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Creditors can begin proceedings in court to recover payment of an unsecured money debt. If a creditor is successful and obtains judgment in their favour, the next step is to enforce the judgment. The court will not enforce a judgment order unless it is specifically asked to do so. In civil enforcement proceedings in the county court, the judgment is referred to as a CCJ; the person who owes money is known as the ‘judgment debtor’; and the person who seeks payment is known as the ‘judgment creditor’.

There are various debt enforcement methods open to a judgment creditor. Each method has its own particular strengths and weaknesses. The right method of civil debt enforcement will depend in large part on what assets the judgment debtor owns and his/her income. The main debt enforcement methods are as follows:

  • A warrant of control or writ empowers court enforcement officers (often referred to as bailiffs) to attend the judgment debtor’s address to take control of assets to sell at public auction in order to pay off the debt.
  • Under a Third Party Debt Order, money owed to the judgment debtor might be paid directly to the creditor from their bank or building society account.
  • Under an Attachment of Earnings Order, money is stopped from the judgment debtor’s wages to pay a debt (obviously, this type of order is only an option if the debtor is in paid employment).
  • A Charging Order turns an unsecured debt into a secured one. Under this order a legal charge is placed on the judgment debtor’s property (usually the debtor’s home) to the value of the debt (plus interest). If the property subject to a charging order is sold, the full amount of the charge has to be paid before any of the proceeds of the sale can pass to the judgment debtor.

This briefing paper provides a summary of the different types of debt enforcement methods that could be considered by a judgment creditor.

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