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Glossary of Debt Recovery Language

Debt recovery terms explained

Debt Recovery Glossary

Letters Before Action

This is a formal letter which sets out to the debtor the amount outstanding and complies with the relevant rules and regulations. A time limit of 14 days, is given to the debtor to either respond or to pay the debt in full.


It is possible for the debtor to file a defence to any court proceedings issued against them. A defence needs to be filed within 14 days of service of the claim form from the court, unless an acknowledgment of service has been filed, which allows the debtor a further 14 days (to a maximum of 28 days) to file a defence. If a defence is filed and that defence has some merit of possible success, then the matter becomes a defended matter and will proceed through the court system.

Judgment in Default

Judgment in default is where the debtor neither files a defence or an acknowledgement of service followed by a defence. Therefore if a judgment in default is requested from the court, the court will then grant a judgment against the debtor, without the need for any of the parties to attend the court.


This is a process whereby the debtor becomes legally bound to pay the sum ordered by the judgment. To the majority of people a judgment is what is commonly known as a County Court Judgment. This allows enforcement to be commenced, such as instructing bailiffs and attachment of earning etc.

Charging Order

This is the procedure once judgment has been obtained, in which a charge is placed upon the debtor’s property, in a similar way to which a mortgage works. Further details are available in this article on Enforcing Judgment.

Attachment of Earnings Order

Once the judgment has been obtained, if the judgment debtor is paid via the PAYE system, it is open to the creditor to make an application to the court so that a proportion of the debtor’s wages are paid direct from the employer to the court, which in turn is paid to the creditor. Further details are available in this article on Enforcing Judgment.

Third Party Debt Order

This is the process whereby if it is known that the debtor themselves are owed money, it is possible to make an application to the court to freeze that money, so that the payment of that money is made direct to the creditor, therefore circumnavigating the debtor. Further details are available in this article on Enforcing Judgment.

For further information on debt recovery or to make an appointment for an informal first discussion call Rob Winder on 01768 800855 or email rw@burnetts.co.uk.

Who to contact

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Rob Winder

Senior Associate Rob leads the Debt and Property Recovery team and is head of the Penrith office.