Anyone can fall on hard times and find themselves in debt, and if you’ve had notice of impending attachment of earnings order you should know exactly what you’re dealing with.
Life can throw up many different, challenging circumstances, unannounced, unwanted, and out of our control.
If it does, burying your head is the last thing you should be considering.
Debt is a problem that needs to be tackled head on, make no mistake about that.
The fact of the matter is if you have outstanding debt, one or more of your creditors could take court action against you and obtain a County Court Judgment (CCJ) or another court order.
In a nutshell, a court order means you must pay the money owed back either in instalments or in full by an agreed date.
Should you fail to meet the requirements of the court order, your creditor can crack on with taking further action against you to retrieve the cash you owe.
There are several ways they can go about doing this.
If you’re working, your creditor could well try to obtain a court order that takes money from your wages which is paid directly to them – you have no say, not a peep, it’ll never hit your bank.
This is what they call an attachment of earnings.
I’m going to give you a no nonsense guide of what happens if your creditor(s) apply for an attachment of earnings order and if there is anything you can do to prevent, or change the terms of the order.
If you’ve got this far, you know you need some help, so please keep reading on and leave here today knowing what you’re going to do to sort this.
When can a creditor apply for an attachment of earnings?
You’ve got this far, be proud, but let’s get down to what this really means for you.
Your creditor may apply for an attachment of earnings if you have any of the following debts:
- Credit card debt, banks loans and hire purchase agreements
- Student loans
- Rent or mortgage arrears
- Income tax, VAT or TV license arrears
If you’ve racked up council tax or child maintenance debts, they’re able to apply for an attachment of earnings order, however the rules are slightly different than the rules set out in this article.
The Child Support Agency (CSA) or Child Maintenance Service (CMS) don’t have to apply for a court order to be able to to take money from your wages.
They can just swoop in and take the cash from you before it’s even touched your bank .
In this circumstance they can make one of their very own, known as a deduction from earnings order.
Your creditor is unable to apply for an attachment order if you’re:
- Self employed
- In the army, airforce or navy
- In the merchant navy
What is an attachment of earnings?
An attachment of earning order is where your employer is instructed to stop money from your wages to pay back your debt – in other words, the money will never hit your bank account.
Your employer will send the payments directly to the court and the court will then forward it onto your creditor.
Your employer will more than likely charge an administration fee of £1 on top of whatever the court instructs them to pay.
In order to determine how much you should pay back to your creditor, the court will work out the minimum amount of money you need to live on.
This is known as the protected earnings rate.
The money you owe to your creditor can only be taken out of your wages above this amount.
If your take home pay fluctuates and is less one month, the amount you pay your creditor would reflect this and you’d pay less to them, as your income cannot fall below what the court has set.
Your creditor is unable to obtain an attachment of earnings if:
- the amount you owe is less than £50, or
- your take-home pay always works out below the protected earnings rate.
If your creditor is successful in obtaining an attachment of earnings order, it will tell you both the amount of the weekly or monthly deductions that must be made by your employer to your creditor, and the protected earnings rate the court has set for you.
What happens if my creditor applies for an attachment of earnings order?
If your creditor does apply for an attachment of earnings order, you will be sent court form N56.
You’re required to fill in this form detailing your financial circumstances.
These will include your employer’s details and information on whether or not you have any other outstanding debt.
You’re required to include your partner’s financial details too.
You have eight days to return this information back to the court – do not even consider ignoring this letter, seriously!
A court officer will take this information and use it to make an attachment of earnings order.
If you don’t to provide enough information on form N56, you could be required to attend a hearing with a judge, and nobody needs that crap in their life let’s face it.
What happens if I fail to return form N56?
Let’s be crystal clear about this from the off.
It is an offence not to send back form N56 or provide false information, so do not be tempted to do either.
If you don’t send back the form the county bailiffs will serve you with an order to fill it in.
If you still fail to send back the required information then you will be sent a notice to appear in a court hearing to explain why you have not provided the information you are required to about your financial circumstances.
You MUST absolutely attend this hearing – although in all honesty you shouldn’t have let it get this far.
If you don’t rock up for your hearing the court can issue a warrant for your arrest and you can be dragged to court or even sent straight to prison at Her Maj’s pleasure for up to 14 days.
It is no laughing matter.
If your creditor has your employer’s address, which they could well do from details you’ve already given them, they can pass this information straight onto the court.
The court is then able to go directly to your employer to ask them to provide details of your earnings if you fail to return the N56 form back to the court.
It’s very possible in some circumstances for your creditor to apply to the court for an order to obtain information to find out more about your finances or obtain your employer’s details.
You will have to go to court to swear on oath that the financial information you are providing is correct and true.
If you are having trouble completing the form, seek help from a trained debt adviser immediately.
Can I stop an attachment of earnings order?
You can ask the court not to issue an attachment of earnings order if you can get your creditor to agree to a new payment plan for you to pay back what you owe.
This is known as asking for a suspended attachment of earnings order.
There is a box to tick on for N56 if you want to ask for a suspended attachment of earnings order.
You must also provide your reasons for it.
If the court grants your request for suspending the attachment of earnings order, the court will hold off taking any money from your wages unless you fail to keep up the repayments you have agreed to.
If you want to suspend an attachment of earnings order you can get help from an experienced debt adviser.
Can I do anything about an attachment of earnings once it has been made?
I can’t afford the payments
If you reckon the amount of money being taken isn’t affordable, you can tell the court that you’d don’t agree with the amount the creditor is asking for.
You have 14 days from the date the original order is made if you want to do this.
If the order has been in place for a while and your circumstances change, you can still apply to the court to ask them to change the terms of the order.
In this circumstance, a hearing will be arranged for you and the judge could make a different order.
Asking for a consolidation attachment of earnings order
You can ask the court for a consolidation attachment of earnings order.
This could be an option if you have other CCJs and making one payment is easier for you to manage financially.
Instead of paying different creditors yourself, one monthly payment is taken out of your wages by your employer and it is sent to the court.
The court will then split up the money and send it to all the creditors who have county court judgements against you.
A consolidation attachment of earnings order is only a good option if:
- You have an attachment of earnings order in place and want to add a debt(s) that has a county court judgement against it (them)
- You have a problem with money being taken directly out of your bank to pay back your debt(s).
You are able to apply to the court for a consolidated attachment of earnings by contacting the court in writing.
In the letter you should:
- Give details of all the attachment of earnings orders and CCJs against you that you want the court to consolidate.
- Include a budget sheet to show your income and expenditure of your household. You should also make it clear how much you can pay in total on the new order.
There will be no hearing will be held this time.
Your creditors have 14 days to object to the order.
It is pretty unusual for the court to turn down a request to make a consolidated attachment of earnings order and details of the new order will be sent by the court.
What happens if I leave my job?
If you leave your job, for any reason, the attachment of earnings order stops being paid but don’t go thinking it is cancelled or written off.
It will come back to bite you when you get a new job.
Don’t consider hiding a new job, it is a criminal offence not to inform the court of your new job and employer.
Will an attachment of earnings order affect my job?
It could have very serious implications, depending on what type of employment you are in if your employer discovers an attachment of earnings has been made against you.
If you work in a job with money, financial advice or a job that requires a lot of trust, such as a security job, you could find your employer has a policy within your contract of employment of dismissing employees if a court order is made against them.
I know this sounds scary, and to be perfectly honest, it is no laughing matter and you need to be proactive and take action immediately!
If you have an attachment of earnings in place, speak to one of our trained debt advisers about how an IVA can stop them.