Can your Opponent Afford to Pay You?

If you obtain a money judgment against someone, it may be of no practical benefit if they do not have the money to pay you. Even if you are claiming something other than money - for example an injunction to prevent a nuisance, or a determination of  ownership of land - if your claim is in a court or tribunal which normally awards costs to the winner, you should consider whether your opponent will be able to pay any costs award. If not, it might still be worth proceeding, but it is something you need to know.

If you are on the receiving end of a claim, whether your opponent can afford to pay your costs if they lose is something to consider because, if this is in doubt, you might be able to get an order that they must provide security for costs as a condition of being allowed to proceed.

Once you have a money judgment against someone, which is not paid, there are court procedures which can be used to find out what assets they have so that payment can be enforced, but these court procedures are not generally available before judgment so, at the point where you are considering starting a case, other means have to be used to try to find out whether your opponent can afford to pay you if you win. Generally you will want to consider using an enquiry agent. There are a few checks you can do yourself although these provide only limited information.

If your opponent is a limited company you can obtain a copy of its latest accounts from Companies House but if it is a small private company they are likely to be unaudited accounts. In any event the most recent filed accounts will at best show the position as it was some months ago, not the up to date position.

If your opponent is an individual you can check for bankruptcy. The Insolvency Service provide some records but these are removed fairly quickly so it is worth searching in the Gazette as well.

You can check for outstanding court judgments. You can also search BAILII to see if you can find any court cases that your opponent has been involved in but bear in mind that only a small proportion of cases are on BAILII. 

It is possible to check the registered proprietor of registered land at the Land Registry but, whilst it is useful to know of land your opponent is the registered proprietor of, the true "beneficial" owner of land is not necessarily the registered proprietor. The registered proprietor may only be a trustee. Similarly the fact that someone drives an expensive car does not mean that they own it.  

This page was lasted updated in June 2017          Disclaimer