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Enforcement Blog: Attachment of Earnings Orders

View profile for Aimee Herbert
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You have won your case and now have judgment, but the debtor won’t pay. Traditionally, you would probably consider instructing bailiffs. However, the ongoing coronavirus pandemic means bailiffs are currently suspended until at least 31 May 2021.

As litigation specialists, Bell Lax are experienced in all types of enforcement methods. Therefore, we will provide guidance on alternative enforcement measures you may not have previously considered in order to help you recover that debt.

This article focuses on Attachment of Earnings Orders.

An Attachment of Earnings Order is a court order which forces an employer to deduct a proportion of the debtors’ earnings until the whole debt is paid. A summary of the procedure for obtaining an Attachment of Earnings Order is set out below.

Firstly, to be able to make an application:

  1. The debtor must be behind with at least one payment required by the judgment; and
  2. The debtor must owe more than £50.

If you want to apply for an Attachment of Earnings Order, you must lodge an application at Court.

To prepare the application you will need to know the following:

  • The name and address of debtor;
  • Details of the judgment (including any documents from the court); and
  • Confirmation of the amount of money remaining due.

Bell Lax can prepare the application and file the same at Court on your behalf for a fee of £500 plus VAT, in addition to the court fee of £110.

 

Once the application is lodged the court will consider the same. Provided it is appropriate to do so, they will serve a Notice of Application for Attachment of Earnings Order and reply form on the debtor who then has 8 days to do either of the following:

 

  1. Pay the debt owed; or
  2. Complete and return the reply form with details of their employment, income and outgoings.

 

Once received, the court will consider the reply form and decide how much the debtor can afford to pay out of their earnings toward the debt (once their bills and other essentials have been deducted).

 

In some circumstances, for example where they require further information, the Court may consider a hearing is necessary to decide whether or not to make an Attachment of Earnings Order. In this instance, the matter will be referred to the debtor’s closest County Court and a hearing date will be set.

 

Once a final Attachment of Earnings Order is made, it will be sent to you, the debtor and the debtor’s employer by the Centralised Attachment of Earnings Payment System (“CAPS”). The order will direct the employer to make periodic deductions from the debtor’s earnings, which will then be forwarded to you. These payments will continue until the debt is paid.

If the debtor’s employer fails to comply with the Attachment of Earnings Order they will be guilty of a criminal offence and could face a fine.

When deciding on whether to pursue an Attachment of Earnings Order, you should consider the pros and cons:

Pros

Cons

  • It is a relatively inexpensive method of enforcement
  • Automatic deduction does not rely on the debtor making payment
  • If a debtor does not want their employer to know about the debt, this may be a useful tool in applying pressure to ensure the full amount is paid
  • The costs of obtaining an Attachment of Earnings Order (including the court fee) are added to the debt owed to you
  • An Attachment of Earnings Order can only be used to enforce debts owed by individuals in paid employment. You cannot obtain an Attachment of Earnings Order if the debtor is: unemployed, self-employed, a corporate partnership, in the armed forces or a merchant seaman
  • It may take a long time to pay off the whole debt

 

If you would like to discuss whether an Attachment of Earnings Order is the right enforcement method for you, please feel free to contact us on 0121 355 0011 and one of our expert team will be happy to assist and advise you.

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