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Law guide

Third party debt orders

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Third party debt orders

A third party debt order is usually made to stop the defendant taking money out of his or her bank or building society account. The money you are owed is paid to you from the account. A third party debt order can also be sent to anyone who owes the defendant money.

The organisation or person that is holding the money is referred to as the 'third party'. A third party debt order will prevent the defendant having access to the money until the court makes a decision about whether or not the money should be paid to you. In these proceedings the person who owes you the money is referred to as the 'judgment debtor'; you are referred to as the 'judgment creditor'. The money held by the third party must be held solely for the debtor. You cannot, for example, apply for a third party debt order against a joint bank account unless the judgment debt is owed by all the account holders.

When can I apply for a third party debt order?

You can make an application for an order at any time after you have obtained judgment. However, the judge who considers your application will not make an order unless the judgment debtor:

  • Has failed to pay the amount of the judgment when it was due
  • Has failed to pay one or more of the instalments due under the terms of the judgment
You should consider carefully when to make your application. The court order which is initially sent to the third party will only 'freeze' money held in an account on the day it is received by (served on) the third party. So if, for example, the order is received a couple of days before the debtor's salary is paid into the account, you are likely to receive little or nothing since the 'freeze' will not be applied to any money paid into the account after the court's order was received.

What do I have to do to apply for an order?

You must complete Form N349 (Application for a third party debt order). You can also obtain a copy of the form free from any county court office. Take or send your application when completed to the court where your claim is proceeding.

What information will I need to complete Form N349?

You will need to state:

  • The judgment debtor's name and address
  • The total amount of the judgment, the amount still owing including any costs and interest, and, if the judgment was payable by instalments, what the total amount of the instalments that are in arrears is
  • The name and address of the third party (the address must be in England or Wales)If the third party is a bank or building society you must give its name and the address of its Head Office. If you know them, you should also give the name of the branch where the account is held, the branch address, the bank's sort code, if appropriate, and the debtor's account number
  • Whether or not you know if there is anyone else who has an interest in the same money (with details if there is)
  • Whether or not you have made any other applications for third party debt orders in respect of the same judgment
The application form contains a statement of truth. You will have to sign it to confirm that the facts set out in your application are true. Remember that proceedings for contempt of court can be brought against you if you sign a statement of truth without an honest belief in its truth.

Will I have to pay a fee for the application?

You may have to pay a court fee. You can pay the fee by cash, postal order or cheque. Make your cheque or postal order payable to HMCS. Please note that courts cannot accept payment by debit or credit cards.

What will the court do with my application?

Court staff will issue your application and refer it to a judge. If the judge is satisfied with the information you have provided, the judge will make an interim third party debt order. The order will be in Form N84 (interim third party debt order). A copy will be sent to you and the third party. A copy is not sent to the judgment debtor until seven days after it has been sent to the third party. This is to ensure that the third party 'freezes' the money before the debtor becomes aware of the order.

The order will include a hearing date at which the judge will decide whether or not the money that has been frozen should be paid to you. You must attend that hearing; otherwise the judge may dismiss your application.

If the judge is not satisfied with the information you have given in your application, the court will let you know.

Receipt of the order

What do third parties do when they receive Form N84 (interim third party debt order)?

If the third party is not a bank or a building society, within seven days of being served with the interim order, the third party must let you and the court know if:

  • The third party claims not to owe the judgment debtor any money
  • The third party claims to owe the judgment debtor less than the amount being claimed in the interim order
If the third party claims not to owe money to the judgment debtor and you wish to dispute this, you must file your written evidence with the court not less than three days before the hearing. You must at the same time send a copy to the third party and to the judgment debtor. Your evidence should be in the form of a witness statement. Court staff or your legal adviser will be able to tell you the wording you must use to verify what you have written in your statement.

If the third party is a bank or building society, within seven days of being served with the interim order, the bank or building society must carry out a search to identify all accounts held in the sole name of the judgment debtor. In respect of each account identified they must tell you and the court:

  • The account number
  • If the account is in credit, and, if it is:
  • Whether the balance of the account(s) is sufficient to cover the amount being claimed in the interim order
  • If it is not sufficient the balance in the account at the time it was served with the interim order and
  • Whether the bank or building society is entitled to retain some of the credit balance to offset debit balances or other amounts
The bank or building society will make a charge for making the search. The charge will be deducted from any money standing to the credit of the judgment debtor.

What will happen if the judgment debtor or the third party objects to my application for a final third party order?

They must file their written evidence setting out their objections not less than three days before the hearing is due to take place. They must send copies to you and to each other. If they have raised objections, the judge will expect them to attend the hearing.

You should note that both the third party, and the judgment debtor, may apply to the court for the hearing to take place at a court nearer to their home, or place of business. If an application is made, the court will let you know.

Can the judgment debtor do anything else which will prevent me getting my money?

Where the judgment debtor is an individual, that is, not a firm, company or corporation, and the third party is a bank or building society, an application for a hardship payment order may be made.

What is a hardship payment order?

It is an order made by a judge. It tells the third party to release some of the money frozen as a result of the interim third party debt order to the judgment debtor or some other named person. The order will be in Form N37 (hardship payment order).

The judge will only make this kind of order if the judgment debtor is able to prove that the judgment debtor and the judgment debtor's family, is suffering hardship in not being able to meet day to day living expenses as a result of an amount, or amounts being frozen.

The judgment debtor can make an application at any court - it does not have to be the court where you made your application for a third party debt order. If an application is made, a judge will decide how and when you are to be told about it. For example, the court may try to telephone you, or send you a fax message, since, from the judgment debtor's point of view, the situation will be urgent. A hardship payment order may allow the release of a single amount of money, but could allow the release of specific sums over a period of weeks until the hearing.

What will happen at the hearing when the judge considers whether to make a final order?

The judge will consider your application and any other evidence you, the third party, or the judgment debtor has filed. If the judge is satisfied that a final order should be made, an order will be drawn in Form N85 (Final third party debt order). If there is sufficient money, the final order will allow the third party to pay to you the judgment debt and costs and your costs of making the application. If the final order is for a lesser amount, the costs of making the application will be treated as being paid first and part of the judgment debt will remain outstanding.

A copy of the order will be sent to you, the third party and the judgment debtor.

The third party will be told how much to pay you and the date by which it is to be paid. Remember that the court cannot order the third party to pay you an amount that is more than the amount originally frozen. If this is less than you are owed, then you may want to consider other enforcement procedures to recover the balance.