County court judgments (CCJs) should not be ignored, according to the Gov.uk website.
It has emerged that Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been issued with an outstanding court judgment for a debt of £535.
Here is a general look at what CCJs are, and what the consequences of them can be for some people financially, bearing in mind that the exact way that people are affected will depends on individual circumstances:
– How can people end up with a CCJ?
Someone may get a CCJ if they do not respond when another person takes court action against them, saying they owe them money.
Generally, judgments will come in the post and will explain the amount owed, how to pay, the deadline and who to pay.
The Gov.uk website cautions: “If you get a judgment do not ignore it – you could be taken back to court and forced to pay”.
– How long are such records kept?
Records of judgments are kept on the Register of Judgments, Orders and Fines for six years unless the full amount is paid within a month.
If someone pays the full amount within one month, they can get the judgment removed from the register.
– What if someone does not owe the money?
They can ask that the court to cancel or “set aside” the CCJ.
It may be possible to do this if the person did not receive, or did not respond to, the original claim from the court saying they owed the money.
This could involve a private hearing at the court to explain why the money is not owed. A court fee of £255 may also apply.
– Who do people pay when they do owe money?
People pay the person or business they owe the money to, or their solicitor, not the court.
They may be able to pay in instalments, which could involve setting up regular bank account payments.
– What other consequences can there be?
If someone is late with their payments, they could be taken back to court and they may have to pay extra costs.
Bailiffs may also get involved. Bailiffs would have to apply to the court for a warrant, giving them the right to visit a home or property.
The person with the CCJ would be given seven days to pay before they visit.
They may also be able to fill in a form in which they offer to make payments. If this is accepted, it could stop bailiffs visiting.
– What about applying for other credit?
Banks and loan companies may use CCJ information to decide whether or not to offer someone credit or loans.
If someone has paid off their CCJ, they can get the record of the judgment marked as “satisfied” on the Register of Judgments, Orders and Fines, so that those searching can see that it has been paid.
Rosie Fish, a mortgage expert at online mortgage company Habito, said: “Having a CCJ will stay on your credit file for six years and will seriously affect your mortgage eligibility.
“This is because lenders perform affordability assessments on all applicants, and any history of credit issues – which a CCJ is considered – is a red flag.
“This will present a greater challenge to getting a mortgage, but there are some specialist lenders who can help, as they deal specifically with more complex applications due to low credit ratings, though they will charge higher rates.
“We recommend that anyone thinking of applying for a mortgage should check their scores with the different credit agencies in the run up to their house search. This way, if they find they have a lower score than they were expecting, they can work towards improving it, before applying.”