Now that we’ve all settled back into our work routines and Christmas and New Year is a distant memory, our thoughts turn to boring but necessary duties such as maintaining our finances.
Now that the break is well and truly over, our phone lines are getting busier as people realise how much was spent over Christmas and how long there is still left before payday.
And we’re not the only ones that are busy. Northampton County Court, England’s bulk processing centre for County Court judgments (CCJs), shut for ten days over Christmas, which added to the postal delays meant that a lot of people will only just receiving these types of forms now.
UPDATE October 2017: The rules around creditors sending court forms have changed. You should now receive a ‘letter of claim’ before any court action. Read more about the new Pre-Action Protocol for Debt Claims.
The CCJ process
With this in mind here’s a quick guide on what you should do if you receive county court paperwork, to help you.
- The first thing to make sure is that the paperwork you’ve received is actually from the court and not just a threat of action. Letters from debt collectors can be carefully worded and made to look like they are taking court action, when in reality they’re just trying to scare you into making extra payments to them.
- Before you receive any court paperwork the original creditor must have issued a default notice. This is a formal letter which tells you how much you need to pay to bring the account back up to date. You should be given at least 14 days to pay it before the account is defaulted (bringing the agreement to an end). If you pay the full amount within this time period, no further action will be taken.
- After the default is issued the debt is usually passed on to a debt collection agency. This isn’t always the case and a creditor can apply for a CCJ as long as they have issued a default notice.
- If you receive court forms coloured pale blue with a court crest on the top, your creditor has applied for a CCJ. You will receive these forms:
- N1 (amount owed, creditor and which court is dealing with it)
- N9A (admission form)
- N9B (defence form)
- If you admit liability for the debt, you will need to complete the N1 and N9A and return them within 16 days. It’s a good idea to send it recorded delivery to make sure it arrives. It’s important that you complete all of the sections fully and make an offer of payment based on your income and expenditure. We can help you to do this.
- You only need the N9B if you dispute that you owe the debt. If this is the case you would also need to get detailed advice from us.
- The CCJ is registered once you receive a letter titled ‘Judgment for Claimant’ and this will be recorded on your credit file for 6 years. It will specify a monthly amount that you have to pay. If they aren’t happy with the offer of payment or if you don’t respond in time they can ask for the full amount immediately (called “judgment forthwith”).
- If they have specified a monthly amount and you maintain this no further action should be taken.
- If you don’t maintain the payments or they ask for a judgment forthwith which you can’t pay, the creditor can ask the courts to take further enforcement action such as bailiffs, an attachment of earnings order or a charging order.
- If your circumstances change further down the line, it is possible to vary the judgment by completing an N245 form with a more affordable offer of payment.
- It may be possible to avoid a CCJ if it would seriously affect your employment. You would need to apply for a Tomlin Order (we can advise you further on this).
Above all, it’s vital to remember that you should always act quickly to respond to any county court paperwork as you’re given a limited amount of time to deal with them.
No matter what time of year it is, don’t panic and get in touch with us straight away so we can support you throughout the whole process.
You can read more about CCJs, how to fill out CCJ forms and what to do if you can’t pay a CCJ on our website.