Enforcement – what happens if a judgment debtor does not pay?
LOUISE PRICE >
Consultant SolicitorThu 29 November 2018
Prior to commencing litigation it is essential that you know your defendant. Pre-litigation due diligence would determine what assets a defendant may have and determine whether you would be able to recoup the costs of the litigation and any compensation due to you in the long run.
As a general rule a defendant will usually have 14 days to pay the judgment amount, but this can differ at the Judge’s discretion. If the judgment sum has not been paid within the time frame you can then commence enforcement proceedings.
As a precursor to commencing enforcement proceedings you can make an application to Court to call for the debtor to attend and answer questions on oath about their means. If the debtor does not comply they can be arrested. If you are concerned that a debtor may attempt to conceal their assets this would not necessarily be the best option as it would alert them to your intention to enforce.
There are other means to tracing whether a debtor is solvent. Online searches can reveal this information or you can pay a tracing agent.
If a debtor owns a property you could apply to the court for a charging order over the property and could, under certain circumstances, force a sale of the property.
Another option is an attachment of earnings whereby you could apply to the court for an order to compel the debtor’s employer to deduct money directly from their earnings. It is unlikely that you would receive the full sum due in one payment but over the time the full amount could be repaid. This would only be suitable if the debtor has a reliable and steady income.
A 3rd party debt order is a method which could be suited to a debtor with a regular income. As with the attachment of earnings, if granted by the court, the order will allow for money to be taken directly from the debtor’s bank account or other 3rd party.
In both these instances the debtor would have to be left with enough money for themselves and their families.
Another option is to instruct the Court Bailiff or a High Court Enforcement Officer to attend upon the debtor in order to recover the money or seize goods to the value of the amount claimed.
A final option is bankruptcy.
Not all options are suitable for every situation and there are thresholds of the value of the debt owed for certain enforcement proceedings.
There are court fees and potential legal costs but all of these are added to the debt so are recoverable in the long run. The fees and legal costs are minimal in comparison to the litigation costs.
It is always advisable to seek legal help to assist in helping you decide which is the right option for you and to help guide you through the process.
Should you require any assistance in seeking to recover a debt owed to you or wish to discuss any of the issues raised, please do not hesitate to contact Louise Price.
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