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Charging order application process

The process a creditor must follow to have a charging order secured against the debtor's home.

This content applies to England

Overview of charging orders

Debts subject to a court judgment or liability order can be secured by a charging order on the debtor's property. In some cases, the charging order may be enforced by an application for an order for sale. A trustee in the homeowner's bankruptcy can make an application for a charging order as an alternative to forcing the sale of a bankrupt's home.

A charging order is a court order which imposes a charge on the freehold or leasehold property of a debtor in order to secure payment of a debt. The charge is registered with the Land Registry.

If the court grants a charging order the unsecured debt becomes secured. This means the debt is converted from a non-priority debt into a priority debt, because the home is at risk if the debt is not paid. The creditor may use another enforcement method (for example an attachment of earnings) at the same time.

Charging orders may be obtained to secure a number of different debts, for example:

  • County Court judgments for unpaid utilities or credit debts

  • tribunal awards and benefit overpayments that have been registered as a judgment for enforcement purposes

  • liability orders for council tax arrears or unpaid child maintenance

  • Legal Aid Agency capital contribution orders for criminal legal aid

The statutory charge for civil legal aid can be secured on property using a separate process.

The information here does not apply to statutory charge debts.

The court cannot grant a charging order unless the creditor has first obtained a money judgment or a liability order for an unpaid debt.[1]

Applying for a charging order

A creditor who has obtained a money judgment or a liability order can apply for a charging order on Court Form N379 following the procedure in Civil Procedure Rule (CPR) Part 73 and Practice Direction (PD) 73. The application should be made to the Civil National Business Centre.

The application may be made without notice. This means the debtor may not receive any notification of the creditor's intention to apply for a charging order. The first notification may come in the form of a restriction notice from the Land Registry.

The creditor's application must contain the following information:[2]

  • the name and address of the judgment debtor

  • details of the judgment or order, including the outstanding balance

  • names and addresses of other creditors (If known)

  • details of the debtor's interest in the property and the title number

If the judgment debt is to be payable by instalments, the application must also contain the following:

  • whether the order was made before 1 October 2012

  • whether there has been a default in payment

The court can make a charging order if the judgment is payable by instalments and the payments are up to date, unless the judgment was made before 1 October 2012.[3]

Interim and final charging orders

The charging order application will initially be dealt with by a court officer without a hearing. If the court is satisfied with the application, it issues an interim charging order on Form N86.

The interim charging order is visible as a restriction on the Land Registry to warn potential purchasers that there may be another party with an interest in the land.

If no objections are filed at this stage the court makes a final charging order.

Applying for reconsideration of the interim charging order

The debtor can apply for a reconsideration within 14 days of the date of service of the interim order. In the Civil National Business Centre the deemed date of service is 5 days from the date of posting.[4] The reconsideration request is made in writing, there is no form to complete and no fee is payable. The request is considered without a hearing.

Objecting to the final charging order

The court has discretion whether or not to make a final charging order. However, the burden of proof is on the debtor to show good reasons for not making the order.

Disputing liability for the debt

If the debtor intends to dispute liability for the debt they should make an application to set aside the underlying judgment debt or liability order. The court may be willing to grant an adjournment of the charging order proceedings if the debtor has a reasonable prospect of success. The court cannot allow an application to set aside the charging order if the underlying judgment debt is sound.[5]


If the debtor (or anyone else who has been served with the interim charging order) wishes to object to the making of a final order, they must file written evidence and serve a copy on the creditor within 28 days of service of the interim order.[6]

If a hearing is required the court transfers the application to the judgment debtor's home court to consider whether to make a final charging order.[7] The court must serve notice of the hearing on the judgment creditor and everyone served with the interim charging order.[8]

Circumstances the court must consider

When considering whether to grant the charging order, the court must consider all relevant circumstances, in particular:[9]

  • the personal circumstances of the debtor, including their household composition, income

  • details and any change of circumstances, and

  • whether any other creditor would be prejudiced by the making of the order

Offers of payment

The debtor must follow the procedure for objecting to the charging order to make an offer of payment. This prevents enforcement by order for sale.

A financial statement should be attached to the written evidence to demonstrate the debtor's ability to make the payments. A court order setting payments also prevents any statutory interest being added to the debt, if applicable.[10]

Divorce/dissolution of civil partnership proceedings

If the debtor is involved in divorce/dissolution of civil partnership proceedings, they should follow the objection procedure. The case could then be transferred to the family court where the charging order application can be heard together with any claim for a property adjustment order.[11]

Alternatively, the proceedings may be adjourned, and a decision made once the family court has determined shares of the beneficial interest in the property.

