The Debt Collection Process
The Debt Collection Process
There are three main stages to the debt recovery process. Stage 1 typically consists of a letter before action which informs the debtor of the value of the debt outstanding and gives the debtor a deadline by which they need to pay by or reply to the demand.
If there is no reply and the debt has not been paid or an agreement for repayment reached, then the next stage is to start legal proceedings through the County Court and obtain Judgment. If a Judgment debt remains unpaid after the time stipulated by the court then the final stage 3 involves making an application for Enforcement.
Below we explain in more detail what each of these stages entails and how our debt recovery team at Rotheras can help.
For information about our fees relating to each of these stages, see our page Debt Collection Fees.
Stage 1: pre legal collections
Letter before action
Stages of process:
- Carry out a full credit check on your debtor;
- Carry out an insolvency and judgments search if your debtor is an individual;
- Calculate any interest payable pursuant to your terms and conditions or apply late payment interest and penalties on each invoice pursuant to the Late Payment of Commercial Debts (Interest) Act 1998 for business debts;
- Send a letter before action promptly upon receiving your instructions;
- Acknowledge your instructions by email to confirm that the letter before action has been sent out, by what method and with details of the amount demanded including interest and costs if and where appropriate;
- When the deadline in the letter expires we will contact you to check whether payment has been received, and if not we will advise you about your further options and the next course of action.
Stage2: Court claims-issue claim/Issue of Proceedings-Obtaining Judgement
If payment is not made in full after our pre-issue demand, we will seek your instructions to start legal proceedings at the County Court.
Stages of process:
- Before issuing proceedings, we will carry out a further credit check/insolvency search on your debtor as appropriate
- We will add any applicable fixed costs, court fees and interest (statutory or contractual) to the debt and these will be payable by the debtor if a successful order and recovery is made
- On receipt of the Claim Form the debtor has 14 days to state whether he will:Pay the claim in full;
- Admit the claim and make an offer to pay in full by a certain date or by instalments;
- Part admit the claim/part defend the claim; or
- Defend the claim in full.
- If the debtor responds, we will contact you and advise you accordingly
- If the debtor fails to respond to the Court and fails to pay within the 14 day time limit, we will automatically ask for a judgment in Default to be entered against the debtor.
- Ultimately if a judgement debt remains outstanding and/or the debtor fails to comply with an order for instalments payments set by the Court you can proceed to the final stage of recovery which is enforcement.
- County Court judgements made against debtors are recorded on the Register of County Court Judgments for six years, unless the full amount of the judgment debt is paid within one month, in which case the debtor can apply to cancel the entry. If the full amount is paid after one month the debtor can apply for a certificate of satisfaction but the entry will remain on the register marked as “satisfied”.
Stage 3: Enforcement-Debt recovery
Writs/warrants of control/execution
Any recovery made depends on the debtor’s ability to pay and whether there are any assets that may be seized, or repayment agreements entered into.
High Court Enforcement Officer (for debts over £600)/County Court Bailiff (for debts up to £5000)
Enforcement Agents have the power to seize and sell the debtor’s goods to cover the amount of the debt, however they only have right of peaceful entry. They will try to contact the debtor to allow them an opportunity to pay the debt, often by instalments.
Timescales: This typically takes from 3-12 weeks
This process enables a judgement creditor to secure payment of the judgement debt upon any equity in a debtor’s property. If a Charging Order is granted, the judgement creditor can register a charge or a restriction over the debtor’s property with the Land Registry so that when the debtor eventually sells the property or there is a change in title, the judgement creditor should get paid provided there is sufficient equity.
Timescales: Once the application has been made to court an interim charging order can sometimes be obtained within 2-4 weeks, and a final charging order within a further 4-8 weeks (if not contested). However the timescale can vary depending on whether an objection is filed by the debtor or if the court lists the case for a hearing.
Attachment of Earnings
If the judgement debtor is employed, an Attachment of Earnings order can be made against wages, salaries, and fees (but not against self-employed income). This order requires an employer to make regular deductions from the judgement debtor’s earnings and make payments into court in order to satisfy the judgement debt.
Timescales: It can typically take from 6 weeks to 4 months from the application being issued by the court to obtain an Attachment of Earnings Order, depending on the response of the debtor and employer.
Third Party Debt Order
If you know that the debtor has money held by a third party, you can make an application to the court to prevent the debtor’s access to that money and have it paid direct to you. The most common application of this method is against the bank account of the judgement debtor. A Third Party Debt Order requires the third party to pay the cash owed to the judgement debtor direct to the judgement creditor in order to satisfy the judgement debt.
Timescales: A third party debt order can sometimes be obtained within about 8-12 weeks of the application being issued by the court, but this can vary depending on the court and on the response of the third parties and the debtor.
