A county court judgment is an order made in the county court requiring someone to pay a specific amount of money to another person. These orders are commonly referred to as CCJs. Usually, county court judgments are made against a debtor in favour of a creditor who is seeking repayment of a debt.
How do county court judgments arise?
A county court judgment can arise in the following ways:
Where the defendant fails to respond to a formal claim
When a defendant is served with a claim form and particulars of claim, they have a limited period of time in which to respond. This is normally 14 days. If the defendant fails to respond within the specified time, the claimant to apply for ‘judgment in default’. The claimant’s application for judgment in default is considered with by a judge on paper and without a hearing or investigation of the merits of the case. If the claimant’s application is successful, judgment will be given and an order against the defendant will be made.
Where a defendant admits the claim
A defendant can respond to a formal claim made against them by filing an admission with the court. If a full admission (as opposed to a partial admission) is made, then the claimant may then apply to court for a judgment in their favour based on the admission.
Where a party fails to comply with a court order
Sometimes, the court will state in an order that one or more parties must take a particular step by a certain date and, if the party does not comply, the other party can apply for judgment in default.
Where the court decides the case
If the defendant denies the claim and the matter cannot be settled between the parties, the case may reach a final hearing. The court will then decide the matter on the evidence before it, and make a decision on whether the claimant’s case satisfies the civil standard of proof – that it is more probable not that the claimant is owed the money by the defendant. If the claimant wins, a judgment to that effect will be made in their favour and requiring the defendant to pay monies to another party.
What are their consequences of a county court judgment?
County court judgments are a matter of public record and can have a negative effect on your credit rating. Most county court judgments are placed on the Register of Judgments, Orders and Fines which is a public register, and are kept on there for six years. This Register also contains details of most high court judgments as well as certain other types of orders and fines.
Financial institutions such as banks, building societies and credit companies routinely consult the Register of Judgments, Orders and Fines when a person applies for credit, loan and mortgages. The existence of an entry on the Register may result in a lender or bank refusing an application for credit or for a loan.
How can a county court judgment be removed from the Register?
In some cases, an entry can be removed, while in other cases, it may only be marked as ‘satisfied’.
Payment within one month
A county court judgment can be removed from the Register if the debtor makes full payment within one month of the judgment. Once payment has been made, the debtor can apply for the judgment to be removed from the Register. The application should be made to the court which made the judgment, and it should be supported with proof of the payment in the form of a letter or receipt from the person to whom the money was owed (or their solicitor). If that person fails to confirm that the money has been paid, the court will write to them seeking confirmation that it has been paid. If the creditor has not replied to the court within a month, the court will go ahead and process the request for removal of the judgment.
By making a successful application to set aside the judgment
An order to set aside or cancel a judgment can be made in some circumstances – mostly where an error has been made. The court will only make such an order if the judgment was wrongly entered. This may because the correct formalities were not complied with either when the proceedings were served on the defendant, or when judgment was entered, or if the defendant is able to persuade a judge that they have a real prospect of successfully defending the claim – or that there is some other good reason why the judgment should be set aside.
An application to set aside a judgment should only be made where there are genuine reasons for disputing the judgment. Often, the person making the application will be required to pay the other party’s costs incurred in opposing the application – even if the judgment is eventually set aside.
Can full payment after a month result in its removal?
No: although fully paying (‘satisfying’) the judgment will not result in the removal of the judgment from the Register of Judgments, Orders and Fines, an entry can be marked as ‘satisfied’ if the full amount owed under the judgment is paid after the period of one month following the date of the judgment.
In this case, an application must be made for a judgment to be marked as satisfied. This must be made to the court which made the original judgment, supported with proof that the payment has been paid. The proof required is the same as that required for an application for removal of a judgment from the Register. It is also possible to obtain a certificate of satisfaction showing that the debt has been paid.