court. Fees are usually added to the outstanding debt and recovered from the debtor with the Judgment amount. A list of current court fees can be found atEX50-Civil and Family Court fees (publishing.service.gov.uk).
This article is intended for general information purposes only and should not be relied upon in place of specific legal advice. If you have a debt recovery-related query then please do not hesitate to contact our litigation team for advice and assistance.
TMJ Legal Services
TMJ Legal Services has been helping individuals and businesses since 1986. We offer a range of advice and services.