How Long Does a Judgement Really last?

A judgement is a legal confirmation that you owe money, resulting from a creditor’s lawsuit over unpaid debts. It significantly impacts your credit score, signalling to lenders a previous failure to meet financial obligations. 

A poor credit history can restrict your ability to secure future loans, obtain favourable interest rates, and rent properties. It can also lead to increased insurance premiums and cause emotional and psychological stress.

In South Africa, a judgement can last for 30 years. 

The credit provider has 30 years to collect the debt. They can use methods like taking money directly from your salary or taking your property to get the amount you owe.

Keep reading to find out what civil judgements are and how to avoid one. We will also discuss the legal process involved and the long-term impact on your credit score. 

Understanding Civil Judgements and Debt Imprisonment

What is a Civil Judgement? 

  • A civil judgement is a decision made by a court when someone doesn’t pay back money they borrowed as promised to a creditor. 
  • It includes a demand letter, a Section 129 Notice, a court summons, and potentially a court hearing.
  • It’s important to know that a judgement can be on your credit report for up to 7 years, but it can be enforced for as long as 30 years. Knowing how this works is crucial for dealing with the aftermath effectively.

What is Debt Imprisonment?

  • Debt Imprisonment in South Africa was the practice of imprisoning individuals solely because they couldn’t repay their debts. This harsh punishment was stopped in 2004 due to two important legal decisions. These decisions were made to ensure that debt collection processes are fair and that there’s proper oversight by the courts.
  • These rulings highlighted the unfairness of locking people up just because they owed money. They also established guidelines to ensure that debt collection practices are conducted fairly and are monitored by the courts.
  • Ending Debt Imprisonment has protected debtors’ rights and dignity by removing the threat of jail time for unpaid debts. It has also compelled creditors to adopt more equitable debt collection methods. 
  • Although you can’t be arrested directly for owing money anymore, failing to follow legal instructions related to your debt, such as a court order, could lead to arrest.  The only time you can go to jail for unpaid debt is under the following circumstances: If you fail to pay child maintenance, if you do not pay your SARS tax bill or if you fail to appear in court after being issued with a summons and financial fraud. 

The Consequences on Your Credit Score 

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Credit Score Impact

A judgement significantly lowers your credit score, making it challenging to secure new credit.

Long-Term Effects

The impact of a judgement can linger for years, emphasising the importance of addressing it promptly. 

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Early Removal Strategies 


Settling the debt in full can remove a judgement from your credit report before the five-year mark. Negotiating a settlement with the creditor demonstrates responsibility and can expedite the process of clearing your record.

Proof of Payment

Keeping detailed records of payments and communications is essential for ensuring accurate reporting.

Managing Judgements Effectively

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Contact a reputable company such as Debt Rescue to consolidate your debt affordably. A debt counsellor can provide legal debt solutions and guidance through the debt review process. 

Negotiations with Creditors

Debt Rescue will engage in negotiations and could lead to revised repayment terms and reduced interest rates. By taking action, you will reduce the chance of being served a judgement and experiencing its negative effects. Open communication with creditors is key to finding mutually beneficial solutions.

What if you already have a judgement against your name? 

Ensure that you stick to the agreed upon repayment schedule as issued by the court. If you can pay more than the agreed amount each month, this will help speed up the process. Once your debt has been settled in full, you’ll need to go to the court where your judgement was issued and present the court with a paid-up letter. Once the court approves the paid-up letter the judgement against your name will be removed. 

Staying Informed and Take Control 

Understanding and effectively managing your debt is key to overcoming their financial challenges. Engage with professionals like Debt Rescue. By staying informed and taking proactive steps you can take control of your financial future and build a solid foundation for long-term success.

Are you struggling with debt while earning an income? Do you owe more than R35K in total to creditors? If so, let our expert counsellors provide a no-obligation, cost-free assessment to consolidate and reduce your monthly repayments for immediate financial relief.

Contact us to speak with our expert counsellors and start your journey toward financial freedom.

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