Debt collection in the wake of the pandemic

In these uncertain times, no matter how big or small your business is, managing cash flow can be challenging. One particular difficulty for many firms is dealing with debt collection. Maximising debt collection should be a priority for your business to secure your financial future, but it may be tough to navigate during the pandemic. At present, many of your debtors may be struggling financially, or claim they are unable to pay invoices.

One of the challenges we face when pursuing debts on behalf of a client is ascertaining the true financial circumstances of the debtor and obtaining maximum recovery of debt. Many debtors may try to get out of their obligations, claiming that coronavirus has severely impacted their business – even when this is not true. In this article, we look at debt collection during the coronavirus pandemic, to help you understand what options are available to you.

Communication is key

It is more important than ever to keep in regular contact with debtors. In challenging times, it can be easy for people’s minds to be focussed on other matters. You should ensure that you keep lines of communication open to fully understand the financial situation of those you are working with and to avoid costly disputes further down the line. In the first instance, try to come to an informal agreement with debtors who may have fallen behind.

Act quickly if debts remain unpaid

Most debtors are willing to work to resolve debts and invoice disputes to avoid further action. However, if a debtor refuses to pay, you will need to escalate the issue. Obtaining professional advice to review your options at an early stage can help. There is no need to attend our offices, as consultations can be carried out by telephone or video call.

When you have concerns about the debtor’s ability to pay what is owed to you, commencing legal proceedings at an early stage may allow you to obtain some form of security, meaning that if your debtor becomes insolvent, you have a better chance of recovering your debt.

Letters Before Action (LBA)

We can send a letter before action (LBA) to your debtor or debtors. Often a formal letter before action is enough to encourage a debtor to discuss their financial situation with you and to come to a suitable arrangement. A letter before action sets out:

  • Details of the debt
  • The consequences of not responding to the letter before action
  • Relevant deadlines for making payment or responding to the letter before action

Debt recovery court proceedings

If the debtor fails to make payment or respond to the LBA, we can then take steps to begin court proceedings. Debt recovery proceedings are typically issued through the County Court Bulk Centre (CCBC) or the County Court Money Claims Centre (CCMCC), both of these are currently open and in operation, despite lockdown.

We provide a fixed cost scheme for the collection of undisputed debts. We have procedures in place to ensure that once we have received your instructions, contact is made with the debtor as soon as possible in order to attempt to recover the amount owed.

In the event that payment is not forthcoming within the timetable that we set out in our initial letter, we can issue proceedings online so there are no delays with the paperwork being held up at the Court.

To understand more about our costs and timescales, please visit our Debt Recovery Costs Information Page.

Enforcement

In light of COVID-19, the Government made an amendment to the Taking Control of Goods Regulations (2013). At present, enforcement officers may not attend residential properties under writs of control. However, enforcement agents are working to contact debtors over the phone, by email and by text message.

Need to talk to us?

If you have any queries about the above or wish to speak to a member of our Dispute Resolution team then please telephone 01892 526344 or email enquiries@berryandlamberts.co.uk.

For further information on all our Commercial & Dispute Resolution services, please click here.

Whilst our offices are closed to the public during the coronavirus pandemic, we are offering a telephone or videolink appointment service which gives you one hour of time with a solicitor for £100 + VAT. Please get in touch if you feel this type of appointment would be beneficial.

The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice. The law may have changed since this article was published. Readers should not act on the basis of the information included and should take appropriate professional advice upon their own particular circumstances.