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Help with prioritising your debts

UK Loans provides help for those of you with good or adverse credit.

Once you step beyond the doors of your high street bank, the financial world can look very daunting, even finding out where you can go to get expert advice isn't as simple as it could be until now.

Credit Debts

How to Deal with credit debts or priority debts.

What do I Do If I Have Money Left To Pay Creditors?

Credit Debts - What Are They?

These include lots of different types of debts where the creditor hasn’t got extra powers (for example, they cannot take your home).This means they do not have to be treated as a priority. The most common credit debts include: credit-card debts; personal loans with finance companies; bank and building society loans, overdrafts and credit cards; charge cards; catalogues; personal debts to friends and family; doorstep-collected loans; credit sale agreements; and trading cheques or vouchers.

We have included sections on common credit debts where there are particular things you should look out for.

Warning - Other credit debts
There are also other credit debts that are not so straightforward to deal with. You should contact us for advice if you have debts for: rent, phone, gas and electricity from a previous property or supplier; hire-purchase or conditional-sale agreements where the goods have gone back to the company; debts with cheque-cashing services; gambling and spread betting debts; business debts; or professional fees (solicitors’, vets’ bills and so on).

Dealing With Credit Debts - The Options?

There are different options for dealing with your credit debts depending on your circumstances. We have outlined some of the main options below. You need to be very careful when you decide what the best option is for you. This will depend on lots of factors such as your income, level of debts, assets and whether you own your home. Your credit rating will normally be affected whatever option you decide to take.

What Do I Do If I Have Money Left to Pay Creditors


Offers Of Payment - Pro-Rata

You can work out offers of payment based on a ‘pro-rata distribution’ of your available income. This means you offer all your creditors a fair share of what you can afford to pay. You also need to ask that any interest and charges are frozen. We show you how to work out a pro-rata offer on page 28 of the pack. You can then write to your creditors using the sample letter on page 30 and ask them to accept your offer and freeze the interest. You may be able to do this through a free debt-management plan. See below.

Individual Voluntary Arrangements (IVA)

There is an alternative to bankruptcy called an individual voluntary arrangement (IVA).This is a formal arrangement through the county court to pay an agreed amount off your debts over a shorter period, such as five years. The rest are written off. The IVA will be set up by an insolvency practitioner whose fees can be very high. Creditors can stop the IVA going ahead by voting against it. It is usually only worth looking at if you have a lot of money available every month to pay your creditors or you have a lump sum or assets that you can include. You need to be careful if you own your own home as you may risk losing it. The rules on IVA's may be changing to make it simpler and more straightforward to apply.

Free Debt-Management Plan (DMP)

Could you pay using a free DMP? This means you make one payment every month to cover all your credit debts.This will be divided up and sent to your creditors for you. You will not have to negotiate direct with your creditors to accept your offers and freeze the interest. Contact National Debtline for advice. They may be able to help you set up a free DMP if: you have at least three credit debts; your money for credit debts is £100 a month or more; and you owe at least £5,000. For a fact sheet on Debt-management plans, call National Debtline on 0808 808 4000 or visit the The National Debtline website for advice.

Offering a Lump Sum To Clear Your Debts

If you have a lump sum that is less than the full balance you owe on your debts, you can ask your creditors to accept a lump-sum payment and write off the rest of the debts. You may be able to do this because you have come into some money or have some savings you can use. Creditors do not have to accept an offer in ‘full and final settlement’ but if your circumstances are unlikely to improve, they may agree to your offer.

Administration Orders

When you have been taken to the county court, you might be able to apply for an administration order. This is a way of putting all your debts together and making one monthly payment into the court. The court then shares it among your creditors. For some types of debt, you can only include arrears.The total of the debts must be no more than £5000. Your creditors then can’t take any further action against you if you have an administration order. You can get the application form (form N92) from your local county-court office. You may need help in filling in the application form as local courts deal with administration orders differently.

Obtaining a New Loan and Consolidating Your Debts

You need to think very carefully before deciding to add all your debts together and pay them off with a new loan. This may not be the best option for you, especially if your lender wants to secure the loan on your home. This means you could have your home repossessed if you do not keep up with the payments. Before agreeing to a consolidation loan visit The National Debtline website.

I Don't Have Money Left to Pay Creditors

No Token Payments or Payments

After paying your outgoings and making arrangements to pay your priority debts, there may be nothing left to pay other creditors. If you have nothing left, say so. Show your creditors by sending them your personal budget and a letter to back this up. Ask your creditors to hold action until your circumstances improve.This is called asking for a ‘moratorium’. Or offer a token payment of £1 a month to each creditor instead.

Can My Creditors Write Off All My Debts?

If you have no money for creditors and no assets, creditors may agree to write off your debts. Creditors only rarely agree to do this but it may be an option if your circumstances are extremely difficult or distressing due to illness, age or a death in the family.


Bankruptcy is really a last resort and most creditors are unlikely to make you bankrupt. You must owe £750 or more to that creditor before they can make you bankrupt. It costs them money in court fees and they are unlikely to get the debt paid back to them unless you have assets that can be sold to pay your debts. The aim of bankruptcy is to claim assets that can go towards paying off your creditors. Once you are bankrupt, your creditors can usually take no further action against you. You can make yourself bankrupt but the fees are high. Going bankrupt can have important consequences, particularly if you own your home and it is worth more than your mortgage. Your home could be sold as an asset. Bankruptcy can be a solution if you owe a lot of money, have no assets, and can see no way of ever paying the debts off. There are new bankruptcy rules (from April 2004) under the Enterprise Act. You are made bankrupt normally for up to one year. Usually debts that have not been paid are then written off and you are ‘discharged’ from the bankruptcy. You may still have to make monthly payments for a total of three years under the terms of your bankruptcy order. If a creditor has threatened to make you bankrupt or you think it may be an option for you to consider.

