What is the EJO?
The Enforcement of Judgments Office (EJO) is a centralised unit for enforcing civil judgments related to the recovery of money, goods and property of the courts. The EJO can also enforce civil judgments made by other courts outside Northern Ireland, including England/Wales, Scotland and the European Union.
In some circumstances the EJO can also enforce decisions from other public bodies which are deemed to be judgments and also the decisions of some Tribunals in Northern Ireland.
The EJO’s powers and procedures are contained in the Judgments Enforcement (Northern Ireland) Order 1981, and Judgment Enforcement Rules (Northern Ireland) 1981.
The Work the EJO
Since February 2014 the EJO have been restructuring our approach to the processing of judgments. Our work is split into 3 distinct areas:
- Front of House Team – this team deals with the processing of all Notices of Intent to Enforce a Judgment as well as Applications for Enforcement of a Judgment. They are responsible for checking paperwork and the processing of fees as well as processing payments made to discharge judgments relating to the recovery of money.
- Money Judgments Team – this team is responsible for the conducting of debtor means examinations as well as the issuing of all enforcement orders and the management of hearings before the Master (Enforcement of Judgments Office).
- Repossession Team – this team are responsible for the issuing of all documents relating to the repossession of land or goods. The team is also responsible for the management of EJO Enforcement Officers.
A Glossary of Terms
Attachment of Earnings Order - (Article 73)
When a debtor is in employment this office can make this order to deduct a regular sum of money from his/her salary. The debtor is given a 'protected earnings rate’ after a report has been done on them to assess their means. The rate is based upon individual debtors circumstances and will include an allowance for debtor, their partner, and any children. The office also allows for rental/mortgage payments and any rates. The Office will deduct any child benefit payment made for each child. This rate therefore protects an amount of money that they need to live on; the excess amount can then be used to pay off a particular debt. However the Attachment of Earnings Order does not exclude the Office from issuing further enforcement orders, it is merely a means of ensuring regular payment towards a judgment/debt. Under certain circumstances, a debtor may be given the opportunity to object to the Order being made (normal objection period being 8 days) and if a written objection is received the case will be reviewed by a designated officer or in certain circumstance, listed before the Master. After the hearing the terms of the order may be confirmed, suspended or varied according to the circumstance of the case.
Instalment Order - (Article 30)
If a debtor is self-employed his/her income cannot be attached by the above means, the office then considers what appears to be a reasonable amount for him/her to pay over a period of time either weekly or monthly which is paid directly to the creditor. It is therefore the responsibility of the creditor to keep the office informed of all monies paid or indeed if the debtor defaults in payment. A debtor may be committed to prison for failure to keep up payments due on an Instalment Order.
Order Charging Land - (Article 46)
If a debtor owns land or has an interest in land/property the Office may 'charge' that land/property to secure payment of the debt and the order has the effect of a charge created by the debtor in favour to the creditor. It is the Creditor/Solicitors responsibility however to register the Order in the Land Registry or Registry of Deeds accordingly. Under current legislation the order ceases to have effect on the expiration of 12 years from the date of the judgment. Also, when a debtor has paid their debt in full, including any interest payable direct to the creditor, they may wish to apply for a Certificate of Satisfaction (currently costing £18) to give proof of it and have the charge removed.
The Seizure Order - (Article 31)
This is an order directing the Chief Enforcement Officer to seize the debtors' goods to pay the debt/s and enforcement costs. The Office may issue this type of Order when it appears that there are sufficient seizeable goods to satisfy the debt. However it is practice that the Office will look for other relevant means of enforcement e.g. Attachment of Earnings, Instalment Order before issuing this order but if a debtor is un-cooperative or does not have direct financial means and has seizeable goods the may apply to the Master for an Order of Seizure.
There are limitations for the Office as it can only seize goods owned by the debtor and cannot seize goods such as:
- Motor Vehicles or other good subject to Hire Purchase
- Perishable goods
- Tools of the trade up to £200
- Any goods in the hands of a Receiver appointed by a court
- Debtors clothes and essential household furniture.
These conditions are all stipulated in the body of a Custody Warrant.
Order Appointing Receiver - (Articles 67 & 68)
This type of order is a remedy used very extensively and successfully in day-today practice and is where the Office obtains information that the debtor is about to receive monies from a third party (e.g. a claim, proceeds of house sale etc) and therefore issues the above order so that the Office receives monies due for the purpose of satisfying the debt.
This Article also provides that any person aggrieved by the terms of the order may apply to the Office to have his claim judicially determined.
Attachment of Debt Order (also know as Garnishee Order) (Article 69)
This orders gives the Office the power to 'freeze' a debtors' bank account. It is served personally on the Third party (Garnishee) i.e. a bank and is conditional which gives the garnishee an opportunity to appear before the master to give reasons why the money should not or cannot be paid.
Article70 (2) gives the Master power to determine any dispute and if in doubt to refer the matter to the High Court.
Variations to this Order are Applications under the Crown Proceedings Act 1974 (Rule 57). This states that no order for Attachment of Debts Order can be made in respect of any money due or accruing from the Crown (e.g. The Compensation Agency) except in accordance with this rule.
The Certificate of Unenforceability - (Articles 18 & 19)
If it appears to the Office that the judgment cannot be enforced within a reasonable timescale, or has no assets, it will issue this Certificate. This will appear on the Public Register and will, in effect, impact upon the credit rating of a debtor.
Non- Money Judgements
Order for Delivery of Possession of Land - (Article 53)
If you require any information with regard to an Order for Delivery of Possession of Land please contact the Repossession Team on 02890724821.
Order for Delivery of Goods - (Article 57)
This order is issued when a person is entitled under a court judgment to the delivery of ascertained or specified goods. If the respondent fails to deliver up the goods, the Office may seize and deliver them to the person entitled to them under the order.
You can view the EJO Application Packs here.
You can read the complete Judgment Enforcement Rules (Northern Ireland) 1981 here.
Help and Advice Documents
This section will provide you with guidance on what to do if you are affected by an enforcement order. It contains fact sheets which can answer questions you may have, all of which can be found here.
You can also contact the EJO on: 0300 200 7812.