County court judgements and your credit file

A county court judgment (CCJ) can negatively affect your ability to get credit for up to six years. That means loans, credit cards, and even mobile phone contracts may be out of your reach. However, there are things you can do to help lessen the impact of a CCJ. By responding promptly and taking care of your credit profile, it's possible to improve how lenders may see you.

What is a CCJ?

A creditor may apply for a CCJ against you if they think you won't repay money you owe them. If the courts agree with the creditor, they'll issue the judgment and tell you to pay the money back. You'll receive information about your CCJ in the post, at which point you can choose:

  • Pay back the full amount straight away
  • Ask to pay later or in instalments
  • Dispute the claim or amount owed (if you think the creditor's claim is incorrect)
  • Claim against the creditor (if you think the creditor owes you money, e.g. for breaching a contract)

If you ignore a CCJ or don't meet its terms, the court may take more serious action, such as taking your belongings to repay the debt.

Who will see my CCJ?

Your CCJ will be added to a public database called the Register of Judgments, Orders and Fines. There are two exceptions to this:

  • If you pay the full amount within one calendar month of the CCJ being issued, it won't be recorded
  • • If you dispute the CCJ and prove to the courts it was issued in error, your CCJ may be cancelled or 'set aside', meaning it won't be recorded

If recorded, your CCJ will remain on the register for six years. Anyone can check the public register for a small fee – they'll be able to see your name and address, the case and court number, and the amount of money owed. This CCJ check won’t show them who you owe the money to.

How will a CCJ affect my credit profile?

If your CCJ isn't recorded on the Register (e.g. because you paid it off immediately) it won't appear on your credit profile – although any defaults that may have led to your CCJ will be visible. If your CCJ is recorded on the Register, it will be added to your credit profile. You can carry out a CCJ check and also see what else is on your credit profile by checking your Experian Credit Report.

How long does a CCJ stay on your credit file?

A CCJ will stay on your credit profile for six years, even if you pay it off during this time. Your credit information is checked by lenders when you apply for credit, and a CCJ can negatively affect your ability to get a loan, credit card or even a bank account. Employers and letting agents may also view your credit information – and see your CCJ – before they hire you or let you rent property.

If you want to get an idea of how a CCJ is affecting your ability to get credit, check your Experian Credit Score. This is a number between 0-999 that reflects your credit information. The higher it is, the better your chances of being approved for credit.

Can I remove a CCJ from my credit report?

You can ask us and the other two credit reference agencies to remove a CCJ from your credit profile if you can prove that:

  • You paid the full amount within one calendar month of the CCJ being issued
  • It's been six years since you received the CCJ (in this case it should be automatically removed)
  • You disputed the CCJ and it was cancelled or 'set aside' by the courts
  • An insurance company was responsible for the debt

Once you have evidence that a CCJ should be removed from your profile, please get in touch.

If you haven't been notified of a CCJ by post, but there's a CCJ on your credit profile, your first step should be to identify the case number and contact the court where the judgment was made. One way to find these details is to get your Experian Credit Report.

Can lenders see my CCJ after six years?

After six years, your CCJ will be removed from your credit file, so lenders won’t be able to see it when they’re deciding whether or not to lend you money. When the CCJ is removed, your credit score should go up too – making you an all-round stronger applicant for future finance.

What happens if I ignore a CCJ?

If you’re going to struggle to make the payments on your CCJ, you might be tempted to ignore it altogether. But if you don’t respond to it, in some way at least, you could face further and more serious action.

The action your lender might take if you don’t act on your CCJ could include:

  • Discuss with you an attachment of earnings, where the money you owe would come directly from your wages
  • Send High Court Enforcement officers to your home, they’d ask you to pay the debt, and if you can’t they might look for goods in your home that could be used against the debt
  • Have bailiffs visit your home, where they could ask for goods or money to be used against the amount on the CCJ

Neither High Court Enforcement Officers or Bailiffs can force entry and push past you when they visit you for the first time, but it’s still a stress and strain that’s best avoided. Even if you’re struggling, it’s best to ask if you can pay the money back in more manageable instalments, or at a later date – ignoring a CCJ completely is never a good idea.

Can I negotiate a CCJ?

When you receive your CCJ, you’ll also get a reply form included with the letter of claim. You need to send the completed reply form to the creditor within 30 days of the date the letter was sent (you’ll find this date at the top of the letter). It’s really important to do this on time, else the court won’t take your circumstances into account.

When you reply, you can either agree that you owe the debt, or say that you want to dispute it. If it’s found that you do need to pay the debt in the CCJ, you can then negotiate how soon it is paid, and whether it’s possible for you to pay in installments.

How can I rebuild my credit profile after a CCJ?

When you've repaid your CCJ it will be marked as 'satisfied' on your credit profile; this looks better than an outstanding judgment, but it will still be difficult to get credit at good rates. But the good news is your credit rating should improve as your CCJ ages, so long as you manage any other credit agreements sensibly. You can check your score anytime with a free Experian account – it's updated every 30 days if you log in.

There are several things you can do to try and improve your credit profile:

  • Register for the electoral roll at your current address
  • Meet the repayments for your CCJ and all other credit agreements. If you think you might default on a payment, contact the lender in advance to discuss your options
  • Minimise the number of applications you make for credit. Aim for a maximum of one application every three months
  • Get your statutory credit report and ensure your credit details are correct

One way to stay in control of your finances – while you have a CCJ and after – is to sign up for a paid CreditExpert subscription.