Additional defences

In addition to the defences considered above, the court may refuse to grant a final charging order where:

  • the size of the debt is small compared with the value of the property[12]

  • the debtor has not broken the terms of the money judgment, or

  • there is evidence before the court that other creditors would be unfairly prejudiced by the making of the order[13]

Court's powers when considering a claim for a charging order

The court can:

  • dismiss the application for a final charging order

  • discharge the interim charging order

  • make an order for costs against either the debtor or the creditor

The court can also adjourn the hearing, for example where the debtor is in a position to repay the debt in a short period, or where the debtor's spouse or civil partner asserts that they have a beneficial interest in the property.

The court may attach conditions to the order to prevent or postpone an order for sale. Conditions can be set for the payment of the debt, or that enforcement must not take place before the youngest child reaches 18.[14]

If the charging order is made final, any fees paid by the creditor are usually recoverable from the debtor by adding them to the judgment debt.

A final charging order is issued on Form N87 and a copy is sent to all parties to the proceedings.

A charging order remains in place until the debt is satisfied, or the order is discharged or enforced by way of an order for sale.

Variation or discharge of a charging order

An application to vary a charging order can be made by anyone with an interest in the property to which the order relates, for example someone with a financial investment or a right of occupation.[15] The application is made to the court that made the charging order.[16]

If the debtor has paid the judgment debt in full, they can make an application for a certificate of satisfaction on form N443. The application should include evidence of payment where it is available.[17] If the creditor objects to the issue of the certificate, a hearing takes place in the debtor's home court.

Registration of a charging order

The creditor is responsible for registering any charging order, whether interim or final, at the Land Registry. Information about the procedures and fees charged are set out in the Land Registry Practice Guide 19.

In most circumstances the charge remains on the register until the debtor sells the property. Some mortgage lenders require charging orders to be satisfied before they agree to a remortgage, and they may provide additional funds for this purpose.

How a charging order is secured

A final charging order is a court order which secures a debt on the property of the person who is liable to pay it (the debtor). The charge is registered with the Land Registry.

Debts that can be secured by a charging order are:

  • County Court judgments

  • High Court judgments

  • council tax debts where the local authority has a liability order

The charging order imposes a legal or equitable charge on the property.

Legal charge

A legal charge is created where the judgment debt and charging order are made against:

  • a sole owner

  • all the joint owners

In this case, everyone liable for the debt is a legal owner of the property, so the charging order can grant the creditor a charge against the legal estate, in a similar way to a mortgage.

Equitable charge

An equitable charge is created where the judgment debt and charging order are made against:

  • one of two or more joint owners

  • someone who is not a legal owner

In this case, not everyone who is a legal owner of the property is liable for the debt, so the creditor's rights are restricted.

An equitable charge is secured against the debtor's financial stake in the property, not against the legal estate.

Charge against beneficial interest of non-legal owners

A beneficial owner is someone who is not a legal owner of a property but owns a financial stake in it. Their financial interest is held by the legal owner under a trust of land.

A creditor can apply for a charging order against the beneficial owner's interest. In practice, it could be difficult for a creditor to find out that a debtor owns a financial share in a property.

The beneficial ownership could be registered with the Land Registry.

Charge against freehold and leasehold interest

A legal charge can be secured against a debtor's freehold or leasehold interest in the property because both types of ownership are a legal estate in land. They are registered at the Land Registry.

A freehold interest is called an estate in fee simple. A leasehold interest is for a term of years absolute. The length of the lease is registered at the Land Registry.

Last updated: 15 September 2021


  • [1]

    s.1 Charging Orders Act 1979.

  • [2]

    CPR PD 73 1.2.

  • [3]

    s.1(6)-(8) Charging Orders Act 1979, as amended by s.93(2) Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Act 2007; s.3 Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Act 2007 (Commencement No. 8) Order 2012 SI 2012/1312.

  • [4]

    CPR PD 7E 5.7.

  • [5]

    Day v Carmichael [2021] 9 WLUK 135.

  • [6]

    CPR 73.10.

  • [7]

    CPR 73.4(6).

  • [8]

    CPR 73.4(7).

  • [9]

    s.1(5) Charging Orders Act 1979.

  • [10]

    Article 3, County Court (Interest on Judgment Debts) Order 1991.

  • [11]

    Harman v Glencross (1986) Fam 81, 1 All ER 498.

  • [12]

    Robinson v Bailey [1942] 1 All ER 498.

  • [13]

    Mercantile Credit Co Ltd v Ellis (1987) The Times 2 April, CA.

  • [14]

    Austin-Fell v Austin-Fell and Midland Bank plc [1990] 2 All ER 455.

  • [15]

    s.3(5) Charging Orders Act 1979.

  • [16]

    CPR 73.10B.

  • [17]

    CPR PD 4 Annex A.