Enforcing a Judgement for Debt
Even when a landlord is successful in getting a county court judgement (CCJ) against a tenant or guarantor, they do not always comply with the court's instructions. Considering the cost to the landlord of raising a claim in the first place, this can be a frustrating experience and it is no surprise that many landlords do not proceed to the enforcement stage.
Where landlords do decide to proceed to enforcement they can face a bewildering choice of options for enforcement. The purpose of this guide is to inform you what options are available, and give you some idea which option is best in which circumstance.
If you wish to learn how to start a claim the RLA provides a separate guide on using Moneyclaim to claim for debts.
At the time of writing, 20th December 2018, all fees in this guide are correct but they are subject to change on short notice. Landlords should double check the EX50 document for a full list of county court fees before proceeding.
What should I do before enforcing a judgement?
The first thing a landlord should do is claim for and register a judgement. There are a number of methods of doing this but the most common for landlords will be obtaining a judgement via small claims or as part of gaining possession under Section 8 of the Housing Act 1988.
Where you have used the Moneyclaim process the judgement should already have been registered so you can proceed to enforcement. If you are in any doubt you can check this via the Moneyclaim Portal where it should state that the CCJ has been 'issued'.
When using a Section 8 notice to evict, the courts do not typically register the judgement unless requested. You should contact the county court that issued the possession order to register the judgement.
If you did not use a tracing service providing a detailed report on the debtor's finances, you may also want to see if the debtor has any other CCJs or outstanding credit issues before deciding whether it is worth enforcing the judgement. You can do this by performing a search on www.trustonline.org.uk or writing directly to the register.
What are the options for enforcement?
The first option is to simply do nothing. Where tenants have no assets or income and no guarantor was put in place before the tenancy began, then it is probably not worth enforcing the judgement. This is because it costs money and a lot of time that the landlord will never be able to get back.
If it is possible to recover the money, then the 4 enforcement options available to landlords are:
For debts of £5000 or more, the landlord can also apply to make the debtor bankrupt, though this process is complex, arduous and best avoided.