Setting aside a CCJ
This fact sheet covers England & Wales. You will need different advice if you live in Scotland.
This fact sheet explains what setting aside a county court judgment (CCJ) for debt means, and how and when you can make this request. Use this fact sheet to:
- understand what setting aside a CCJ for debt means;
- find out when and why you can apply to set aside a CCJ;
- help you fill out the application form; and
- get more information about the court fees you may have to pay.
When can I apply for a set aside?
The county court rules set out when you can apply to set aside a CCJ. For example:
- an order was made against you in your absence, in certain circumstances;
- there may be an error in the judgment;
- you want to put in a defence and did not have the opportunity to do this; or
- the proceedings did not follow the court rules.
When must the court agree?
You may have a default judgment made against you where there was no hearing and you have not sent back the acknowledgment of service form to say you intend to put in a defence. You may also have a default judgment made against you if have not sent the reply form asking for time to pay within the time limits.
The court must set aside a default judgment if you:
- have paid the whole amount owed (including any interest and costs) before the date the creditor entered judgment;
- sent back the acknowledgment of service form within the time limit;
- put in a defence within the time limit; or
- sent in the reply form within the time limit asking for more time to pay.
The court must set aside the judgment in these circumstances, even if you do not have a defence. There is no time limit for making an application on these grounds.
When might the court agree?
The court may agree to set aside a default judgment even if you did not send in a reply form within the time limit if:
- the court thinks you have a real chance of a successful defence to the claim; or
- the court thinks there is some other good reason why the judgment should be set aside.
There is no time limit for making an application on these grounds but the court will look at whether you made the application ‘promptly’.
Good reasons for setting aside
If you did not deal with the papers or go to a hearing because you were ill, in hospital or away and have a defence then this may be a good reason to set aside a judgment.
If you did not get the court papers through the post, the court will not always agree that this is a good reason to set aside the judgment. The court is allowed to send the papers to your usual or last-known address (even if you have moved), unless the creditor has reason to believe that you have moved. If you have moved and have given your creditors your new address, then you should be contacted there.
If you have moved and there are reasons why your creditor should be aware of this, they should take reasonable steps to try to find your current address. If they are not able to find your current address, they should consider whether there is any other way of sending the claim form to you. If no suitable alternative is available, they can send the papers to your old address even though they know that you do not live there anymore.
If these rules have been followed but you didn’t receive the claim, you will need to show the court that there are other reasons why the judgment should be set aside.
However, if the rules have not been followed, the court may set aside the judgment. The court will usually agree to set aside a judgment if:
- the creditor should have known that you had moved, and did not try to find your current address or consider another way of sending the claim to you;
- you can prove you gave the creditor your new address before the claim was issued; or
- the claim was not made following the rules, for example, the papers were sent to the wrong address.
Different rules apply if the claim form was served before 1 October 2008, contact us for advice.
Missed court hearings
If you miss a hearing date that has been set by the court and you now have a court judgment or order, you can apply for the judgment to be set aside to allow a new hearing date to be set. The court may agree to your application if you:
- act promptly in applying to set aside the judgment (usually within 14 days);
- explain that you had a good reason for missing the hearing, and
- would have had a reasonable prospect of success at the hearing.
You will need to give reasons why you did not go to the hearing and explain any delay in your application. This can be complicated. Contact us for advice.
How do I apply for a set aside?
You need to ask the court for a general application form called an N244. You should fill in the N244 to include the information the court asks for. You may be able to contact the court by email. Contact the court for advice. The following points may help you when filling in the form. If you get stuck, contact us for advice.
Include the claim number of the case and details of the creditor or ‘claimant’.
- Question 1: fill in your name here.
- Question 2: you will normally tick the box as the ‘defendant’.
- Question 3: you need to briefly state what order you are asking the court to make and the reasons for your request.
- Question 4: this asks if you have attached a draft of the order you are applying for. We would suggest that you only tick ‘yes’ to this if you have had help from a solicitor or advice agency with drafting the order. Otherwise, leave this up to the court.
- Question 5: this asks you if you want to have the application dealt with at a hearing. Most applications will be dealt with at a hearing.
- Question 6, 7 and 8: it is safer to leave these blank rather than guess how long a hearing will last or what level of judge you need at the hearing.
- Question 9: only fill this in if there is someone you want the court to send a copy of the application to, such as your solicitor.
- Question 10: this appears on the back of the form. You should tick the box saying you are relying on ‘the evidence set out in the box below’. You need to include any evidence you have to support your case, such as proof you have changed address or were out of the country. Any information you have about your possible defence should also be included. You should explain any delay in making the application.
- Sign the statement of truth on the bottom of the form.
- Send enough copies of the form by recorded delivery back to the court so that one can be sent to the 'claimant' (the person who has the judgment against you) and one for the court. Remember to keep a copy for yourself.
The court will take into account how quickly you made the application and may want to know the reason for any delay, e.g. you only just found out about the judgment.
Stopping enforcement action
If the judgment is set aside then all enforcement action will then stop. Enforcement action will not stop automatically just because you have put in the application. It is important that you ask for any enforcement action to be stopped or ‘stayed’ until your application is heard. You should include this request on the N244 application form when you apply for the judgment to be set aside.
There is a fee to pay for this type of application. If you are on a low income or certain benefits you may not have to pay the fee. See our fact sheet Help with court fees.
What happens next?
The court may send you a date to go to a court hearing to discuss the reasons for your application with a District Judge. Even if the case began in a different court, it will be transferred to your local County Court hearing centre for the hearing.
In some circumstances the court can decide to allow your application without the need for a hearing. If this happens, you will hear back from the court that the judgment has been set aside.
If the judgment is set aside by the court, this means that the proceedings go back to the claim stage and any enforcement action is also cancelled. You have a new opportunity to fill in the reply to the claim form, make an offer of payment or put in any defence or counterclaim.
Having a judgment set aside does not wipe out the proceedings altogether, but the details will be removed from the Register of Judgments, Orders and Fines until a new judgment is made.
Your credit reference file
If a new judgment is made it may be recorded for six years on your credit reference file. The six years start running from the date of the new judgment.
If you need time to get debt advice and find a debt solution, you may want to consider applying for breathing space. Breathing space will stop most types of enforcement, and also stop most creditors applying interest and charges, for 60 days.
To find out more, see our Breathing space fact sheet.
Credit repair companies
You may have heard of companies that offer to clear your credit record with credit reference agencies to allow you to apply for more credit.
Credit repair companies may try to charge you a fee and often send you an information pack telling you how to clear county court judgments.
Credit repair companies must be authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). Check if the company is authorised on the FCA register before using their services. If you have a complaint about something a credit repair company has done since October 2008, you can ask the Financial Ombudsman Service for help.
If you are not happy with a credit repair company you may be able to complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service on 0800 023 4567 or 0300 123 9123 or see www.financial-ombudsman.org.uk.
If the complaint relates to events before October 2008 then complain to your trading standards department in your local council or contact the Citizens Advice consumer helpline on 0808 223 1133 or see www.citizensadvice.org.uk.
You need to be very careful before paying a fee to a commercial company offering to remove judgments for you. If you apply to the County Court to set aside a judgment and do not have real reasons to do so then you could be in trouble with the court.