HUNDREDS of thousands of hard-up Brits are having credit scores ruined over unpaid bills.
The number of County Court Judgements (CCJs) being handed out are on the rise, with a seven per cent jump between April and June this year compared to the same period in 2021, according to the Registry Trust, which holds the records.
The number of County Court Judgements (CCJs) are on the riseCredit: Getty
A CCJ negatively impacts your credit score, reducing your chances of borrowing money and severely affecting your finances.
They are expensive and hard to wipe if there’s a mistake.
Experts warn that the situation is only going to get worse, as energy bill hikes hit next month and interest rates continue to rise, piling extra pressure on households.
Alexandra Jones, CEO of Registry Trust, says: “The number of CCJs is going up across the country.
“The value of the unpaid debts is higher and the number of people able to pay them back is falling.”
WHAT IS A CCJ?
WHEN a company or individual is owed money and is unable to get the debt repaid they can ask the courts to take legal action.
This could concern unpaid credit cards, rent, loans, mortgages or some other household bill or debt.
Once the company refers your case, the court sends you a claim form demanding that you pay off the debt.
Half of CCJs are from unpaid parking tickets.
If you can’t pay, you will have a CCJ registered against you.
WHAT HAPPENS IF YOU’RE HIT WITH A CCJ?
CCJs have a devastating effect on your finances.
You’ll almost certainly be refused a credit card, loan and car finance while it is active.
You won’t be able to get a mortgage or remortgage to a cheaper deal until the CCJ is at least a couple of years old or you’ve paid it off.
Even then your rate will be more expensive.
If you rent privately, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to start a new rental agreement if you need to move.
Most companies will run a credit check before offering you a job and are put off by a CCJ.
If you work in finance, you could find your existing job on the line.
Even if you didn’t receive the letter or read it, it’s still enforceable.
Two days after sending the form, the court deems it “served”.
You’re then expected to pay off the debt in 14 days.
If they sent the CCJ to the wrong address, it would have been your responsibility to update companies with your new details when you moved home, so it’s still valid.
It is hard to erase a CCJ even if it is handed out in errorCredit: Getty
CAN YOU GET IT CANCELLED?
YES, but it’s not cheap. There are court fees to pay even if it wasn’t you who racked up the debt, and there was a mix-up on the address.
Instructing a lawyer to help will heap another couple of thousand quid on top.
Where a CCJ is issued in error don’t ignore any letters from the court, says Sue Anderson of debt charity StepChange.
“Time is of the essence. Reply promptly and keep evidence that you have replied — whether that’s through proof of posting or online acknowledgement of the form being completed,” she advises.
Where the debt is yours, if the company you owe money to agrees to consent for the judgement to be set aside, you can avoid a hearing.
In that scenario, you’ll have to pay a court fee of £108.
If the company doesn’t agree, the court fee is £275 and a hearing date will be set.
If you instruct a solicitor, you’re likely to pay between £1,000 and £1,500 if the company agrees to set aside your CCJ or between £2,000 and £2,500 if they don’t.
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO REMOVE A CCJ?
IF you pay a CCJ off in full within a month it will be removed from your record completely.
If you repay it after the first month, the CCJ will stay on your record but it will be shown that you’ve settled it.
It’s possible to agree to pay off part of the debt or to pay in instalments.
However, unless you repay all of it, the CCJ stays on your record for six years.
WHAT IF YOU CAN’T PAY?
If you can’t cover the debt, you can be threatened with bailiffs who will seize your belongings to cover the amount you owe.
“If you’re harassed by a debt collector, make a formal complaint to the business you owe money to and ask them to suspend debt collection procedures while the matter is investigated,” says consumer expert Martyn James.
“Debt collection can be deeply traumatic. If you have asked for help because of financial difficulties and they’ve passed on the debt, then that’s a valid complaint.”
You can get temporary protection through the government’s Breathing Space scheme and will need a debt advisor to help you apply.