Setting aside a judgment (CCJ)

In some cases, you may be able to get a CCJ set aside, for example if you had already paid the debt or if the creditor made a mistake. You can also apply for set aside if you did not get the claim form or were unable to attend a hearing.
Default judgments

When a claim is issued, the defendant has 14 days to acknowledge service or submit a defence or an admission. If there is no response from the defendant, the claimant can request default judgment. This is a purely administrative procedure that does not involve looking at the merits of the case, which means default judgment can be obtained for money you don’t owe, debts that are statute barred or agreements that are irredeemably unenforceable as well as enforceable accounts and sums you are liable for. See judgments for more information about default judgment.

Default judgment is not automatically issued by the court if a claim is not acknowledged, admitted or defended, it is up to the claimant to request judgment.
It’s worth asking the judgment creditor to consent to the set aside in the first instance. If you admit you owe the money and are able to pay but it’s been more than one month and the CCJ has been recorded, the creditor could agree to set aside in exchange for full payment.
Be aware that the court may refuse to grant a set aside by consent if it views it as “credit repair”.
There is no database or records of statute barred debts, it’s a common misconception that the courts will not issue judgment for debts that haven’t been acknowledged or paid in 5 or 6 years (depending on whether you are in Scotland or England and Wales). A claim for a debt that is statute barred should still be defended.
Statute barred is an absolute defence and you should be able to get a default judgment set aside on those basis, provided the debt was already barred at the time the claim was issued. See statute barred debt.

Most default judgments involve people who did not receive the claim form or who were away for an extended period of time. You may not find out there’s a CCJ against you until:

  • You check your credit file and find a CCJ recorded on there. You may have decided to check after being refused credit. This is probably the most common scenario with people who were unaware that there was a CCJ recorded against them. You need to contact the court and request a copy of the judgment. Most default judgments for money claims would have been made on the Northampton County Court.
  • You receive notification from the Land Registry that an interim charging order has been recorded against your home. This is often the first time many people hear about there being a CCJ. For judgments over £1,000 made from October 2012 onwards, the creditor can apply for a charging order. The first step is to record an interim order which is done ex-parte (without notice or a hearing). See charging orders.
  • You receive letters threatening to enforce the judgment. You should contact the creditor asking them to provide you with a copy of the judgment before doing anything else. See enforcement.
  • You receive an order to attend court for questioning. This is a common step judgment creditors take when they have received no payment or any repayment offer from you. Even if you are applying for set aside, you still need to attend court or you could be arrested.  See enforcement.
  • You receive an attachment of earnings form. You need to return the form, otherwise the creditor can contact your employer directly. If you are not employed (self-employed, unemployed, retired, etc.) you need to say so. You can also request a suspended order. See attachment of earnings.
  • You receive a notice of enforcement saying you will soon have bailiffs visiting you.  When you apply for set aside you can also apply for a stay of execution. See enforcement.
  • You receive a letter from the court with the judgment. This is the best way to find out about an unknown CCJ but not the most common.
InfoAll but the first option above show that the creditor has your address, otherwise they couldn’t have communicated with you in writing. In that case, you could argue that if they had your current address, they had no reason to send the claim form to any other address.

If you only became aware of the CCJ after checking your credit file, the judgment may be months or even years old. You’ll need to explain in your application that you only became aware of it when you checked your file as you never received any communications from the creditor regarding the judgment.

Arguments to apply for set aside

Cases when the court must set aside a default judgment:

  • if you had paid the whole claim amount before the date judgment was obtained;
  • if you sent back the acknowledgment of service form within the time limit;
  • if you put in a defence within the time limit; or
  • if you 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 is it up to the court to decide?

The court may agree to set aside the 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’.

If you missed a hearing or could not respond to a claim, you may apply for set aside if you were ill, in hospital or away. You will need to supply proof of the above as well as to show you have a viable defence to the claim.

Relevant Civil Procedure Rules (CPRs) for set aside

Part 13 of the CPR deals with setting aside default judgments.

CPR 13.2 refers to those cases where the court MUST set aside the judgment.

Cases where the court must set aside judgment entered under Part 12

13.2  The court must set aside(GL) a judgment entered under Part 12 if judgment was wrongly entered because–

(a) in the case of a judgment in default of an acknowledgment of service, any of the conditions in rule 12.3(1) and 12.3(3) was not satisfied;

(b) in the case of a judgment in default of a defence, any of the conditions in rule 12.3(2) and 12.3(3) was not satisfied; or

(c) the whole of the claim was satisfied before judgment was entered.

CPR 13.3 deals with the rest of the cases where the court MAY set aside the judgment.

