The obtaining of a money judgment from the Courts against a debtor can often be a long and drawn out process. However, once a judgment debt has been obtained against a debtor, this does not guarantee that the debtor will settle the debt ordered by the Court. Thankfully there are various methods available to a creditor to enforce a judgment debt.

Taking control of goods using writs and warrants of control

For smaller debts, the issue of a warrant of control in the County Court (or a writ of control in the High Court) is commonly used. The warrant or writ instructs the Court Bailiffs or High Court Enforcement Officers (HCEO) to attend a judgment debtor’s premises and to remove goods to the value of the debt, which will then be sold to settle the debt due. Often the threat of losing personal possessions prompts payment in full from the debtor.

The issuing and carrying out of a warrant of control by the Court Bailiffs is often a slow process and the Court Bailiffs have limited powers compared to HCEO. Judgments of the County Court which are above £600.00 can be transferred to the High Court for enforcement for a Court Fee of £66.00, whereby after the judgment has been transferred and a writ of control issued, the recovery of the debt will be carried out by HCEO, rather than the Court Bailiff within that particular area. Enforcement by the HCEO is much quicker and more effective than using the Court Bailiffs.

Charging orders

Most commonly a charging order is used to secure the sums due under a judgment debt (with continuing interest at 8%) by creating a charge over the debtor’s beneficial interest in a property. A charging order does not recover any of the sums due under the judgment debt but simply secures them against an asset of the Debtor. An application for an order for sale must be made following the making final of a charging order by the Court to recover the judgment debt.

Insolvency proceedings

A statutory demand detailing the judgment debt can be served on an individual debtor if the judgment debt is over £5,000.00. Similarly, if the judgment debtor is a company a statutory demand can be served if the debt is over £750.00. If the statutory demand is not settled within 21 days of service, the creditor can present a petition for the bankruptcy of an individual or a winding up petition for the winding up of a company to the Court. After the Court makes a bankruptcy or winding up order, the debtor’s assets pass to a trustee in bankruptcy or liquidator who will distribute the funds obtained from the assets to the debtors creditors. Insolvency proceedings are a group enforcement action as opposed to the other methods of enforcement which are individual. 

Attachment of earnings

An attachment of earnings order compels the employer of a debtor to deduct a prescribed percentage of the debtor’s salary to be paid to the creditor until the judgment debt is settled. The threat of an attachment of earnings order also carries weight with many debtors as it often breaches the terms of their employment contract and this may force the debtor into making payment of the debt directly. This method of enforcement is only available against individuals and in the County Court. This method of enforcement can take time to pay off large debts and is contingent on the debtor remaining in employment until the debt is settled.

Third party debt order

A third part debt order seizes funds held by a third party on behalf of a debtor, usually a bank, so that they can be utilised by the creditor to settle the judgment debt. Third party debt orders are not commonly used for enforcement unless a creditor has specific knowledge of the sums being held in a particular bank account of the debtor.

If you require assistance in enforcing a judgment debt, please do not hesitate to contact a member of our Dispute Resolution team who will be willing to assist you and have extensive experience in all types of debt enforcement.

Mike Acton

12th October 2018