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Enforcing Your Judgement

If a court has decided that someone must pay you an amount of money (you have 'obtained judgment against the debtor'), and you have not received a payment, you can try and get your money (called 'enforcing your judgment') by asking the court for any of the following:

  • A warrant of execution
  • An attachment of earnings order
  • A third party debt order
  • A charging order

In addition, if the amount you are owed is more than £750.00, you can also apply to make the debtor bankrupt. Alternatively, if the debtor is a limited company and seems unlikely to be able to pay the judgment quite quickly (say, in three months), this may be an indication of cashflow problems. In these circumstances, you may wish to consider winding up (Insolvency) proceedings. However, both bankruptcy and winding up proceedings can be complex and expensive.


A warrant of execution gives court bailiffs the authority to take goods from the debtor's home or business. Bailiffs will try to either:

  • Collect the money you are owed; or
  • Take goods to sell at auction.

You cannot ask the county court to issue a warrant if the amount you want the bailiff to get is more than £5,000, unless you are enforcing an agreement made under the Consumer Credit Act 1974. (This is because regulated agreements can only be enforced in the county court). But you can ask the sheriff's officer (through the High Court) to try and collect the money you are owed or to remove goods.

NOTE: Bailiffs cannot always remove and sell the debtor's goods. For example, they cannot remove essential household items and tradesman's tools.

The Bailiff will not take the debtor's goods if they are not worth enough to pay the warrant after the costs of taking and selling the goods. Goods sold at auction often raise only a fraction of their original value. The debtor's goods may also already have been seized by bailiffs acting under another warrant.


An attachment of earnings order is sent to the debtor's employer. It tells the employer to take an amount from the debtor's earnings each pay day and send it to a collection office. The money is then sent to you.

NOTE: The debtor must be employed by someone before you can issue an attachment of earnings order. An order cannot be made if the debtor is unemployed or self-employed. Also, the court may not be able to make an order, or may only make an order to pay it back in small instalments, if the debtor's living expenses are greater than his or her earnings.


A third party debt order is usually made to stop the debtor taking money out of his or her bank or building society account. The money you are owed is paid to you from the account. A third party debt order can also be sent to anyone who owes the debtor money.

NOTE: If the debtor has a bank or building society account, the bank or building society will freeze the account when it receives the order from the court. If the account is overdrawn on the day the bank or building society receives your order, you cannot be paid from the account. The debtor will know about the order and may stop paying money into the account.


If the Debtor owns a property or land, it is possible to “register a charge” against the property to show that you have an interest in the sale and should secure payment provided that there is sufficient equity in the property. A charging order prevents the debtor from selling his or her property or land without paying what he or she owes you. Any charge obtained will not take priority over existing charges, such as a mortgage.

The Court will initially grant an order known as a “Interim Charging Order”. They will then allocate a hearing date where the debtor and any other owners of the property can attend and if the Court considers that a Charging Order should be made will make a “Final Charging Order”.

NOTE: You will not get your money until the debtor sells his or her property or land. In some circumstances you may be able to ask the court for an order to force him or her to sell the property or land.


If the debtor admitted the claim and made an offer to pay before the judgment was made, you will already know something about the debtor's finances. But if you only know a little about the debtor's financial situation, you may be able to find out more by asking for an 'order to obtain information'.

An order to obtain information is not a method of enforcing your judgment. It is a way of finding out about the defendant's income, assets and spending. This information can help you decide:

  • Whether the defendant can pay you; and
  • Which method is most likely to get you your money.

You will have to pay a fee for an oral examination. Although the court will add the fee to the money the defendant already owes you, the court cannot return what you have paid if your enforcement method does not succeed.

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