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An A to Z of enforcing a UK money judgment

Posted: 09/01/2018

Attachment of earnings - money is paid directly from the judgment debtor’s wages/salary into court by the debtor’s employer to satisfy the judgment debt.

Bankruptcy proceedings - you can currently apply to make an individual judgment debtor bankrupt for a judgment debt in excess of £5,000. The limit is £500 for applying to put a company into liquidation. The nuclear options.

Charging order - a charge imposed over land, securities or other valuable assets in which the debtor has a beneficial interest. Swiftly followed by order for sale.

Due and enforceable - is the judgment debt overdue? Has the judgment been served on the judgment debtor and/or is there an outstanding challenge to the judgment? 

European enforcement orders - allow a judgment creditor to freezesome or all of the funds within any bank account held by a debtor located within the EU. Useful for now. Unlikely to have featured highly in Brexit negotiations just yet!

Freezing order - may be required to prevent a judgment debtor moving assets outside the jurisdiction or dealing with certain assets altogether. 

Garnishee order (garnishment) - an order that a person who owes money to the judgment debtor pays it to the judgment creditor instead.

Human rights - the courts must consider the judgment debtor’s human rights in any enforcement proceedings. Bringing enforcement proceedings does not constitute harassment of the debtor of itself.

Interest on judgment debts usually begins to run from the date the judgment is given, unless the courts order differently. Ordinarily payable for six years.

Judgment or order - the very thing you are trying to enforce. The court may also register an award to be enforced, order it to be enforced, or give permission to enforce it as if it were a judgment or order.

Keep it moving - to avoid dissipation of assets, and to keep the judgment creditor happy!

Limitation periods do not apply to proceedings by way of execution. This means enforcement proceedings are not subject to the standard six year limitation period. 

Make enquiries - you can ask a judgment debtor to volunteer details of their assets, or apply (without notice) for an order to obtain information from them. Costs are higher, but usually more effective. 

Not automatic - a court will not automatically enforce an order or judgment it has made. It’s up to the judgment creditor to ‘bring home the bacon’.

Opportunity to pay - the judgment debtor must have failed to pay the judgment debt when due or have missed a planned instalment before you can seek to enforce. 

Payment - generally due 14 days after the date of the judgment, although the court has a discretion to order otherwise. There are different rules for foreign states. 

Question - does the judgment debtor have any assets against which to enforce your judgment? You can’t decide which enforcement method to use until you have established what they are and where they are located.

Reform - in his recent report, Briggs LJ made numerous recommendations for improving the enforcement regime, chiefly that the County Court alone should be responsible for enforcement of judgments and orders of all civil courts.

Stay of execution - the judgment debtor may apply to court to suspend or stay the money judgment or order against it. 

Third party debt order - freezes and seizes funds that are owed to a judgment debtor in and from the hands of a third party such as a bank, for the judgment debtor’s benefit.

Ultimate aim - for a party with a judgment in their favour to get back what the court has determined they are owed.

Vision - the senior judiciary wants to modernise and upgrade the justice system so that it works even better for everyone. This includes reforming enforcement to ensure that parties can achieve that ultimate aim.

Writ of control - this commands a High Court enforcement officer to ’take control’ and sell enough of a judgment debtor's goods to satisfy your money judgment. This is called a warrant of control in the County Court.

eXecution - the process for enforcing or giving effect to a court’s judgment. The process is not over until the judgment debtor has coughed up.

insolvencY - is your judgment debtor likely to enter insolvency during enforcement proceedings? If so, it may not be worth the candle proceeding, unless you are a secured creditor.

Zoopla - a good place to look to value those real estate assets. Or back to zero, if you have no assets against which to enforce your judgment.

This article was published in New Law Journal in January 2018.

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