Debt Collection and Recovery
The court will not enforce any hard won judgment that secures debt monies owed to you unless you ask it to. The onus is upon you as claimant to take the correct enforcement option to enhance your prospects of success.
Enforcing your judgment
You can try and get your money by asking the court for any of the following:
A warrant of execution
An attachment of earnings order
A third-party debt order
A charging order
In addition if the amount you are owed is more than £750, you can also apply to make the defendant bankrupt (or if a company – place it into liquidation).
However, these insolvency routes can be more expensive than the procedures detailed above and you may wish to only take these "nuclear deterrent" options if any of the more cost effective ways have not yielded a positive result. (We would be happy to advise you of these insolvency options if required.)
Information is key
- You are likely to get your money and court fee from the defendant
- The defendant owes other people money or has other court judgments
- The defendant owns any goods or assets which can be taken and sold at auction
- The defendant is working
- The defendant has other earnings, such as income from investments
- The defendant has a bank, building society or other account
- The defendant owns property (a house)
- Anyone else owes the defendant money
To improve your prospects and to assist in determining the best enforcement route open to you, you should already have sought as much information as you can about the defendant. The points worth considering before you decide how to continue should include if:
Warrant of execution
- Collect the money you are owed; or
- Take goods to sell at auction.
A warrant of execution gives court bailiffs the authority to take goods from the defendant’s home or business. Bailiffs will try to either:
You cannot ask the county court to issue a warrant if the amount you want the bailiff to collect is more than £5,000, But you can ask an Enforcement Officer (through the High Court) to try to collect the money you are owed or to remove goods. Historically the Enforcement Officer (formerly called a "Sheriff"’), has a greater percentage success rate as he is largely paid on collection of the debt rather than his County Court – Civil Service brethren.
Attachment of earnings order
An attachment of earnings order is sent to the defendant’s employer in the event that a defendant fails to maintain voluntary instalments assessed by the court. It tells the employer to take an amount from the defendant’s earnings each pay day and send it to a collection office. The money is then sent to you.
The defendant must be employed by someone before you can issue an attachment of earnings order. An order cannot be made if the defendant is unemployed or self-employed. Also, the court may not be able to make an order, or may only make an order to pay it back in small instalments, if the defendant’s outgoings exceed or equate to his income.
Third-party debt order
A third-party debt order is usually made to stop the defendant taking money out of his or her bank or building society account. The money you are owed is paid to you from the account. A third-party debt order can also be sent to anyone who owes the defendant money. For example a contractor for him the defendant has undertaken work or provided goods to etc.
If the defendant has a bank or building society account, the bank or building society will freeze the account when it receives the order from the court. If the account is overdrawn on the day the bank or building society receives your order, you cannot be paid from the account. The defendant will know about the order and may stop paying money into the account in the future.
A charging order prevents the defendant from selling his or her assets (such as property, land or investments) without paying what is owed to you.
You will not get your money until the defendant sells his or her assets. In some circumstances you may be able to ask the court for an order to force him or her to sell the assets, once any charge has been made “final”.
Orders to obtain information from a judgment debtor
- Whether the defendant can pay you; and
- Which method is most likely to get you your money.
Finally (although not technically an enforcement procedure in itself), if you only know a little about the defendant’s financial situation, you may be able to find out more by asking for an order to obtain information from a judgment debtor.
It is a way of finding out about the defendant’s income, assets and spending. Indeed it may coerce the defendant into making payment or instalments voluntarily. This information can help you decide:
You will have to pay a court fee for an order to obtain information (as you would for all of the procedures previously detailed). Although the court will add the fee to the money the defendant already owes you, the court cannot return these fees if your enforcement method does not succeed.