County Court Judgements (CCJs) are a type of court order issued by county and high courts when it has been decided that one party owes an amount of money to another. The CCJ will state the amount owed, who is owed, how to pay, and the deadline for paying. The CCJ is kept on the Record of Judgements for 6 years unless it is settled within one month of judgement. Credit reference agencies use the Record of Judgements during a credit check to determine whether the applicant is credit worthy. If you have unpaid debts, then that may not look favourable if you are seeking credit (e.g. for a mortgage or car loan). If a CCJ is settled within one month, you can request it is removed from the Record of Judgements, leaving your record clear.
Parking companies use the threat of County Court Judgments as a way of inducing motorists to pay contract-based parking tickets (Parking Charge Notices or PCNs). On this page we discuss in detail the steps a parking company must go through to enforce a parking charge via court system. In short, it is not straightforward, and it invovles them proving legally that you owe them money.
Over the past few years, companies such as ParkingEye Ltd and Civil Enforcement Ltd have issued thousands of claims against motorists in the county court. If a claim is contested and the parking company sends representatives to court (e.g. a solicitor) then the parking company would probably lose money – i.e. the costs, which are severely limited in smalls claims, are greater than the value of the claim. However, upon receipt of official court papers many people fold and settle the claim before it goes to court. Many cases also receive a default judgement; this is where the case goes undefended and a judgement (CCJ) is made in favour of the claimant. Where a default CCJ is awarded, the parking company will then continue to seek payment. For these reasons, court enforcement of parking charges can make financial sense for parking companies.
When a default County Court Judgement is received by a motorist it is typically because:
- They ignored letters from the court about the claim being made against them
- The letters were send to the wrong address (e.g. previous address)
- The letters were sent whilst the motorist was on a long trip abroad
In such a case the motorist can request the County Court Judgement to be cancelled if they believe they don’t owe the money. This process is known as having the judgement ‘set aside’. To request a set aside, an application (N244 – download here) must be completed and sent to the court, along with a fee (currently £155). A private hearing will them be scheduled to explain why the money is not owed. In that hearing the motorists would likely have to convince the court of three things:
- There was a valid reason for not responding to the original claim. Not receiving the claim form would likely be accepted, whereas if you did and ignored it, this would be less likely to be accepted
- There is a realistic prospect of defending the claim. This will depend on the specific nature of the case, but there is a large body of case law that can be used to demonstrate this
- The set aside application was made promptly. If the application is made shortly after being made aware of the CCJ, then this would look more reasonable than years afterwards.
If the set aside is successful then the claim is reset to the claim stage. At this point, the motorist has two options:
- Settle the claim with the parking company. This could be the amount they originally requested (e.g. £100, plus £50 costs), or you may be able to negotiate a lower amount with them. Remember, in this case you will have also have paid the set aside fee of £155
- Defend the claim in court. We discuss this process here on the site. In the best case scenario, you successfully defend the claim and you will not have to pay, and you may be awarded costs including the fee for the set aside. In the worst case where the claim is upheld, then a new CCJ will be made. However, you will be able to settle it immediately, meaning it will not affect your credit record.
Requesting a set aside may seem like throwing ‘good money after bad’ – if you already owe £150, why risk losing another £155 when you might not even be successful. However, it largely depends on how much you value your credit record. If you, or your partner, were looking to get credit (e.g. for a mortgage) within the next 6 years, the fact you have a CCJ might affect that. If that is the case, then you should consider requesting a set aside.
In all cases, it would be wise to seek assistance to help you make your case. Fighting private parking tickets in court involves a lot of specialist knowledge on how to deal with each specific type of case – mitigation often won’t cut it. Good sources are the online forums (links here).