Setting aside a judgment (CCJ)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
If you did not get the court papers
People 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 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.
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:
You need to submit the following documents:
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.
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.