In the final instalment of our debt claim series, we look the judgment – which is often the end of the court’s involvement in litigation matters. While this series is designed to serve as a basic introduction to the process of a small track debt claim, our solicitors can provide you with specialist help, advice and court representation tailored to your specific requirements.
Judgment is often the end of the court’s involvement in litigation matters. There is a chance that they’ll have to become involved again if the judgment debtor refuses to pay, but it’s in everyone’s interests – in terms of time, stress, and money if the judgment is complied with. Throughout this series, we’ve been looking at a debt recovery claim. There are, broadly speaking, four possible outcomes:
1. You were the claimant, and you won;
2. You were the defendant, and you lost;
3. You were the claimant, and you lost; and
4. You were the defendant, and you won.
The last two possibilities will equate to the claimant walking away empty-handed – the court having decided that the defendant did not owe them the money. There may be, although it is unlikely, a costs order requiring one party to pay towards the other side’s expenses in bringing or defending the claim but other than that it’s the end of the road. In this article, however, we’ll take a brief look at the other two outcomes:
You were the claimant, and you won:
Congratulations. You have proven that the defendant owed you the money, and now you have a county court judgment as confirmation. The defendant, now called the judgment debtor, will now have one month to pay you the Judgment Debt. If you were not awarded costs, this would amount to the sum of:
1. The sum claimed
2. The court fee
3. Fixed legal representative costs
4. Any pleaded interest.
If all is well and good, the judgment debtor will pay this within the month, and you will be able to put this saga behind you.
However, the debtor might not pay, and if they refuse to pay the judgment debt at this stage, you have a few options to enforce the debt:
1. You can request that a court bailiff or High Court enforcement officer to attend the judgment debtor’s premises and collect the debt.
A court bailiff will attend their property and request payment of the sums owed. If the debtor is unable to pay the full amount, plus fees, the bailiff’s have the right to remove property from the premises to be sold to pay the debt.
Alternatively, the matter might be ‘transferred up’ by a High Court enforcement officer who will then pursue the debt. These officers have greater powers than the court bailiff and might be a faster and more effective option.
1. You can place a charge on the judgment debtor’s property.
This is like them owing a mortgage to their bank. This secures your debt against the property and, if the property is sold, you will be eligible for payment. After you have had a charge placed on the property, you may even be able to force a sale of the property. Of course, this option is only available if the defendant owns their own property and doesn’t rent from somebody else.
1. You can require the judgment debtor to attend court for questioning.
The court will write to the judgment debtor and tell them to attend court. They have a standard list of questions – which you can add to – requiring the debtor to explain their finances and determine why they have not paid. Whatever the outcome of this questioning is they will still be liable for the Judgment debt – it’s not a re-hearing of the case.
If the debtor refuses to attend court (they will be given a couple of opportunities to attend), the court may order their arrest and imprisonment for contempt of court.
They will still owe you the judgment debt after this.
Once the judgment debt has been paid, however, you’ll be able to move on and forget this ever happened.
You were the defendant and you lost:
Nobody wants to be in this position, but it’s in your best interests to get out of it as soon as possible. We’ve seen, above, some of the consequences of being the losing defendant in a small claim.
A County Court Judgment (also known as a CCJ) will remain on your credit file for six years unless you take swift action. This may make it difficult for you to secure a mortgage, affect your ability to get a credit card, or rent properties and vehicles.
If you pay the judgment debt within one month, the CCJ can be removed from your credit file, and nobody examining your file in the future will ever know it was there. You will need to pay the claimant in the matter the full sum and then request a certificate of satisfaction. You will then be able to use this to have the CCJ removed from your credit file.
You mustn’t ignore the judgment – we’ve seen what the other side and the court can do to enforce the judgment – do not let this happen to you!
Whether you are the defendant or claimant and whatever stage of litigation proceedings you are in – whether you’ve just received a claim form, or you’re trying to enforce a debt – if you need help please contact us on 01323 407555
For more information on bailiff’s powers visit https://www.gov.uk/your-rights-bailiffs
Read the full debt claim series here:
Debt Claim Series Part 1: The process of a simple small track debt claim
Debt Claim Series Part 2: Issuing a claim or having a claim issued against you. What to do?
Debt Claim Series Part 3: I’ve just received a claim form… What do I do?
Debt Claim Series Part 4: Defence filed… What next?
Debt Claim Series Part 5: Evidence, Disclosure and Inspection
Debt Claim Series Part 6: The Hearing
Debt Claim Series Part 7: Judgment Day