Cases where the court may set aside or vary judgment entered under Part 12

13.3

(1) In any other case, the court may set aside or vary a judgment entered under Part 12 if –

(a) the defendant has a real prospect of successfully defending the claim; or

(b) it appears to the court that there is some other good reason why –

(i) the judgment should be set aside or varied; or

(ii) the defendant should be allowed to defend the claim.

(2) In considering whether to set aside or vary a judgment entered under Part 12, the matters to which the court must have regard include whether the person seeking to set aside the judgment made an application to do so promptly.

Warnings

Warnings

  • Frivolous applications to set aside judgments will cost you money and are unlikely to be accepted.
  • If you don’t have a genuine reason to apply set aside, or the court thinks you are wasting its time or lying, you could face fines or even a prison sentence.
  • Having a judgment set aside does not mean the case is over or the debt is written off, you are simply back where you started and the creditor can re-issue the claim.
  • If the judgment is set aside and the creditor issues proceedings again, you may end up with a CCJ on file for a further 6 years, i.e. longer than if it had not been set aside.
  • Any enforcement action will not stop automatically because you have put in the application. You have to ask for 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 set aside.
If you agree that you owe the money on the judgment, it may be easier to apply for an instalment order or a variation order. See variations for reference.
If you did not receive the claim

If you did not get the court papers

paperworkPeople are often taken by surprise when they realise they have a CCJ they knew nothing about. This usually happens when they did not receive the court papers and the creditor obtained default judgment. The most common reason for wishing to have a judgment set aside is because you did not get the court papers. Claims are not usually sent recorded delivery, so there is no practical way of establishing whether a claim was sent to your address or not.

If you have given your new address to your creditors, they should send any correspondence there. If they still sent a claim to an old address, you may have an argument for set aside.

If you did not get the claim form, you will usually need to show you have a defence or other good reason as well, for the court to set aside the judgment unless:

  • the creditor had your current address;
  • the claim was not made following the rules, for example, they were sent to the wrong address, lost in the post; or
  • the post office returned the claim papers as they were not able to deliver them.
If you missed a court hearing

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 for not attending the hearing and explain any delay in your application. The court may not agree an application if they decide you knew action was likely but did not give your creditor a current address.
How to apply
If you have a valid reason to disagree with a CCJ, you can submit an application for set aside. You need to submit an N244 application form and pay a fee of £255.
You may be able to apply for remission of the court fee if you are on a low income or in receipt of certain benefits. Form ex160a provides full details.

Most applications will be dealt with at a hearing. If the case began in a different court, it will be transferred to your local county court for a private hearing with a district judge. In some cases, the court can decide to allow your application without a hearing.

Include any evidence you have to support your case, such as:

  • proof of change of address;
  • proof that you were out of the country;
  • doctor and/or hospital letters if you were ill or hospitalised;
  • information to back up your defence; and
  • anything that explains a delay in making the application, for example, if you’ve just found out about the judgment.

You need to submit the following documents:

  • The N244 application form;
  • A draft order;
  • Your witness statement; and
  • A draft defence.
Example N244 form

Below is an example N244 form and how you’d fill it in. Although commonly used for set aside applications, the N244 is a general purpose application form which can be used for applications other than set aside, so it’s important to identify the purpose of your application. In the box where it says what order you are asking the court to make, you need to enter the text shown in red in the example below, filling in your relevant details such as the name of the judge who made the order (i.e. the judgment you wish to have set aside) and the date of the judgment. Both will be in the judgment document.

Example Draft Order and Witness Statement

Below is an example Draft Order to accompany your N244 application.

Below is an example Witness Statement to accompany your N244 application.

You will also need to submit a draft defence. See defences.

Example documents are provided for reference only. It is your responsibility to make sure you have included all the relevant information and you should double-check your facts, dates, numbers, etc. before sending them out. If in doubt, seek professional help.
Tips and pointers
  • Explain any delay in submitting your application, for example, if you only found out a creditor obtained judgment against you in the past or if you were away, ill, etc.
  • You should submit a witness statement providing full details about how judgment was obtained against you, for example because you were not aware that a claim had been issued or the claimant had agreed to extend the time for you to file a defence, etc.
  • Attach a draft defence to the claim. It is important to let the court know you’d have good prospects of defending the claim, otherwise your application may be rejected on the basis that the claimant can just re-issue the claim and obtain judgment.
It is a good idea to start by writing to the claimant or their solicitors to agree to set aside the judgment to start with.
Need help? Join the forum
If you have received a claim, you need to act promptly to avoid default judgment.
Go to the claims area.
If you can't afford your CCJ repayments, you need to apply for a variation to avoid enforcement action.
See variations.
Need legal help or advice? Contact us.
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