If the people you owe money to have threatened you with Enforcement action, but a court warrant or writ hasn’t been made or you haven’t received a notice of enforcement, then Enforcement Agents have not yet been officially instructed to act against you.
You still have time and a range of options to prevent the Enforcement Agents from coming. If you’re dealing with enforcement action that began before 6 April 2014, different rules may apply. You should get advice from your local Citizens Advice Bureau.
If you’re behind on payments or owe money, it’s important that you deal with these debts before Enforcement Agents are instructed to act against you. Don’t bury your head in the sand and hope it will go away.
There are three key issues you should consider when trying to avoid Enforcement action:
- check whether you’re responsible for the debt you’re being chased to pay
- if you are responsible for the debt, speak to your creditor to negotiate a way to pay it back
- if you’re having problems with several creditors, consider whether a formal debt solution might be the best option for you.
Are you responsible for the debt?
If you’re being chased for debts you don’t think you owe, you should contact the creditor as quickly as possible to dispute the debt. Reasons include:
- You’re not the person named on the account
- You’ve already paid the debt or agreed a payment plan with the creditor
- You disagree with the amount of the debt
- You think the time limit for recovering the debt has run out
- If you’re not responsible for the debt, the creditor should stop chasing you for payment and not instruct Enforcement Agents to act against you
Negotiating with your creditor
If you agree that you’re responsible for the debt, but are struggling to pay it back, you should contact your creditor as soon as possible to discuss options for paying what you owe. This can be difficult, but is often less stressful in the long run. If your creditor doesn’t know you’re having difficulties paying what you owe, they’ll assume you don’t want to pay. Most creditors will appreciate it if you contact them to explain the problems you’re having. Options you might want to consider include the following:
- A payment plan, where you pay off the debt in instalments
- A reduced payment lump sum that the creditor will accept as full payment of your debt, for example if you are unlikely to be able to keep up with a repayment plan but have a valuable item that you could sell to raise a one-off sum
- Asking for the debt to be written off. Your creditor may consider this option if they are convinced that you have no belongings of value and no other realistic way to pay off the debt
Depending on the debt you owe, there are some further options for dealing with your creditors:
Different local authorities have different ways of dealing with council tax debts. If you’re behind on your council tax, you should contact your local authority’s council tax department to discuss dealing with your debt. You may be able to agree a payment plan to pay off what you owe, although it’s important you stick to any plan you agree. You should also check if you are eligible for a Council Tax Reduction.
Your local Citizens Advice Bureau may be able to tell you more about how your local council deals with council tax debts.
Parking fines or road traffic penalties
You can dispute or appeal parking fines that are issued by the council or police. Any penalty charge notice you receive will explain how you can do this. There is normally a time limit for appealing a fine, so it’s important to act quickly if you want to dispute it.
County Court Judgments (CCJs) and High Court Fines
If you owe money on a county court judgment (CCJ), you have to pay up when the order tells you to. If you don’t, they may instruct Enforcement Agents to act against you. However, there are other options for paying back what you owe, so you should discuss this with your creditor to see if you can find a way to avoid the Enforcement Agents. For example, you might be able to negotiate a plan to pay what you owe in instalments.
Business Rent Arrears
If you’re behind on your business rent, you may be able to find ways of dealing with the situation, such as negotiating with your landlord to pay what you owe back over a set period of time.
If you’re being threatened with enforcement action by one or more creditors, it’s likely that you have other debts that you’re struggling to pay. If you’re struggling to pay what you owe to one or more creditors, you should take some time to work out what you owe and draw up a budget which will show you all the money you have coming in and going out each month. This will help you work out if there’s anything left over to pay your creditors.
If you don’t have enough money left over each month to pay your debts, you might want to consider a formal debt solution. These include solutions like bankruptcy, individual voluntary arrangement (IVA), administration order (AO) and debt relief order (DRO). Each solution is different and will have an impact on your lifestyle. This means it’s important to find out about the features of each debt solution, to help you work out which is right for you. A formal debt solution isn’t the right option for everyone, but can help people who can’t see any realistic way of being able to pay off their debts.
For more information, please contact the Citizens Advice Bureau Advice Guide