Enforcing a County Court Judgment

The Court has decided that an individual or company owes you money. You have a Court Order setting out how much is owed and when payment should be made. If the deadline passes and you have not received payment from the debtor, what next?

Before spending further time and money enforcing the judgment you should gain an understanding of the debtor’s finances, find out whether they are employed and whether they own property or have assets. You can carry out your own enquiries via the internet or social media, search the Insolvency Register and conduct a Land Registry search. Alternatively, an enquiry agent can be instructed or you can apply to the Court for an Order to obtain information from a debtor. If preliminary enquiries show that a debtor is (or is likely to become) insolvent, it may not be worth taking steps to enforce the judgment.

If you are concerned that the debtor may dissipate assets that could be used to satisfy the judgment debt, then it may be possible to make an application to Court to prevent this.

If your judgment is against more than one defendant it can be enforced against any defendant separately, so you should consider who is more likely to pay up.

Most frequently used methods of enforcement

All of the enforcement options below involve a Court application.

Bailiffs and High Court Enforcement Officers

The bailiff/the HCEO can attend a debtor’s home or place of business to obtain payment or seize goods.

Charging Orders and Orders for Sale

A county court judgment is an unsecured/non-priority debt. It can be turned into a secured debt by obtaining a Charging Order over the debtor’s property. This means that the debt may (if there is any equity in the property) be paid when the debtor’s property is sold (and you may be able to force the sale of the property to speed up this process). Further, if the debtor becomes insolvent you have a greater chance of recovering your money as you have become a secured creditor.

Third Party Debt Orders

If you think the debtor has the cash to pay but is holding it back, or that they are due a windfall, you can apply for a third party debt order. This allows you to take money directly from a debtor’s bank account.

Attachment of Earnings Orders

An Attachment of Earnings Order orders a debtor’s employer to deduct payments directly from the debtor’s wages to pay back the debt.

Bankruptcy and winding-up proceedings

This is usually a last resort. The effect of insolvency is that the debtor’s assets will be collected in and distributed among all the creditors. Secured or preferred creditors take priority and at the end of the process the judgment creditor may only receive a small proportion of the sum owing, if anything.

Cost of Enforcement

You can recover the court fee relating to successful enforcement action plus limited fixed costs (sometimes further costs can be assessed by the court or agreed with the debtor but not always). This is subject of course to the debtor having the funds to pay!

Time Limits

There is generally no limitation period for enforcement proceedings but delay in enforcing may mean interest is limited and the financial position of the debtor diminished. For those reasons you should take action within 6 years from the date of the judgment.

Please contact us if you require any assistance.  




Posted on 06/06/2023 by Ortolan

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