What is a CCJ?
A County Court Judgment (CCJ) means that someone has taken court action against you usually because they believe you owe them money and the court has entered a judgment against you. CCJs are recorded publicly and can affect your chances of getting credit.
The Court Claim Forms are usually delivered by post, and set out who you owe money to, how much you owe, the deadline for paying, and whether you need to pay in full or by instalments.
Why did I receive a Court Claim Form?
If you have received a Court Claim Form, it is usually because a creditor has requested payment from you and you have failed to respond.
At this stage, you do not have a CCJ against you. However, if you do not respond to the Court Claim Form within 14 days, you will receive a CCJ by default.
You have several options for responding to a Court Claim Form. You can find more information on https://www.gov.uk.
Be aware that if the court sides with the creditor, a CCJ will be issued and recorded on the register of Judgments, Orders and Fines for years.
⏩ If you don't believe you owe the amount claimed or even any money at all, you can choose to dispute the claim using the Defence Form provided with the Court Claim Form. It's best to seek independent advice before going down this route.
⏩ If you believe it's the creditor who owes you money instead, you can fill out the Counterclaim Form provided to make a claim against the creditor. Again, it's a good idea to seek independent advice if you want to counterclaim.
⏩ You can also choose to to pay the debt claimed in full.
How does a CCJ affect me?
A CCJ is recorded on your credit file, and is likely to have a significant impact on your ability to get credit. It will stay on your file for six years, even after the debt has been paid (although it should be marked as "satisfied" when you have repaid what you owe – see below).
Additionally, if you don't keep to the terms of a CCJ (for instance, missing a payment if you're paying in instalments) your creditor can escalate the action against you. This might involve a court bailiff visiting your home to seize your goods, or an Attachment of Earnings Order which deducts the money you owe from your wages.
There are a number of myths about CCJs and how they can affect you:
Myth 1: CCJs completely prevent you from obtaining any type of credit.
⏩ If you have met all of your obligations for at least six months after a CCJ has been issued, you may be able to get credit from a specialist lender. You can find out more from our CCJ recovery page.
Myth 2: CCJs are always automatically updated as "satisfied" when you have paid them.
⏩ When you have made your final repayment, you should apply in writing to the court to have the status of the CCJ updated.
Myth 3: CCJs will go away if you ignore them for six years.
⏩ Although normally debts cannot be enforced more than six years after the date they become due, your creditor can apply to the court to have it enforced even after this time. Additionally, you are likely to face further legal action if you fail to respond to a CCJ.
Myth 4: CCJs can be avoided by leaving the country.
⏩ Your creditor can apply for a European Enforcement Order if you're inside the EU, and similar arrangements exist with countries outside the EU.
Myth 5: CCJs do not affect people of all economic backgrounds.
⏩ Although, statistically, individuals on lower incomes are more likely to have a CCJ registered against them, business owners can also be targeted by CCJs if for example they fail to pay a supplier.
How can I avoid a CCJ?
As described above, the best way to avoid a CCJ is to pay what you owe before one is issued. This means responding promptly to the Court Claim Form when you receive it, or applying for more time if you need it.
If you have a default judgment against you, you may be able to get it "set aside". This means the judgment is temporarily removed, and the court may listen to your side of things before deciding how to proceed.
Applying to have a judgment set aside costs a court fee of £255*. You need a valid reason to get a default judgment set aside, e.g. if you did not receive the forms, or you were not living at your address when they arrived. You will need to prove this to the court, and be aware that there's no guarantee that the Court will accept your version of events.
*Court fee correct as of 25th October 2016. For an up-to-date court fee amount please visit https://www.gov.uk.
How can I check if there is a CCJ against me?
If you're not sure whether there is a CCJ or default judgment against you, you can search The Registry Trust's online database. You can do this by visiting TrustOnline for more information. Please be aware that there is a small fee for searching the register – normally £4.
(the most up to date pricing information can be found at the bottom of the Registry Trust Homepage).