Enforcing County Court Judgements
Enforcing County Court Judgements is something that can be done if you have secured a judgement in the County Court or High Court against a debtor. If the debtor does not voluntarily make a payment, the claimant (usually the creditor) can enforce the judgement to ensure that the outstanding money is paid.
There are several ways in which a judgement can be enforced, but the most common ways include:
Writ of Fieri Facias or Warrant of Execution
If the judgement is dealt with in the County Court you can seek enforcement of the debt through a Bailiff. Where the judgement is processed through the County Court but then passed to the High Court for enforcement, High Court Enforcement Officers can execute a writ to collect the outstanding payment or seize goods to the value of the debt.
However, before a High Court Enforcement Officer or Bailiff can recover the debt, it is necessary for the Creditor (Claimant) to obtain either a Warrant of Execution where the debt was dealt with in the County Court, or a Writ of Fieri Facias when the judgement was issued in the High Court.
One of the key advantages to pursuing this course of action is that it is relatively cheap. Nevertheless, the main disadvantage is that when High Court Enforcement Officers attend, only certain types of goods can be seized. The Bailiff or High Court Enforcement Officer cannot gain entry to a property or business premises by force.
A charging order is very similar to a mortgage and is only used when the debtor owns property. There are two stages to applying for and obtaining a charging order. The first step is to commence an interim charging order. The second step will involve the creation of a final charging order.
Step 1 Interim Charging Order
This initial stage will involve the claimant making an application to the court to obtain an interim charging order. Provided that the application is fully compliant, the judge will grant an interim charging order. At the same time, the judge will list a hearing where the judge will decide whether or not to make a final charging order.
The debtor will be issued with a notice of the hearing and they will have the opportunity to make any representations to communicate their reasons why the order should not be granted.
A charging order can be registered with the Land Registry if and when the debtor sells the property, provided that there is sufficient equity. The money owed will then be paid to the creditor along with interest accrued from the date that the charging order was made.
One of the main disadvantages of a charging order is that it does not oblige the debtor to sell their property and as such, the creditor may have to wait for a number of years before they receive payment.
If the charging order has been awarded, the creditor can apply to the court for an order which requests that the debtor sell their property. In practice however, the courts very rarely grant these orders.
A Third Party Debt Order
This approach is used for enforcement action where a third party owes money to the debtor. If a third party debt order is made through the courts, the third party will be required to make a payment to the judgement creditor however, this is not frequently used in practice.
Attachment of Earnings
An order in relation to Attachment of Earnings can be made through the County Court and is usually made when the debtor is an individual in paid employment. The High Court cannot grant an attachment of earnings order. When this order is made, the employer will be required to deduct a set amount of money from the debtor’s salary until the debt is paid. The court will ultimately decide how much will be deducted at the time of creating the order. There are disadvantages with this method of repayment because it can take a considerable amount of time to repay the full amount of debt and it cannot be used if the debtor is self employed.
Choosing the Best Route
Deciding to take enforcement action can be confusing. Each case is different and there is no one set of rules that apply to every situation. The most effective method of Enforcing county court judgements will depend on a range of factors including the amount owed and the circumstances of the case.
A judgement creditor (the claimant) can make an application to the court for an order to obtain relevant information about a debtor. When the debt is owed by a business the claimant can seek to obtain information about the owner of the company.
If an order is made, the debtor will be required to attend court and supply information about their income and assets. This information will usually be provided to a member of the office staff within the Court rather than a judge but any details provided will be under oath. The creditor can attend and they will be able to ask questions. If the debtor refuses to answer the questions under oath or they do not attend court, they could face a custodial sentence.
In the majority of cases, the claimant can decide which method of Enforcing county court judgements they believe is the most suitable and depending on the circumstances, more than one enforcement route can be pursued.
About the author:
This article was written by a member of the Expert Answers legal advice team and posted by Lloyd Barrett. Expert Answers provides online legal advice on all aspects of UK Law to users in the United Kingdom.
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