Top ten debt recovery myths.


There are a lot of misunderstandings by both creditors and debtors as to what can and cannot be done in respect of outstanding debts. Lets examine the “top ten” debt myths and dispels some of those misconceptions.

1) The myth – You must accept any offer of repayment made.

Most business owners will have heard a debtor say “I will offer to pay £2 per month. If you take me to Court  and  tell the Court my financial circumstances then you’ll be lucky to get £1 a month.”

It is possible for a debtor to file paperwork advising of their financial circumstances and to make derisory offers of repayment. However it is also open to you, the creditor to file a response, and if you have information suggesting that the debt can be repaid quicker – for example because the debtor has already told you it can – then the Court will make an appropriate final judgment.

2) The myth – You can refuse entry to a bailiff.

There is a lot of misleading information concerning what right of entry a bailiff has, though this is understandable as what a bailiff can and cannot do does vary according to the type of debt they are enforcing. Normally, when enforcing a normal civil warrant, it is true that a bailiff cannot force entry into a home. However, if a bailiff can gain peaceful entry, either through an unlocked door or a side garage, then this is permitted.

If however a bailiff has previously visited the premises and obtained a signed Controlled Goods Agreement, then it is different and  they can then force entry. If there are outbuildings, sheds or garages which are separate from the residential building, entry of those can also be forced.

Finally, there are circumstances when the bailiff may be able to obtain an order of the Court granting leave to force entry, for example if there is good evidence of a debtor hiding valuable assets in a property.

3)  The myth – A person is only liable to pay his “share” of a jointly and severally liable debt.

It is perhaps understandable that if you owe £10,000 jointly and severally with a business partner that you might think that you should only pay £5,000, as that is your share. However joint and several means that all parties are liable for the whole debt until it is paid. If your partner has no money then then the full debt will fall to you. What goes on between the business partners who share a debt  is not a concern for the creditor.

4) The myth – A claim form has to be personally served.

No a claim form does not have to be personally served. An individual can be served by post at their usual or last known residence and a company can be served by post at its registered office or principle place of trading. It follows that an application to set aside judgment made solely on the ground that the debtor was not served with the claim form, will normally fail.

5) The myth – A High Court Enforcement Officer or Bailiff cannot remove a vehicle if it is needed for your work.

There is some truth to this, but the situations where it actually applies are extremely limited. The High Court Enforcement Officer or Bailiff is not allowed to take control of or remove “tools of trade” – items that are needed by the debtor to do their job or run their business. And a vehicle could be a tool of trade, but that is only if it is exclusively used for business purposes. If the vehicle is also used for the school run, the weekly shop or any non-business related activity then it can be removed. However that is not all. It might also be the case that the vehicle is excessive for the business needs. The local painter and decorator will have difficulty in making a business case that he needs a top end Porsche to conduct his trade. In such cases the bailiff can take the expensive vehicle for sale at auction and replace it with a cheaper, more business suitable alternative.

6) The myth – Chasing a debt constitutes harassment.

Again, there can be some truth to this. The two key words to remember are “reasonable” and “proportionate.”

It is reasonable and proportionate to chase a debtor for payment if they default, or to send letters in compliance with Pre-Action protocols advising a debtor that you are intending to take Court action. It is unreasonable and disproportionate to attempt to contact the debtor several times a day by telephone or social media to remind them that they owe you money. It is not acceptable (and is in fact a criminal act) to physically assault or verbally threaten harm to a debtor.

7) The myth – A debtor can avoid the debt by making himself bankrupt.

Usually from the creditor’s perspective once they hear that a debtor has entered bankruptcy then the  debt is a “written off”. After all, what more can they do? For the debtor however, bankruptcy is by no means an easy option. The debtor’s means and circumstances will be reviewed and their assets liquidated. The debtor can be subject to an Income Payment Order, which requires them to pay their disposable income to the trustee in bankruptcy for the next three years. Whilst the formal bankruptcy normally lasts only 12 months, the damage to the debtor’s credit record will make obtaining credit or a mortgage extremely difficult for many years following.

8) The myth – All contracts or agreements have to be in writing

“There is no written contract – I never signed anything!”. Whilst it can make debt collection easier if there is a written document stating what the parties have agreed, there are only limited circumstances where there is a formal legal requirement for there to be a written contract. If you were so inclined, you could verbally agree with a builder that he will build you a bespoke mansion, in the same way you instruct the window cleaner to wash your windows! The absence of contract does not negate the debt!

9) The myth – A personal guarantee is no longer valid if the guarantor is no longer associated with the party he offered the guarantee for.

The relationship that the guarantor has with the party he is providing the guarantee for is distinct and separate from the relationship between the guarantor and lender. Thus, a person who gives a personal guarantee to the bank for the overdraft of his employer, but is subsequently dismissed by that employer, will remain liable to the bank for the overdraft.

10 )The myth – A debt is wiped out after six years.

This is a misconception about the provisions of the Limitation Act. A creditor who is owed money under simple contract and has failed to take formal legal action within six years from the cause of action, will be statutorily barred from issuing an action on that debt. A debt which is statute barred still exists, and can be paid by the debtor.

A creditor with such a debt should consider when the “cause of action” arose i.e. the date that the debt became formally due. If a debtor has “acknowledged” the debt at any time since the initial default date, the six year period may have restarted allowing a Court action to be taken.

If there has been no acknowledgement of the debt, a creditor can still apply to the Court to extend the limitation, though the Court would require very good reasons to do this. It should also be noted that in such cases a Creditor is usually only allowed to claim up to 6 years interest.

James Salmon
15th September 2017

Click here to see our other blogs

Keep up to date with the latest news by following us on social media:-

CPA on Linkedin

CPA on facebook

CPA on twitter

Watch the video to find out how CPA can help you

Read our Cash Flow Advice

Read about our overdue account recovery service

Read our blog – What is credit management?

Read our blog -What is a credit management company?

Read our blog -Credit Management that works!

Read our blog – How to select a debt collection agency

click to see read about our successes

Please call us on 0330 053 9263 to discuss how CPA can help your cashflow. Alternatively, either email us or use our contact form.

I consent to supplying my personal information that may be used for marketing purposes and agree with the privacy policy.