Obtaining a County Court Judgment may be just the tip of the iceberg when seeking recovery of what is owed to you. Throughout this article, we will provide you with a synopsis of the potential options available to you when considering the enforcement of a Judgment.
You (the “Judgment Creditor”) should consider enforcement when the party ordered to pay (the “Judgment Debtor”) fails to satisfy payment by a certain date, as ordered by the court.
Before taking any steps towards enforcement, you should consider how well you know the Judgment Debtor and consider various factors to ensure you do not waste your money seeking to enforce against a Judgment Debtor who doesn’t have any assets. Examples of some questions include, but are not limited to, the below:
- Is the Judgment Debtor able to pay?
- Do they have any assets?
- Are they in full-time employment?
- Is the Judgment Debtor currently a director of a company? and
- Is the Judgment Debtor facing any other enforcement proceedings?
There are also several searches which can be undertaken to determine the Judgment Debtor’s financial position (for example, Land Registry searches, Attachment of Earnings index and Company searches). It is also possible to instruct an enquiry agent to investigate the Judgment Debtor, but you should move quickly to avoid the possibility of the Judgment Debtor disposing of or ‘hiding’ assets.
Methods of enforcing a judgment:
Here we explore some common methods of enforcing a Judgment that may be available to you:
|Orders to obtain information||> Not technically an ‘enforcement action’, however can be a very useful tool for pre-enforcement information gathering;|
> An order to obtain information is the summoning of the Judgment Debtor to court, to supply information about their financial means. This information can then be used to consider the most appropriate way forward;
> The Court do have the power to arrest a Judgment Debtor if they fail to attend the hearing.
|Warrant of Control||> Taking control of goods – a very popular method of enforcement;|
> This can be used for Judgment debts of less than £5,000.00 and is executed by a County Court Bailiff (unless the case is ‘transferred up to the High Court);
> Goods are taken and sold at auction, following which the monies owed to the Judgment Creditor will be paid out of the proceeds of sale.
|Writ of Control||> A similar process to the ‘warrant of control’ and is another popular form of enforcement;|
> This method can be used on any debts above £600.00 and is executed by a High Court Enforcement Officer (“HCEO”);
> This is sometimes considered the more effective ‘taking control of goods’ process as HCEO’s are paid by results, meaning they are incentivised to recover the debt;
> Instructing a HCEO also increases the costs which the Judgment Debtor is liable for at each stage of the process.
|Charging Orders||> A very popular enforcement process which involves a Court order, charging the debt against some specified property owned by the Judgment Debtor;|
> An order prevents the Judgment Debtor from selling the land/ property without paying what is owed to the Judgment Creditor;
> Even if the Judgment Debtor jointly owns a property, you can still seek an order against the property, with a beneficial interest of the Judgment Debtor;
> The main disadvantage of this process is that it does not automatically realise payment to satisfy the Judgment. Interest does continue to accrue and what is often the case in practice, is that the Judgment Debtor will ultimately pay for fear of losing their house;
> In order to realise payment, a final charging order must be obtained, followed by an Order for Sale.
|Orders for Sale||> This process follows a final Charging order and is a fresh set of enforcement proceedings;|
> Threatening an Order for Sale can force the Judgment’s Debtor’s hands;
> In order to obtain an Order for Sale, the Court will consider the Judgment Debtor’s circumstances (such as whether any dependents live in the property, what other creditors the Judgment Debtor has etc).
|Attachment of Earnings Order (AEO)||> This can be a very useful action if you know the Judgment Debtor is in full-time employment as an AEO is an application to the Court, requiring the Judgment debtor’s employer transfer money directly from their salary to satisfy the Judgment debt;|
> This is only a County Court action and is really for individual debt recovery as opposed to company debt;
> This can be a very persuasive tool as most Judgment debtors’ do not want their employer to know about a Judgment against them.
|Third Party Debt Orders (TPDO)||> Potentially very powerful, if you know the debtor is owed money from another;|
> Put simply, X owes you money but you know Y owes X money. A TPDO can seek that Y pay you to satisfy your debt and finalise any monies owed to X.
In addition to the above, Insolvency Proceedings, including Bankruptcy and Winding Up petitions, can also be used on either a) an undisputed debt or b) to enforce a Judgment against the Judgment Debtor. There are a number of factors to consider for these routes and we can provide you with specialist advice and guidance should you wish to consider these options. We will also shortly be publishing an article specifically tailored to Insolvency Proceedings and this is an area which the team have a vast amount of experience in.
The above provides a very brief overview of the options available when considering the enforcement of a Judgment. Every case is unique and we will advise on the most appropriate methods of enforcement on a case by case basis.
If you have obtained a Judgment which remains unsatisfied, you have an undisputed debt which remain unpaid or you are unsure how your dispute should be dealt with, then we may be able to assist you!
Please call 01283 526200 to discuss your case or alternatively you can send us a message and we will get in touch at a time that suits you.