A County Court Judgment (CCJ) can significantly reduce your credit rating. If you’ve discovered that you’ve got one on your credit report, it might be stopping you getting types of credit – including a mortgage, a car loan, a credit card or even a bank account.
This can be even more of a problem if you don’t know where the CCJ has come from.
In this guide, we’ll explain everything you need to know about unknown CCJs. Including what they mean to you, how you can find out what they relate to, and what you can do about one.
What Is A County Court Judgment (CCJ)?
A CCJ a kind of court order. They can be issued in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland. In Scotland, there’s a similar kind of money order called a ‘decree’.
These orders are issued when a creditor (a person or company you owe money to) hasn’t been able to get back what they’re owed – so they apply to the county court to try to force you to pay the money back.
Taking court action to force you to repay money owed might sound like an extreme measure – but it’s usually a last resort when a person hasn’t responded to any other request for repayment.
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Why do people get CCJs?
Typically, the path to a CCJ will begin with missed payments.
After three or more missed payments with no attempt to catch up, a lender will apply for a ‘default’ – a record on your credit file to let other lenders know you’re missing payments and could be in financial difficulty.
If you don’t respond to a default notice (the warning letter that’s sent before a default judgment is registered) – or you respond but don’t stick to the agreement – then the creditor will take further action to get the money back.
This further action usually involves debt collection agencies. These agencies work on behalf of a lender to put additional pressure on you to pay back what’s owed. This will usually mean frequent letters, phone calls and messages. Debt collection agencies will usually also threaten court action in an effort to scare you into coming to an agreement about what’s owed.
If none of this debt collection action works, the original lender who’s owed money will apply to the court to take legal action. Credit agreements are legally binding documents, so a court will see to it that this legal agreement is stuck to.
What happens if a lender applies for a CCJ?
Lenders who want to apply for county court judgments have to follow a process called the ‘pre-action protocol’.
This basically means proving that they have taken all possible steps we’ve talked about above to recover the debt before turning to the court. If the district judge relevant court thinks they have, you will be issued with a County Court Claim Form.
Also called an ‘N1 Claim Form’ – the County Court Claim form gives you a chance to explain your circumstances. If you think the county court judgement is being issued unfairly, then it also gives you a chance to explain why.
If you don’t respond by sending the form back in 14 days, you’ll be issued with a CCJ.
Can a CCJ be issued without you knowing about it?
Although it’s rare, it’s not impossible for the full process we’ve talked about to happen without you knowing anything about it.
Sometimes, this will be because you’ve moved house and the lender can’t contact you. If there’s no official record of where you’re living and the parties involved have no contact details for you, they will often send the necessary warnings and documents to an old address.
Equally, there are some creditors who will issue a claim against you without trying to track you down. You obviously can’t respond to a claim you know nothing about – but the court probably won’t realise this, so it will look like you’re ignoring the communication.
If a CCJ has been issued in this way, it’s possible that a law firm could fight your case and have it removed – but this will usually mean finding the money for your legal defence. Instead, it’s better to keep on top of your credit record and make sure nothing appears on there that could indicate that a lender is preparing to apply for a county court summons.
How can you find out who a CCJ is from?
Chances are, if you didn’t know you had a CCJ, you’ve probably found out because you’ve applied for credit and been turned down.
It might feel like a setback now, but this gives you a chance to explore what’s happened and find a solution as quickly as possible. County court judgements will stay on your credit file for 6 years – but the sooner you deal with it, the sooner your credit score will start to recover.
So, how do you find out where the CCJ has come from? There are two main options:
Check with credit reference agencies
Your first and easiest option is to check with the three main credit reference agencies. These are Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion.
Each lender will usually use one credit reference agency – but the three agencies share information with each other, so a CCJ will usually show up on all three if one has been issued. That said, the time it takes to register a CCJ will vary – so it’s best to check with all three.
You can request your statutory credit report from each agency individually by writing to them. Details for each can be found on their websites:
Alternatively, there are third party services you can use to view your credit reports. If you sign up to a website that offers you access to one of the agency’s reports, it’s best to make sure you’re not going to be charged for that service further down the line.
When you have access, you’ll be able to read all the entries on your credit report and get the details of the lender the debt was owed to.
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Check the Public Register of Judgments, Orders and Fines
When someone is issued a CCJ, it goes on a public record called ‘The Public Register of Judgments, Orders and Fines”. You can access it on the Registry Trust website.
