Creditor landlords often feel relief upon receiving a County Court Judgment (CCJ) confirming that the debt is owed to them by their former tenants (debtors). This judgment will also open up a number of options to enforce the debt owed.
Unfortunately, there are situations when a debtor may look to have the CCJ overturned (or ‘set aside’). Delaying the process to recovering the debt owed even further. This can often come as a surprise, particularly where the debtor has not engaged until this point.
We have noticed a dramatic upturn in the number of these applications in the last 12 months. Debtors seem to take little action until after a CCJ has been registered against their name. They then take steps to remove it due to the adverse effect it then has on their credit.
Reasons to set aside
The Court has the power to set aside a judgment if:
- The Judgment was wrongly entered (for example, the claim was served incorrectly, or the claim had been paid before the Judgment was entered)
- The defendant has a real prospect of defending the claim
- There is some other good reason why it should be set aside, and the defendant be allowed to defend the claim.
With the significant rise in litigants in person, the courts have generally been more lenient with debtors. They often will use their discretion under the final reasons to set matters aside. That’s even if the debtor has not provided any evidence that they have any prospect of defending the claim. Or, if they don’t have any good reasons as to why they failed to defend the claim in time.
Do you have to go back to court?
If the debtor makes an application to set aside, the court will usually list a hearing which the landlord should attend. However, it is unlikely that they will be required to give any evidence.
At the hearing, the Judge will hear all the evidence then normally make a decision to either:
- Set aside the Judgment, or
- Dismiss the application
What happens if the CCJ is set aside?
If the CCJ is set aside, both parties will be put back in the position they were in before the CCJ was obtained. The proceedings will go back to the claim stage, and the debtor will have the opportunity to file a Defence and the matter should proceed to a final trial.
Any enforcement action that has commenced would need to be cancelled.
If, after a final trial, the landlord is successful, the court will make another County Court Judgment that can be enforced as normal.
Applications to vary the CCJ
There may also be circumstances where the debtor applies to vary the CCJ, rather than to get it set aside. This will usually be the case where they do not dispute the CCJ but cannot afford to pay it all at once.
In such cases, the court will normally look at the debtor’s incomings and outgoings. Accordingly, they will vary the order to a payment plan that they can realistically afford. In many cases, these repayments are very small and would take a debtor a number of years to clear the debt. This can be infuriating for landlords owed a significant amount of money. However, a court is not likely to award any more than a debtor can afford. If they do, they are at risk of simply defaulting on the payments.
Our team at Woodstock deal with these sorts of applications on a regular basis. Do you have a Judgment against you, a Judgment you are looking to enforce, or an application to make or respond to? our team will be more than happy talk you through your options and the likely outcome.
By Cara Wiltshire, Legal Assistant at Woodstock Legal Services