Is now the time to review your unsatisfied judgments?
Sadly, fighting a case in court and obtaining a money judgment does not always result in the debt being paid. A judgment debt can remain unsatisfied in part or in full for a number of reasons, to include where a judgment debtor is genuinely unable to pay, at least at the time the judgment is entered.
Further, some judgment debtors will go to great lengths to make the enforcement of a judgment as difficult as possible, by, amongst other things, moving abroad, or selling or transferring assets to put them beyond the reach of judgment creditors.
However, unsatisfied judgment debts should be kept under review periodically in case a judgment debtor resurfaces, or their circumstances change, or perhaps because assets become identifiable, i.e. a property purchase, a new company shareholding, or possibly even a windfall such as an inheritance
Steps to enforce a judgment are not generally subject to any limitation period, although permission of the court is required to issue a writ or warrant of control (High Court Enforcement and County Court bailiffs) where the judgment is more than 6 years old. Although there is no equivalent for other methods of enforcement, the Court may take into account any delay in enforcing when it exercises its discretion to order enforcement. Hence it is always advisable to take enforcement steps as early as possible.
Also, bear mind that interest on judgment debts is generally limited to 6 years. Judgments in the High Court, and in the County Court with a value of £5,000 or more, currently attract interest at the rate of 8% per annum. Hence, even a relatively modest unsatisfied judgment debt can increase significantly over time.
There are a number of available enforcement options, to include seeking an order that a debt is paid directly from funds held in the judgment debtor’s bank account, or is paid directly from their employer, and it is possible to use more than one method of enforcement simultaneously.
It is also possible to secure payment of a judgment debt against the interest of a judgment debtor in property or shares (a “charging order”), and a charging order obtained over a judgment debtor’s property can then be enforced by a sale.
If you don’t have information about a judgment debtor’s assets, or their ability to pay, you can seek an order to compel them to attend court to provide information to assist with enforcement.
Solicitors from our Dispute Resolution Team will be happy to discuss any unsatisfied judgment debts you may have, and to advise on appropriate enforcement options. With the assistance of enquiry agents, we can also assist with background checks on judgment debtors to establish their current whereabouts and assets to ensure any enforcement action delivers a return.