There’s a small fee to pay access details of a specific CCJ – around £4. When you pay the fee, you’ll be able to see information relating to the CCJ, including:
- Court reference numbers
- The date of the judgement
- Whether the CCJ is marked as ‘satisfied’
Unfortunately, details about who asked for the CCJ aren’t included. Don’t worry though – with the court reference number and the judgment date, you’ll be able to contact the court and get the details you need.
What happens if you just continue to ignore the CCJ?
If you’ve gone for a while without knowing you have a CCJ, it might be tempting to try to forget about it and carry on without making any contact with the lender or making any payment.
Unfortunately though, CCJs do not away. Even though some debts are considered ‘statute barred’ (meaning a lender can’t take any action to recover it) after 6 years, when a CCJ is issued, the debt will never become statute barred. Put simply, a CCJ debt will never go away.
So, what happens if you do ignore it?
Bailiff and enforcement officer visits
Without any contact from you, the lender will continue to try to collect the debt. This usually means contacting services that enforce court debts. Often referred to as ‘bailiffs‘, these High Court enforcement companies will do their very best to track you down and visit your home to collect what is owed.
Not only does this mean the possibility of having your possessions taken away and sold to help pay off the debt, it also means the amount you owe is likely to go up a lot.
Every step in the debt collection process costs money. Having enforcement officers visit your home and carry out debt collection action will add hundreds of pounds in additional fees – and sometimes additional fees will add thousands.
An attachment of earnings
If bailiffs aren’t effective – or you make an agreement with bailiffs and don’t honour it, the lender may go back to the court and apply for an ‘attachment of earnings’.
This is a different type of court order than allows a creditor to collect money from your salary or benefits before they reach you. It would be sent to you and the person or department that deals with payroll at your workplace.
The amount that’s deducted from your wages depends on how much you earn – but it can be an extremely large portion of your take-home pay.
What should you do if you discover a CCJ?
Since CCJs don’t go away by themselves. Bailiff or attachment of earnings action can add serious amounts of stress and additional charges – so it’s absolutely essential that you deal with a previously unknown CCJ as quickly as you can.
Contact the lender
The first option you have is to contact the lender, explain that you didn’t know about the CCJ, and see if you can get caught up with what you owe. If the CCJ was issued fairly recently, they may be able to help you – but if a lot of time has passed.
If you’re facing further legal action through the courts, you should contact the court that’s dealing with your case and ask that any letters relating to the CCJ are sent to you. When they arrive, you’ll need to complete them as quickly as possible to make sure your side of the story is heard and that any action doesn’t go ahead without your input.
At this stage, it’s a good idea to seek debt advice so that your unique circumstances can be considered and an action plan put together for you.
Explore debt solutions
Often, when you don’t realise you have been issued a CCJ, it’s because your finances have started to feel out of control.
When this happens, millions of people try to ignore the problems and hope that they’ll go away – or at least not cause you any problems until you can get back on top and get them paid off. Unfortunately, debt recovery happens quickly – usually much quicker than people can get their finances back in order.
This is why lots of people explore debt solutions as a way of getting back on top of their money situation. A big part of why these government-approved solutions are so popular is because they stop all legal action being taken against you. What’s more, the insolvency practitioner who is dealing with your case will take over all communication with courts, bailiffs, lenders, and other people involved.
There’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to solutions to your debt – but you may decide to look into an individual voluntary arrangement (IVA) as a way of combining all your debts into one affordable monthly payment.
Where can I get more advice on I Have A CCJ But Dont Know Who From and other debt solutions?
I have a CCJ but I don’t know who it’s from: A summary
CCJs can have a big impact on your financial life. The trouble is, if you have one that you don’t know about – you could be on the way to further action from the courts.
Contact the three main credit reference agencies to get your credit reports from each. If you can’t do that, check the Registry Trust website and access the Register of Judgments, Orders and Fines – then contact the court that issued your CCJ.
With the information you need, talk to the lender as soon as possible and try to arrange a payment plan. If further action is already taking place, contact the court to get as much information as possible and get professional debt advice about what your next steps should be.
No matter how it feels now, your finances aren’t going to be out of control for ever. Work on paying off what you owe – and if it all feels impossible, you may want to explore different types of debt solution that can help you rebuild your finances into the future.