What to do if you get a civil bill
When the people you owe start court action in Northern Ireland, they will send you a civil bill first. Usually by post.
This is the first step before a CCJ being issued. A civil bill shows:
- The amount you owe. Including extra charges such as:
- Court fees
- Solicitors’ costs
- The reason for the claim
You can avoid getting a CCJ at this stage if:
- You agree that you owe the amount stated, and
- You are able to pay the full amount before the deadline.
Important: You will need to pay the people you owe and not the court. So it is important you check the civil bill for the correct payment address before sending any money.
In case the court asks for proof you have paid. Make sure you keep a copy of:
- How much you paid
- When you made the payment
What happens if I can’t pay a CCJ?
If you are not able to pay the full amount, there are ways you can deal with your CCJ. But you must act quickly.
A CCJ is a priority debt as you risk further legal action being taken against you if you do not respond.
Asking for time to pay
- Agree that you owe the money and the amount being claimed is correct, and
- You cannot pay in full immediately
You can ask the people you owe for time to pay.
You will need to contact them and arrange to pay within 21 days of the bill being issued. If you do not respond in time, you risk the judgment being entered against you. If this happens, enforcement action can start.
There is not an official form to request time to pay. We suggest writing to the people you owe with:
- Your budget including all your income and outgoings. You can use our budgeting form
- A list of all the people you owe
- A suitable offer of payment
If they do not accept your offer, you must keep negotiating with them.
If the judgment is entered against you, the chances of it being enforced will be lower if you can agree on an amount to pay them.
Entering into a Tomlin order
If you have been served with a civil bill and are not able to pay the debt in full, you can avoid getting a CCJ if you ask the people you owe to agree to a Tomlin order.
A Tomlin order is a legal agreement where you and the people you owe agree to put the CCJ on hold. You must make set repayments.
A Tomlin order is made up of two parts:
- The consent order
- The schedule
The court grants a consent order binding both parties to the terms outlined in the schedule. The schedule covers details such as:
- The repayment amount
- Any additional costs, for example interest and charges
If your situation changes and you cannot afford your payments, you may find it hard to change these terms. If you fail to make the payments, the people you owe can start court proceedings again.
While a Tomlin order does have benefits, it is important to understand the risks that come with it. For example:
- The people you owe may set your monthly payments at a rate which is hard to afford
- The people you owe cold add extra costs to the amount you owe for drafting the order
How to defend the claim
You may disagree with the claim made against you, for example, if:
- The claim amount is incorrect
- You do not owe the money
- The debt is statute barred
- You have already paid the debt in full
If you decide to defend the claim, you will need to:
- Complete form 42, ‘Notice of intention to defend’
- Return it to your creditor within 21 days of getting the bill
If you have received a CCJ and you are planning to defend the claim, you can apply to the court to have the CCJ set aside.
You should seek expert legal advice before taking this course of action. Defending a claim can be a complex matter. You need to make sure you are making the right decision for your situation.
If you are not successful, it may result in large costs being added to the amount you owe.
Common CCJ questions