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Talk Money Week is run by the Money & Pensions Service annually to increase people’s sense of financial wellbeing by encouraging them to open up about personal finance and have more open conversations about money.

This year’s Talk Money Week is taking place 9-13 November 2020 in the context of the Coronavirus pandemic and Money & Pensions Service research has found that 9 in 10 UK adults don’t find it any easier to talk about money, or even don’t discuss it at all, despite the impact of Covid-19 on personal and business finances. This a worrying statistic at a time when keeping both your physical and financial health in check is increasingly important.

At Registry Trust we have been maintaining the Register of Judgments, Orders and Fines for England & Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland, Republic of Ireland, Isle of Man and Jersey since 1985 - so we know what we’re talking about when it comes to County Court Judgments (CCJs). Unfortunately however, many members of the public and business still do not, and this can have a serious impact on both responsible lending and borrowing, and on financial wellbeing. This Talk Money Week, we want to change that and get the message out there about what an outstanding CCJ means for your credit file and overall financial health and why it is so important that people are aware of how to check for and, most importantly, ‘satisfy’ them when they are paid off.

The taboo around talking or thinking about money not only means that some people miss the fact that they have a CCJ debt altogether, but also that those who fully pay them off don’t get them marked as ‘satisfied’ so may still struggle to get the credit and financial support they need/are entitled to. This is something that can impact anyone and everyone, not just those in problem debt. At a time when access to affordable credit is going to be so vital for our economic recovery, we must ensure that people are educated on the judgments process and what it means for them and their credit score.

Even if you think you already know all there is to know about CCJs, please stick with me: I’ll start with the basics but as I go on there may be things you weren’t aware of, particularly when it comes to getting a CCJ formally ‘satisfied’.

What is a County Court Judgment (CCJ)?

An England & Wales County Court Judgment (CCJ) is a court order issued against an individual or business who has failed to repay money owed. This happens when a claimant, believing money owed to them won’t be returned, takes their case to a court and if the court rules in favour of the claimant, it orders the defendant to repay the money. It may be ruled that the judgment is to be ‘set aside’ but this decision can only be made by the court.

How do I know if a CCJ has been issued against me?

When a CCJ is issued, a letter is sent to the defendant from the court explaining the details of the judgment, and offering the opportunity to dispute it. This letter will be sent to the address that the claimant holds for the defendant, which is why it is so important that you inform all your creditors (everyone you may owe money to now or in the future) if/when you move house. While this postal system is ‘dated’, and we are campaigning to replace it with email communication, it is currently the only way you will know about and be able to dispute claims against you.

Keeping your address up to date with everyone from your insurance and mobile phone providers to utilities companies and retailers, is therefore a simple but very important part of maintaining your financial health. However, given the research around lack of financial education/literacy in the UK and reluctance to talk about money, it is safe to assume that many who do receive these letters at the correct address may not respond due to fear or lack of understanding about what to do next and how important a timely response is. As I’ll explain, waiting to respond/get help or ignoring the issue will only make it worse.

How are CCJs recorded and used?

Once a CCJ is issued and has been granted, the details are submitted to Registry Trust and we add them to the Register of Judgments, Orders and Fines which we run and manage on behalf of the Ministry of Justice (MoJ). This public register is then available for anyone to search via our public-facing website TrustOnline.

The information appearing on the register includes the defendant details (name and address the judgment was recorded against, plus date of birth if supplied by the court), the court name, the case number (which the defendant needs to raise queries regarding the case with the court), the judgment date, amount owed, and the satisfaction date (if it has been formally satisfied – keep reading!)

The purpose of the public register is to provide transparency and accountability for all, ensuring accurate credit decisions to promote responsible lending and borrowing. It is therefore vital for consumers, business, credit reference agencies and creditors that the information on the register is up to date and correct.

Judgments stay on the public register for six years unless they are ‘set aside’ or if the defendant pays the debt in full within one calendar month of it being issued, in which case it is cancelled and removed from the register (but only if the defendant or claimant provides proof of payment to the court!) However, even if the judgment is disputed, a defence is entered and payment is agreed by instalments, or a partial settlement is agreed, the CCJ will still appear and remain on the public register. If/when the debt is paid in full (any time after one calendar of month of being issued), it remains on the register but can be formally marked as ‘satisfied’ ( this doesn’t happen automatically as many believe – keep reading!)

What does an outstanding CCJ mean for my financial health?

A CCJ that isn’t marked as ‘satisfied’ on the public register signifies an inability to pay off a previous debt and that there is a potential risk that this might occur again. Credit references agencies use this information for credit files and credit scores, which means it is likely to make obtaining credit, insurance, tenancy contracts, or in some industries, a new job, much more difficult. In such uncertain economic times, this isn’t something that anyone can afford to ignore. Regularly checking your credit file/score and looking to address any issues is more important than ever.

What happens when I pay off a CCJ debt?

Even for those that pay off a CCJ debt in full relatively quickly after the initial one-month window, it isn’t the end of the story. In order to have it marked as ‘satisfied’ on the public register, the defendant must then send proof of payment to the relevant court. This is the step that many miss, and part of the reason why only 12% of judgments were marked as ‘satisfied’ in England & Wales in 2019.

To be absolutely sure, it is wise to request a ‘Certificate of Satisfaction’ from the relevant court as confirmation (by filling out the N433 form and enclosing a £15 cheque made payable to HMCTS) and to continue to check your credit file to ensure it is updated.

We have created a ‘Learn’ section on our website with key information about dealing with Judgments, Orders and Fines in England & Wales including how to satisfy/remove a CCJ https://www.registry-trust.org.uk/rt-learn-ew/. Even if you’ve never had to think or talk about these things before, now is a good time to get informed to avoid potential financial pitfalls in what is already an incredibly challenging time. Individuals and money/debt advisers can also get in touch with us on info@registry-trust.org.uk for support.

You can also check a person, business or case number on the public register and search key help topics at www.trustonline.org.uk and find out more about civil enforcement practices and processes by visiting the Civil Enforcement Association's website www.civea.co.uk.

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