Instead of a letter before action and as an alternative debt collection procedure, a Statutory Demand can be served on the debtor under the Insolvency Act. This is a formal demand which precedes the presentation of a Winding Up Petition against a company or a Bankruptcy Petition against an individual.
To proceed down this route the debt must be over £5000 and you must not know of any dispute in relation to your claim, or a debtor can apply to the County Court to set the Statutory Demand aside.
Stages of process:
- A Statutory Demand must be personally served on the debtor. We will arrange this on your behalf by instructing a process server.
- If the debtor does not pay the debt or contest the demand within 21 days of receipt, you can start formal insolvency proceedings.
Due to the formal appearance of a Statutory Demand and the possible consequences of non-payment, this is a much more aggressive and effective method of recovering payment.
A typical statutory demand will require:
- 1-2 hours preparation
- Instructing a process server
“We recover your money whilst also ensuring our own fees are transparent throughout”
Debt Recoveries Manager
"Impressive group with expertise in both matrimonial finance cases and children matters. A strong childcare team handles cases involving physical and emotional abuse, as well as fatalities. Well versed in matters with international aspects, Hague Convention cases, as well as adoption and guardianship issues.
Chambers UK, 2018
Anton Balkitis frequently represents the operators of both goods and passenger vehicles in court proceedings. Clients remark: "He has a commercial understanding of real-life issues and will always provide a balanced view
Chambers UK, 2019
Impressive group with expertise in both matrimonial finance cases and children matters. A strong childcare team handles cases involving physical and emotional abuse, as well as fatalities. Well versed in matters with international aspects, Hague Convention cases, as well as adoption and guardianship issues.
Chambers UK, 2018
Chris Powell at Rotheras was recommended to us by a trusted associate within the Transport Industry; without doubt we wouldn’t have had the excellent outcome we did without his and his team’s involvement. The level of professionalism, expert advice and assistance was faultless; we felt reassured and well informed throughout the whole process. It was a pleasure to do business with him and would highly recommend his services!
Julian Brindley - John Brindley Ltd
The team at Rotheras, and Mr Powell in particular, have provided us with an outstanding service. We are extremely grateful for the help and support they gave us in dealing with issues relating to our transport operations and our goods vehicle operators licence. Mr Powell was professional, knowledgable, efficient and effective. He quickly understood our business and the problem we had. He responded with sensible advice and acted quickly on our behalf to resolve the matter. I cannot thank him enough for his help and I would recommend Mr Powell, and the Rotheras team, without hesitation. I am extremely grateful for the help they gave us.
Richard Hitchcock - Hitchcock & King
I would highly recommend James Briggs, solicitor at Rotheras. He has been extremely helpful, patient and thorough whilst helping me with affairs following the death of my husband. Even during lockdown (covid) he maintained communication and kept me informed of what was happening. He successfully achieved the outcome I needed and I would not hesitate to recommend him.
We are in the middle of launching our own packaging agency and contacted Rotheras for some professional legal advice with regards to contracts. After an initial call with Billy, he made it clear what we needed and asked plenty of questions to understand what it was we needed. He was very responsive to our questions, whether it be over the phone or via emails and made the process really simple. We had little experience in this area so it was fantastic to work with Billy, who explained everything concisely. We were also really pleased with the quick turnaround and great value offered. Would thoroughly recommend working with Rotheras.
Tom Burden, Director of Rightbox Ltd
Billy understood our requirement from the get go and really nailed down on what we needed in our commercial agency agreement. Billy kept us informed every step of the way and showed great professionalism. We would recommend his services to any start-up business who is in need of legal advice and guidance with commercial contracts.
Axl Barber, Sales Director of Rightbox Ltd
I was extremely pleased with the service that Kerry provided in order to sell my mothers house. Good, prompt communication and all questions dealt with or answered as requested. Consequently I would recommend yours services to others.
Anton has substantial experience acting for commercial goods hauliers and other transport operators. He advises on a range of contentious issues including operator licence, maintenance and tachograph matters, with a wealth of experience acting in public inquiries before Traffic Commissioners."Anton is a highly informed and personable lawyer.
Chambers UK, 2020
Chris Powell focuses his practice on road transport issues, regularly representing haulage, transport and logistics companies. He has considerable experience in regulatory matters involving operator licences and compliance failings, as well as more serious criminal investigations relating to fraud.
Chambers UK, 2020
Dear Sally, I can’t thank you enough for today! You took the pressure off me and I felt so looked after and understood everything that was happening. Thank you so much!
Terhi Sygrove is a debt recovery specialist and head of the debt recovery department at Nottingham-based law firm Rotheras Solicitors.
Paige Regardsoe is a Solicitor in our Dispute Resolution department and is based at our Lace Market office.
Susan White is a Senior Paralegal in Rotheras Debt Recovery and Family Law department.
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