THE UK INSOLVENCY HELPLINE

REVIEW PACK FOR PEOPLE WHO CAN AFFORD TO MAKE PAYMENTS TO THEIR CREDITORS

F A C T S H E E T N O 27

This pack is designed to help you negotiate offers of payment with your creditors. It includes example letters and a blank personal budget sheet. You should make photocopies of the blank personal budget sheet so that you have some spare ones. Warning: This pack is about credit debts e.g. unsecured loans and overdrafts, catalogues, credit cards, credit sale agreements and so on. If you want help with priority debts - which includes things like rent/mortgage, secured loans, council tax, and electricity arrears - use our information pack “Dealing with your debts” and phone us for advice.

If a creditor sends you a blank personal budget sheet to complete, you could use this or send your own instead. It is also a good idea to let creditors know about all of your debts and the payments that you are offering. That way, they can see that they are not the only creditor who needs to be paid and they can see that everyone is getting a fair share. Hopefully, your creditors will accept your offer and agree to freeze any interest and other charges they are adding. In that case, continue making payments but make a note of when the creditor is due to review the situation so you can be prepared. You could ask the creditor for a payment booklet or payment slips, or some other payment facility, to make it easier for you to pay.

WHAT DO I DO IF MY OFFER IS REFUSED? Action creditors can take and what you can do
If a creditor refuses your offer and demands increased payments, do the following. • Don’t give up. Write to them again. Letter B at the end of this factsheet may be useful for this. To try and persuade the creditor to accept your offer, you could start making payments anyway, If some of your creditors have accepted your offers, let the creditors who are refusing know.

REVIEWS
At some stage you may receive a request from your creditors for your payment arrangement to be reviewed or for an increased offer of payment. If you are not able to increase your offer, it is important that you tell your creditor this. You may find Letter A at the end of the factsheet helpful. A creditor will usually want to see an up-to-date copy of your personal budget sheet as part of the review.

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If a creditor accepts your offer but refuses to freeze interest and other charges. • See the section on interest below.

WHAT IF A CREDITOR TAKES COUNTY COURT ACTION?
If you receive a county court claim form. • It is important to remember that it is not a criminal offence to make reduced payments to your creditors, you cannot be imprisoned because of this. The county court is there to settle disputes about money owed and how to repay it. The county court should only expect you to pay what you can afford and you are given an opportunity to make an affordable offer on the "Reply Form" which is sent with the county court claim. You can use your personal budget sheet to help you complete the form and you should offer to pay the amount you have already worked out. Remember to return the form within the time limit and to the creditor’s address shown in the “Address for service” box. Do not send it back to the court. The court will write to you to let you know how much you have to pay and when to pay. Follow the payment instructions carefully. Remember; payments are made to the creditor, not the court. You could ask the creditor for an easy payment method to make it easier to pay. It is very rare that you have to actually go to court. Everything is usually done by completing court forms. However, if you are told by the court to pay more than you can afford, you can ask the court to reconsider your offer, and you would then have to go to court. When you get a county court judgment (CCJ) interest on the debt is usually frozen automatically by the court.

If a creditor refuses your offer and passes your account to their collections department, a debt collector or a solicitor. • Collections departments, debt collectors and solicitors have no more powers than the original creditor. All they can do is ask you for payment. If you receive a letter from any of these, write to them with your offer of payment. Letters A and B at the end of this factsheet may be helpful.

If a debt collector comes to your home demanding payment.

Door to door collectors have no right to enter your property or remove your goods. You do not have to let them in if you don’t feel comfortable. Tell them you are already dealing with their company in writing. All they are allowed to do is ask for payment. Do not let them persuade you to pay more than you have offered. You could show them your personal budget sheet to prove that you cannot offer any more. If you are having problems with a collection agency we have a detailed factsheet on "Harassment." Phone us for advice.

If a creditor threatens court action. • Creditors may send you a default notice telling you how much you owe and that they may take further action if you don’t pay. Creditors usually send this before sending your account to their collections department, a debt collector or a solicitor. Creditors have to send you a default notice for agreements regulated by the Consumer Credit Act before taking court action. If you get a default notice it does not mean you will definitely be taken to court. •

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As long as you do not miss payments or pay late, no further action can be taken by your creditor. So it is important to pay on time. You should not, for example, pay several instalments in advance and then miss payments, unless the creditor has agreed to this beforehand.

If creditors are refusing to freeze interest you could threaten to withhold payments until they do, particularly if your payments don’t even cover the interest.

WHAT IF MY CIRCUMSTANCES CHANGE?
You need to reduce your offer • If your situation gets worse and you are no longer able to afford the offers you have made, you will need to draw up a new personal budget sheet and work out new offers of payment. Our self-help pack, "Dealing with your Debts" explains how to work out offers of payment to creditors. If you do not have a pack, phone us for advice. Send each creditor a new personal budget sheet, including the new offers and a letter explaining the change in your circumstances. If you have a county court judgment (CCJ) you have to follow a different procedure. You work out your offer of payment as above, but you then need to apply to the court for reduced payments. This is done on a court form called an N245, which you can get from your local county court. You need to complete the form, make your offer of payment and then send it to the county court where judgment was entered. The court will then write to tell you how much to pay. Please note that there is a fee (currently £35) for this application. We have a factsheet on "Reducing payments or suspending a warrant on a county court judgment." Phone us for advice.

Pay each and every month if that is what the court has told you to do. If you are asking for a payment booklet, don’t delay payments because you are waiting for it to arrive. If you have a county court judgment and your debts are under £5,000 in total, you could ask for the county court to deal with your debts through an "Administration Order". We have a factsheet on "Administration orders." Phone us for advice. For more information about court action, see our pack "Dealing with your Debts". If you don’t have a pack, phone us for advice. We have a factsheet on "Replying to a county court claim form." Phone us for advice.

INTEREST
It is very important to try and get creditors to freeze interest. It makes it much more difficult to reduce the balance you owe if creditors won't do this. If you are offering small payments, the interest being added may be more than you are offering, and the debt will get bigger. Keep trying to persuade your creditors to freeze interest. Letter C, at the end of this factsheet, may help you. If some creditors freeze interest, let the creditors who are refusing to freeze interest know about this. Remember; if you are sued in the county court, interest on the debt is normally frozen, and it can be a good idea to remind the creditors of this.

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You cannot afford any payments • If your circumstances are such that you are unable to offer anything, you could ask the creditors to accept no payments or, if you prefer, a small or "token" payment of £1.00 per month. Send a personal budget sheet and a letter to explain why you cannot pay. We have a "Review pack for people who have no available income." Phone us for advice. If you have a county court judgment, follow the same procedure outlined in the section 'you need to reduce your offer' but offer a token payment such as £1.00 per month, using form N245. You can increase your offer • If your situation improves and you can offer more, work out increased offers to each creditor and contact them with the new offers of payment. If you have a county court judgment there is no need to apply for increased payments through the court. Just contact the creditor directly and start paying more, but make sure you pay by the date the court has already told you to pay by. You may be able to make payments to your creditors through a free debt management plan. This would mean making one monthly payment which is divided up and sent to your creditors for you. To see if you are able to do this, phone us for advice.

have a detailed factsheet on "Harassment." Phone us for advice. Below are some of the threats which you may come across or hear about. However, these threats are often either untrue or misleading. Imprisonment You cannot be imprisoned because you cannot afford to repay credit debts.
Bailiffs

Creditors cannot send a bailiff, or anyone else, to your home to remove goods just because you cannot afford to pay what they want. Bailiffs can only be used if you have a county court judgment and you miss payments that the court has ordered you to make. Even then, if they have never been in to your property they have no right to force entry. It is fairly straightforward to stop bailiffs. We have a detailed factsheet "Reducing payments or suspending a warrant on a county court judgment." Phone us for advice. Your home Creditors with whom you have credit type debts that are not secured on your home, cannot take your home from you because you cannot afford to pay what they want. A creditor can only attempt to get a charging order put on your home if you have a county court judgment and have missed payments or the court orders you to pay your judgment in one lump sum immediately and you do not pay. We have a factsheet on “Charging orders in the county court.” Phone us for advice. Your wages

THINGS CREDITORS CANNOT DO
Harassment Your creditors are allowed to contact you from time to time to ask you for payment, but they must not threaten or harass you. If they do this to try to make you pay, they may be committing a criminal offence. We
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Creditors cannot have money taken out of your wages just because you cannot pay what they want. A creditor can only attempt to do this if you have a county court

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Information judgment and have missed payments. Even then, it should be possible to stop it happening. We have a detailed factsheet on "Attachment of earnings in the county court." Phone us for advice. Creditors will sometimes demand information which they do not need, for example, your employer's address, or your bank account number. You do not have to give this sort of information to them if you do not want to. You will be asked to provide a bit of information about your employer and bank account if they take court action, but that is all.

REMEMBER: You can always contact us for advice about any difficulty you have in dealing with your debts.

Freephone: 0800 074 6918 Website: www.insolvencyhelpline.org
© Copyright Money Advice Trust (updated May 2006)
Whilst we endeavour to keep our factsheets as up to date as possible, The UK Insolvency Helpline cannot be held responsible for changes in legislation or for developments in case law since this edition of the factsheet was issued.

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SAMPLE LETTER A The sample letters are designed to help you negotiate with your creditors. When you are writing them out you can change the letters by adding or removing sections. For example, the parts in square brackets ‘[ ]’ can be left out if they are not suitable in your circumstances. (Your home address) ______________________ ______________________ ______________________ Date:____________________ To:_____________________________ _____________________________ _____________________________ Dear Sir/Madam Account No:_________________________________________________ I/we note that the above account is due to be reviewed. I/we enclose a personal budget sheet which shows that my/our overall financial circumstances have not improved since you were last contacted. I/we would be grateful, therefore, if you would continue to accept my/our monthly payments, as already agreed, and also continue to freeze interest and other charges on the account. Should my/our circumstances improve I/we will contact you again. I/we look forward to receiving your comments and thank you for your co-operation in this matter.

Yours faithfully

(Your signature) Enc

REMEMBER TO KEEP A COPY OF LETTERS YOU SEND TO YOUR CREDITORS

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SAMPLE LETTER B The sample letters are designed to help you negotiate with your creditors. When you are writing them out you can change the letters by adding or removing sections. For example, the parts in square brackets ‘[ ]’ can be left out if they are not suitable in your circumstances. (Your home address) _________________________ _________________________ _________________________ Date:________________________ To:_____________________________________ _____________________________________ _____________________________________

Dear Sir/Madam Account No: I/we refer to my/our recent letter and your reply regarding the above account. I am/we are disappointed to learn that you will not accept my/our offer of payment. My/our offer has been worked out after careful assessment of my/our financial situation. As I/we have no available income, I/we have offered you a token payment as a gesture of goodwill. Making a higher offer to you would be unfair to my/our other creditors and I/we cannot afford to pay any more due to my/our current circumstances. All of my/our other creditors have been sent a copy of my/our personal budget sheet and [all] [most] [or insert the number who have] have so far accepted my/our offer of payment. If you were to sue me/us in the county court, I/we would continue to offer this amount and I am/we are confident it would be accepted by the court. I/we would therefore be grateful if you would reconsider your reply to the above offer Yours faithfully

Your signature)

REMEMBER TO KEEP A COPY OF LETTERS YOU SEND TO YOUR CREDITORS
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SAMPLE LETTER C The sample letters are designed to help you negotiate with your creditors. When you are writing them out you can change the letters by adding or removing sections. For example, the parts in square brackets ‘[ ]’ can be left out if they are not suitable in your circumstances. (Your home address) ______________________ ______________________ ______________________ Date:____________________ To:_____________________________ _____________________________ _____________________________ Dear Sir/Madam Account No. Thank you for your letter/telephone call of ____________ concerning the above account. I am/we are sorry that you feel unable to suspend interest charges on the above account. [All] [most] [or insert the number who have] of my/our creditors have agreed to suspend interest charges still accruing. They have accepted that to continue to charge interest would not assist me/us in my/our present financial difficulties, and can only serve to increase my/our total debt. [As you are aware, I/we have already paid considerable sums in interest to my/our account. If interest charges continue the monthly instalments I am/we are paying will not even cover that interest. Also, the co-operation of my/our other creditors who have agreed to freeze interest already would be put at risk]. I/we would therefore be grateful if you would reconsider your decision not to freeze the interest. [This would mean that the monthly payments I/we make would actually reduce the balance owing to your company]. I/we look forward to hearing from you as soon as possible. Yours faithfully

(Your signature)

REMEMBER TO KEEP A COPY OF LETTERS YOU SEND TO YOUR CREDITORS
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SAMPLE LETTER D The sample letters are designed to help you negotiate with your creditors. When you are writing them out you can change the letters by adding or removing sections. For example, the parts in square brackets ‘[ ]’ can be left out if they are not suitable in your circumstances (Your home address) _______________________
_______________________ _______________________

Date:______________________ To:_______________________________ _______________________________
_______________________________

Dear Sir/Madam Account No: __________________________________________________ I/we note that the above account is due to be reviewed. My/our overall circumstances have not improved since you were last contacted. As the enclosed personal budgets sheet shows, I/we still have no available income to make payments to my/our creditors after allowing for essential expenditure. You will note, that I/we have been [unable to make payments] [have only been able to make token payments] for [insert the number of months or years]. [ insert information here about your personal circumstances, e.g. long-term unemployment, sick, elderly, on a low income, lone parent etc]. Realistically, my/our circumstances are [never going to improve] [not going to improve in the foreseeable future]. In view of my/our long-term financial difficulties, I/we would ask you to consider writing-off the debt that I/we have with your company. If you are not prepared to do this, I/we would ask you to accept no payments for a period of six months and to freeze interest and other charges accruing on the account. If, at the end of this period, my/our circumstances have still not improved, I/we would ask you to reconsider writing off the debt. I/we look forward to receiving your comments and thank you for your co-operation in this matter. Yours faithfully

(Your signature) REMEMBER TO KEEP A COPY OF LETTERS YOU SEND TO YOUR CREDITORS

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