Here at The Debt Advice Service we know from experience that there may be instances when a debt issue becomes a matter of urgency. This can be a stressful time for anyone involved, but there are steps you can take to deal with the situation, no matter how urgent it has become.
Amongst other things, you may find that you need urgent help if:
- You are expecting a visit from Court Enforcement Officers (Bailiffs)
- You are facing eviction over rent or mortgage arrears
- You are being taken to court over an outstanding debt
- Your gas or electricity is under threat of being cut off
In all of the above scenarios, the first thing to do is to contact your nearest Citizens Advice for advice and assistance:
But there are other things you can do to help…
- Make a List – Putting together an accurate and up to date list about all your debts, including contracts, bills and statements can help you bring a little more order to an urgent situation.Try not to panic, as this is a positive and proactive approach to the situation. Remember to include information on rent arrears, credit card debts, council tax arrears, utility bills and any money you may have borrowed from family or friends.It’s also important to include accurate details about who your creditor/s is/are, the date you first missed a payment, exactly how much you owe, any account or reference numbers and details on what action your creditor has taken to get the money back so far.
- Get Credit Reports – Make sure to obtain up to date credit reports, and to check that the details are accurate and up to date in terms of what you owe, and who you owe it to.Experian, Equifax and TransUnion all allow you access to free copies of your credit reports, and each ‘statutory report’ you ask for could have different information, so it’s worth getting hold of them all.
Credit reports provide a lot of information, but they won’t show if you have council tax arrears, unpaid income tax or benefit overpayments. They also won’t show any money you owe to friends and family, or to tradespeople.
- Check whether or not to contact your creditors – Creditors usually have a limit of 6 years in which they can take you to court to repay a debt. This time limit restarts as soon as you contact your creditor in writing, or if you make a payment. Once the time period has passed from the last payment being made (and without any further acknowledgement from the debtor) the debt is considered ‘statute barred’.
Rare in practice, a statute barred debt does not mean the debt no longer exists, but that lenders have run out of time to enforce the debt in certain ways. A debt becoming statute barred is not a ‘get out of jail free’ card and simply hoping the time passes is not an effective way of managing debt.
If you decide that you need to contact your creditors, tell them you’re trying to deal with the debts and ask them to confirm the details of the debt, to stop chasing you for payments in the interim whilst you work out your next steps and to stop adding interest and charges in order to prevent the debt from getting any bigger. Doing this via letter or email is the best approach, as you can then create a paper trail of your activity and their responses.
Once you’ve taken into consideration all of the above, you may also want to consider whether an Individual Voluntary Agreement (IVA) might be the right option for you.
This is an agreement with your creditors to pay all or part of your debts, a process where a person agrees to make regular payments to an Insolvency Practitioner, who then divides the money between the person’s creditors. This option gives people more control over their assets than bankruptcy, and you can find out whether you qualify for one here: