Law guide: Complaints and disputes

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Enforcing a judgment

Enforcing a judgment

If a court has decided that someone must pay you an amount of money (judgment) and you have not received it, you may want to ask the court to enforce the order.

You can try to get your money by asking the court for any of the following:

  • A warrant of execution
  • An attachment of earnings order
  • A third party debt order
  • A charging order

In addition, if the amount you are owed is more than £750, you can also apply to make the defendant bankrupt. However, this can be expensive.

A warrant of execution

A warrant of execution gives court bailiffs the authority to take goods from the defendant's home or business. Bailiffs will try to either:

  • collect the money you are owed; or
  • take goods to sell at auction.

A warrant of execution will only help if the defendant has:

  • Enough goods at the address you give which could be sold at auction to raise money for you
  • All the money you are claiming for on the warrant (to stop goods being sold)

Before the court can issue a warrant, the defendant must have:

  • Failed to pay the amount they have been ordered to pay
  • Fallen behind with at least one of their payments

This is called 'being in arrears'.

An attachment of earnings order

An attachment of earnings order is sent to the defendant's employer. It tells the employer to take an amount from the defendant's earnings each pay day and send it to a collection office. The money is then sent to you.

The defendant must be employed by someone before you can issue an attachment of earnings order. An order can't be made if the defendant is unemployed or self-employed. Also, the court may not be able to make an order, or may only make an order to pay it back in small instalments, if the defendant's living expenses are greater than what is earned.

Before you can ask the court to issue an attachment of earnings order:

  • The defendant must be behind with at least one payment (called 'being in arrears')
  • The amount they still owe you must be £50 or more

A third party debt order

Freezing the defendant's money that is held, for example, in a bank account.

A third party debt order is usually made to stop the defendant taking money out of their bank or building society account. The money you are owed is paid to you from the account. A third party debt order can also be sent to anyone who owes the defendant money.

If the defendant has a bank or building society account, the bank or building society will freeze the account when it receives the order from the court. If the account is overdrawn on the day the bank or building society receives your order, you can't be paid from the account. The defendant will know about the order and may stop paying money into the account.

A charging order

A charging order prevents the defendant from selling their assets (such as property, land or investments) without paying what is owed to you.

You will not get your money until the defendant sells their assets. In some circumstances, you may be able to ask the court for an order to force them to sell the assets.

Order to obtain information

You can also request that the defendant is called into court for an order to obtain information. This is not a method of attempting to retrieve the money owed, but an interview to discover information about the defendant's financial situation.

An order to obtain information is not a form of enforcement which will get you your money. But it is a way of getting information from the defendant (called the 'judgment debtor' when you use this procedure; you become the 'judgment creditor') which will help you decide:

  • whether the defendant can pay you; and
  • which of the methods available is most likely to get you your money.

If you use this procedure, the judgment debtor will be ordered to come to the court to be questioned, on oath, by a court officer. The sort of information you will receive from the questioning includes:

  • Employment status
  • If appropriate, details of employer and wages or salary
  • Details of dependants and outgoings paid from income
  • Details of any additional income
  • Details of any property owned (house, car, caravan, etc.), which may have a saleable value
  • Details of any bank or building society accounts and the balances in them

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