1. What is a CCJ?
Many people are aware ‘CCJ’ is shorthand for ‘County Court Judgement’. But this knowledge can sometimes create even more misconceptions around what is a CCJ. Because it’s a document issued by the court, some of our clients originally contacted us believing they have been accused of quite serious crimes. And whilst CCJ’s should be taken seriously, it’s important not to panic and make them into a bigger issue than they usually are.
In fact, the Registry Trust announced that between 1 January 2020 and 30 June 2020 475,808 CCJ’s were issued! To put that in context, that’s roughly the number of recorded UK Covid-19 cases from 1st January 2020 – 1st October the same year.
But what is a CCJ? Quite simply, a CCJ is a judgement from the court saying you owe a debt to a creditor you must pay within 30 days. A CCJ can be issued for any amount, even 1p (and yes that does happen!).
If you don’t pay the debt in 30 days it will go on your credit file for 6 years, impacting your ability to claim finance for loans or mortgages, and even preventing your chances of getting certain jobs. As such, a CCJ should be treated seriously regardless of the size of debt attached to it.
For those looking to remove a CCJ, we would strongly recommend reading our ‘how to remove a CCJ’ article as simply paying the debt does not solve the problem once you have crossed the 30-day deadline.
2. Can I go to prison for not paying the debt attached to a CCJ
Once people have answered their first question ‘what is a CCJ?’, this is typically their next question. There are three parts to cover when answering this question.
Firstly, no, not for not paying the debt. This is important to be aware of as some claimants will suggest you could.
Secondly, you can go to prison if you ignore the letters the court sends you. We need to stress that this is extremely rare however and is punishment for ignoring the court, not refusing the pay the debt.
This typically happens if the claimant applies to take the debt directly from your wages via an attachment of earnings. This is seen as a last resort to recover the debt so if you ignore these letters a bailiff can be appointed to bring you to court where a fine and 14-day prison sentence can be issued by the judge.
Lastly, there are some debts you can go to prison for if you fail to meet the payment deadlines, however, these would not result in a CCJ. Despite these not resulting in a CCJ, they are still debts against your name and can make people incorrectly believe they fall under the umbrella of a CCJ.
For this reason, we have detailed below the types of debts NOT covered by a CCJ that CAN lead to a prison sentence;
- Criminal Fines
- Business Rates
- Council Tax in England
- Child maintenance arrears
If you have received letters concerning any of these debts, you need to stop searching for what a CCJ is and seek legal advice immediately.
3. Can you remove a CCJ?
Yes, absolutely but it’s not guaranteed or easy. The ability to remove a CCJ typically hinges on 3 core factors;
- Have you already paid the debt? If so, this could make it harder as a judge will see the matter was settled and a waste of the courts time
- How quickly did you respond to the CCJ? A judge will take into account how quickly you act so move fast!
- Why did you not pay the debt off or respond to the initial letters? If you can prove you didn’t receive the letters and were unaware of the debt you stand a very good chance of having the CCJ removed
Everything is based on your personal situation and how effective you are at arguing your case in front of a judge.
At Lender & Court, we provide a free case assessment to review all these factors to provide honest advice on the likelihood of having your CCJ removed. So we always recommend speaking to one of our specialists to understand your situation and advise what you should do next.
The good news is that because you’ve started asking ‘what is a CCJ’, rather than just accepting it, you’ve instantly improved your chances of getting it removed. And whilst there are no guarantees, you’re certainly taking the right first steps.
4. You can’t get a mortgage if you have a CCJ on your credit file
False! Although it is much more likely you’ll be declined. Even if you do manage to get a mortgage, the lender is very likely to give you far less favourable terms than if the CCJ wasn’t there. This could mean higher interest rates or less money is made available to borrow.
This is just one of the many reasons you should have a CCJ removed.
5. A CCJ is for life
This is another misconception. A CCJ will remain on your credit file for up to 6 years. After that, if the debt is still not paid the claimant can request the judgement is extended resulting in it staying in place for a further 6 years.
If you receive a CCJ, or are struggling to repay a debt, don’t bury your head in the sand. It’s great you’ve asked ‘what is a CCJ’, but these issues never go away as many companies simply ‘sell’ old debts to debt collection agencies whose sole business model is based on chasing you down.
If you are struggling financially you can get free debt advice from the StepChange, National Debtline, and Citizens Advice.
If you simply didn’t know about the debt and have uncovered the CCJ after being declined finance, a job, or you’ve received a backlog of late letters, contact our team today to fully understand your options before making a quick decision that could make things worse.