If you’ve ever had a county court judgment (CCJ) dispensed against you, you’ll know what a pain it is to get over.
You’ll probably struggled to get any credit from your bank and other lenders, which can make getting though the month a bind.
For anyone who may be facing a CCJ, it’s got to be a good idea to be aware of the pitfalls of having one on your credit file.
Likewise, being aware of what you can do to limit its impact on your credit score can’t hurt.
If you don’t repay a company that’s given you credit, they can apply to county court for a judgment against you.
The judgment shouldn’t come out of the blue as the creditor will need to prove to the magistrates that they’ve tried to get you to pay up, and failed.
If they satisfy the court and one’s awarded, it’ll remain on your credit report for six years.
The first you’ll hear about a CCJ should be when the postman delivers a letter drops. You then have the following choices:
You can pay up immediately and in full (in which case the CCJ won’t be recorded on your credit report)
Ask to pay in instalments or at a later date
Dispute the claim or the amount you’re deemed to owe
Dispute the claim on the grounds that the creditor owes you money
A fifth choice – ignoring the CCJ – is best avoided as it could result in bailiffs at your door. Alternatively, a court order could be issued requiring monies owed to be taken direct from your salary. Neither are recommended courses of action, and can be embarrassing.
Whichever path you take, the outcome of a CCJ will invariably be injurious to your credit report, which is a top-line record of your financial history. Your credit report is provided by the following Financial Conduct Authority-licenced credit reference agencies: Experian, Equifax and TransUnion.
Lenders refer to your credit file when considering any loan or credit request you make. It details any missed repayments, bankruptcies, insolvencies and of course CCJs, all of which reveal to potential creditors your risk profile.
If you have a CCJ on your credit file, which would be the case unless you paid the corresponding penalty within a month, lenders will see notice of the judgment. They’ll also see the trail of missed payments that led to it.
The result is you’ll be deemed a serious risk to any potential lender, as well as banks, credit card companies and retailers offering store cards.
The upshot is you could struggle to get any credit or where you can you’ll find the terms rather stringent. For example, whereas you might get a credit card, your limit could be below what you want, while the interest rate may be higher than expected.
If you pay up within one calendar month of a county court judgment being issued no record of the judgment should appear on your record. Likewise, if an insurance company is responsible for the debt the CCJ can be removed.
Also, if you dispute the CCJ, and it’s either been ‘set aside’ by the courts or cancelled, it should be deleted from your file.
You can ask for the CCJ to be set aside if it is a ‘default judgment’. This could be the case if it meets one of the following three criteria:
The CCJ was posted to the wrong address
You were away from your home when the CCJ was sent out
You have strong grounds to defend a claim against the CCJ
While there’s nothing you can do to remove an uncontested CCJ within this time frame, you can request the credit reference agencies remove any reference to the CCJ after six years.
If you’ve not been notified by post of a CCJ, yet one has appeared on your credit report, you should contact the court and request it’s removed. You’ll need to find out the court case number and pass this on for it to be dealt with by the right court department.
Don’t underestimate the importance of correcting mistakes on your file, such as an errant county court judgment, as they will adversely affect your credit report. The good news is that after six years your credit score will immediately rise in response to the CCJ reference being removed.
While you should review your credit report regularly anyway you should mark the date, six years on from when your county court judgment was issued.
As this date draws closer, get a statutory credit report from each of the credit reference agencies, which will cost no more than £2 each. Also, be prepared to contact them if the CCJ remains on file after the deadline.
While you’re engaged in the pursuit of a better credit score, you should ensure you have all the following boxes ticked:
Scrutinise your credit file. If you spot any errors, however small, get them corrected. Pay attention to phone numbers, previous addresses and of course any debts that are recorded
Make sure you’re on the electoral roll at your present address
Don’t make too many requests for credit as this can set alarm bells ringing among lenders who’ll conclude other lenders consider you a risk. Limit credit applications to one every quarter
If you think you’re in danger of falling behind with any repayments speak to the lender, explain your problem, and encourage them to consider a mutually-beneficial solution
For further advice on how to get rid of a CCJ or how to build your financial profile, speak to one of the following: