Commercial Disputes
By Emma McCaul
Latest News

Debt Recovery

Owed money by a client? Bad debts or late payments of your debts can badly affect you cash flow. Read this short guide to find out how to take back control of your cash flow and get paid now.

So what can I do if a client hasn’t paid me?

Sometimes all that is required to ensure that you get paid is clear communication. Start the process by picking up the phone with your client to give them a friendly reminder. Follow that up with a letter or an e-mail. Remind your client about the agreed payment terms. Apply interest to the late payments to incentivise clients to pay on time and remind clients that future work will be paused until all outstanding invoices are paid.

Next Steps

If a friendly reminder does not work, the next step is to serve a formal letter before action. This letter is the first step in the legal process and warns your client that action will be taken if the debt is not paid within a set period of time. Our debt recovery specialist Shane McCann can draft and serve this letter on your behalf.

Time Limits

Is there a time limit for bringing a legal claim for a debt? Yes there is. Normally, debt claims must be brought within 6 years of the date the debt fell due.

What if the letter before action does not work?

Normally the next stage is to initiate legal proceedings. However, an alternative and sometimes faster approach that can be used in certain circumstances is to launch insolvency proceedings, to either bankrupt a debtor if they are a person or wind up a debtor if they are a company. The first step in insolvency proceedings is to serve a Statutory Demand on the debtor. We can advise you as to when you should move forward with insolvency proceedings and we can undertake this specialised work on your behalf.

Normally the next steps if a letter before action does not work is to initiate court proceedings. The amount of the debt, including interest due, determines which court tier will deal with the case:

  • Small Claims Court – up to £3000.00

  • County Court – £3000.00 – £30,000.00

  • High Court – £30,000.00 +

(Between £3000.00 & £10,000.00, the case can be dealt within the District Judges Court, which is part of the County Court).

What should you do before starting legal action?

Before initiating court proceedings, status and credit checking is recommended. Court action can be costly, therefore carrying out the right checks can give you the confidence that the debtor is able to pay. These checks would include, Bankruptcy & Enforcement Judgement’s office searches, Company House searches and the Official Register for Judgements & Orders.  We can obtain these searches on your behalf.

I have obtained a Court Order against a debtor, what do I do next?

Once you obtain a court order, you should serve that court order on the debtor, giving them a reasonable period of time to comply with the order, normally 7 or 14 days.

If the debtor is still refusing to pay, you have 2 further potential steps:

  1. Issue Enforcement of Judgements office (EJO) proceedings. The EJO have responsibility in Northern Ireland to enforce Court Orders. Unfortunately, there are additional fees to enforce an order through the EJO.

  2. Issue insolvency proceedings. As previously outlined, you can issue bankruptcy proceedings against an individual who owes you money or winging up proceedings against a company who owes you money.

The above is a short guide to help you recover money due and owing to you.

If you would like advice & assistance on recovering your debt, please speak to our debt recovery specialist Shane McCann.

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