As a last resort in a dispute, it may be the best option to make a claim through the courts. It is advisable to seek independent legal advice first because:
For claims up to £3,000, you can represent yourself at your local small claims court. The court can rule on claims for specific amounts and issue warrants enforcing its rulings. However, it can't award damages or compensation.
Claims for any amount from £3,000 to £15,000 can be heard in the County Court.
Claims over £15,000 must be heard in the High Court. You must take legal advice and have a lawyer to represent you.
When a final judgment is made in a matter before the court, the successful party will usually apply to the Enforcement of Judgments Office (EJO) with a view to examining the debtor's means and attempting to secure the debt by attaching same to an asset. The replies of the debtor given at such an examination would enable the successful party to select the best method of enforcing the court order. Ideally you should try and find out this information in advance of any application to the Enforcement Office because it will accelerate the processing of the application and issue of relevant orders. The various methods of enforcement are:
Attachment of Earnings Order:
If the debtor is currently in employment and cannot afford to pay the debt in full, the EJO can attach an Attachment of Earnings Order against their employer. This means that the debtor's employer will be obliged to deduct a sum, specified by the EJO, from the debtor's wages and forward to the EJO, for onward payment to the creditor.
If a debtor is self-employed, his income cannot be subject to an Attachment of Earnings Order. The EJO will instead request payment by way of an Instalment Order and will specify the date and amount of payment. Should the debtor default for no good reason, the main option, (unless any other Orders can be obtained) is to issue Committal Proceedings (i.e. seek to have the debtor imprisoned). However, this may require separate proceedings which can be expensive.
This Order directs the EJO to seize sufficient goods or assets from the debtor to secure payment for the debt. The following goods cannot be seized:
Order Charging Land:
If a debtor owns property, whether jointly or otherwise, or has an interest in property, you can petition the EJO for an order charging land to be registered on the property owned by the debtor in an effort to secure payment. This will prevent the debtor from selling or re-mortgaging that property without paying off the debt specified in the judgment and secured by the order charging land. Only when the Order has been registered against the property and the property sold/remortgaged, will the creditor be paid from the net proceeds of the sale. An Order forcing sale can only be made if there are no other interests in the property (e.g. spouse). Please note that the Order Charging Land only lasts for a period of 12 years from the date of the Judgment. Should the debt not be discharged within this period, the charge becomes statute barred and a fresh Order will not issue.
Order Appointing Receiver:
Should the debtor receive any money from a third party (e.g. from a personal injury claim or in a remortgage situation), the EJO can serve an Order Appointing Receiver on the third party, designating them as the Receiver. Once this Order has been served on the Receiver, the Receiver is obliged to forward the money that they were going to pay to the debtor, less any deductions (e.g. legal fees and outlays and in the case of a re-mortgage once the existing registered charges have been repaid), to the EJO, who will forward payment to whichever creditor has priority.