I have obtained a money judgment – how do I enforce it?

If you have obtained a money judgment against a debtor, you may think that is the end of the matter.  However, if the debtor does not pay, you will have to return to Court to enforce that judgment.  The most appropriate method of enforcement will often depend on the debtor’s circumstances.  In this blog, we consider the main types of enforcement options available.

Taking control of goods using writs and warrants of control

  • An enforcement officer will attend at the debtor’s premises to take control of, and sell, goods to raise funds to satisfy the judgment.
  • It is a popular method of enforcement and is often the quickest way to get paid. It is a simple and straightforward procedure that works on both individual and corporate debtors.
  • However, it will only be successful if the debtor has sufficient goods to be sold at auction to meet the judgment or, alternatively, enough money to pay the judgment.

Third party debt order

  • Sums owed to the debtor that are in the hands of a third party (e.g. a bank) are frozen and seized to pay the judgment. Can be very useful if you know the debtor has a bank account into which their salary is paid.
  • However, it is the least used method of enforcement as:
    • The evidence to support an application can often be difficult to find;
    • It cannot attach to future debts or foreign debts; and
    • Cannot be used against a joint bank account unless the judgment is a joint debt of all the account holders.

Charging orders

  • A charging order is a way of securing a judgment by imposing a charge over the debtor’s beneficial interest in land, securities or certain other assets. This usually prevents the debtor from selling the land without paying what is owed.
  • It is most effective when there is substantial equity in a property and the debtor is the sole owner. However, the process for obtaining a charging order can be slow and a charging order of itself does not realise funds to satisfy a judgment.  To do that, the debtor would have to sell the property or an order for sale would have to be sought.

Attachment of earnings

  • An attachment of earnings order provides for a proportion of a debtor’s earnings to be deducted by their employer until the judgment is paid. The amount of the deduction is set based on the debtor’s income and outgoings.
  • It is a popular method of enforcement as it results in an automatic deduction from the debtor’s pay and is relatively inexpensive to implement. However, it depends on the debtor remaining in paid employment (debtor cannot be self-employed) and it can take a long time to receive full payment (low payments often ordered).

Insolvency proceedings (personal bankruptcy / company liquidation)

  • If the amount owed by an individual is £5,000 or more, that person can be made bankrupt. If the amount owed by a company is £750 or more, that company can be wound up.
  • After a bankruptcy or winding-up order is made, the debtor’s assets will be collected in by a trustee in bankruptcy or liquidator and distributed among all creditors. It can be an expensive and lengthy process and will only result in payment if there are sufficient funds to make a distribution.

Contact us

  • If you would like any further information and/or require advice on which option may be the most appropriate for you, please do not hesitate to get in touch with our Dispute Resolution team on 0161 926 9969 or disputeresolution@mlplaw.co.uk