Working Out Offers of Payment

Minimal Offers

Don’t worry if your offers look very small. Your creditors would rather you pay a small amount regularly than make promises you can’t keep to.

What happens If One of My Creditors Had Already Taken Me To Court?

You should include this debt with your credit debts and work out the offer of payment in the same way. If this is less than the amount the court has ordered you to pay, you may need to apply to the court to reduce the amount. This will mean you are treating all your creditors fairly and you are not paying one creditor more than you can afford.

What Is The Name on the Agreement - Check It

Only the person who signs an agreement is responsible for the debt. A husband and wife are not responsible for each other’s debts unless they both sign the agreement. If you take out an agreement jointly with another person, you are each responsible for the whole debt and not just part of it. Make sure the creditor knows that someone else is responsible. Check your credit agreement carefully. If you don’t understand the terms or want to check that the agreement is in the correct format and that you are legally responsible for the debt, go to your local trading standards department or contact us for advice.


Creditors may ask for a guarantor before agreeing to lend money.This means that if the person who has borrowed the money does not pay it back, the guarantor will be asked to pay. If you have a guarantor for one of your credit debts, or are a guarantor for someone else, contact us for advice.


If You Are Under 18

People under 18 can only be made to pay for ‘essential goods and services’ bought on credit such as fuel supplies. If you are under 18 and have an agreement for non-essential goods or services, you cannot be taken to court if you owe money for them. However, it is not always clear which things are ‘essential’. The court can decide this for each case. Generally parents are not responsible for their children’s debts unless they have signed a guarantee.

Debt Interest

Debts have two parts – the money borrowed and the interest. Interest is the charge for lending you the money. Debts have interest added in different ways. Fixed term loans. Interest is worked out at the beginning of your loan and included in your monthly payments. Sometimes extra interest called ‘default interest’ is charged if you miss a payment. Ask the creditor to freeze any default interest they are adding. Revolving credit agreements. These cover credit cards, bank overdrafts and some loan agreements. Interest in some cases is worked out on a daily basis, and in others on the amount you still owe each month, and charged regularly to your account. This means your debt grows every month, unless the payments you make are higher than the interest being added. Also the company may change the interest rates and add extra charges. Ask the creditor to freeze all the interest and charges. To find out if interest is still being added to any of your debts, check your agreement for details.

Are You Still Paying Interest?

Your debt will continue to grow if your new monthly offer of payment to the creditor is less than the interest being added. Ask the creditor to stop charging you any more interest. The creditor may agree to this for a limited period then start charging interest again. Ask for regular statements and check them. When a creditor accepts your offer, if they do not say they have frozen the interest, you should check this with them again. The creditor may also try to add administration and late-payment charges. Ask them not to charge these (‘waive’ them).


What Happens if my Creditor Refuses to Freeze any Interest?

Write to them again. If any of your other creditors have agreed to freeze the interest, point this out. We can advise you on how to approach your creditors.

Obtaining Copies of Account Statements and any Credit Agreements

You always have the right for a copy of any agreements or statement of accounts. If you have lost your original and need to check certain terms. Write to your credit company and ask for a copy of the
agreement quoting the Consumer Credit Act 1974, sections seventy seven to seventy eight. You must pay for this and send £1 with your letter. If your credit company doesn't send you a copy of your any agreement within twelve working days, they are not allowed to take any more action against you until they send you the agreement. If they take you to court, you can say that they haven't given you a copy. You have the right to ask for a statement of your account at the same time that you apply for a copy of your agreement. If you have a credit agreement that you have taken out over the internet,
these sort of rules may not apply to you.

Protection of Your Personal Data

Write to your creditors and ask them to send you information they hold on their computers to do with your account. You can make this request under the Data Protection Acts 1984 and 1998 and if you do refer to the ‘right of subject access’ under these particular acts. You have to List all your addresses for the past 6 years. Your creditor then has forty days to do this and they can charge you a fee of up to £10 for supplying this information. If they do not keep to this you should complain to the Information Commissioner.

Bank Debts

People use their current account to have their wages paid into and to also pay any household bills which can be a problem if you have a few debts, and you become overdrawn. If you have an overdraft you will pay charges on the total amount you owe. The full monthly installment will normally be taken from your account too. This could mean that you do not have enough money to pay your priority debts. Your overdraft or loan is like any other credit debt so you should make an offer of payment that you can afford, keep the account running but try to reduce the overdraft over time. Contact them and explain your circumstances. You have to be careful thou because some building societies or banks will suddenly take all the money in your account to clear any overdraft or loan. Consider opening another account somewhere else to have your wages paid into before talking with the bank just in case this happens. You should do this immediately if they do not agree to any offer.

Voluntary Charges

If you have a big overdraft on a current account or a business loan or personal loan you could be asked to agree a voluntary legal charge in return for reduced payments. This means that the debt would be secured on your house and if you don't keep up the payments you could lose your home. Banks will often ask for an agreement of legal charge which means any future borrowing or overdraft you have with the bank is also secured on your home. Before you agree to a voluntary charge on your home, you should get legal advice first. Banks have a complaints procedure under the Banking Code. If you complain you should follow the procedure outlined by your building society or bank. If they have not dealt with your complaint sufficiently you could complain further to The Financial Ombudsman Service.

Charge Cards

If you have a debt on a charge card like an American Express card, where you have agreed to pay the full balance off each month rather than in installments as with a credit card. This can be more difficult to negotiate reduced offers of payment on these type of cards as they are not credit agreements. You would include them with your other credit debts. If the they take further action, this should be in the county court, as long as you owe under fifteen thousand pounds. If you owe more than this the creditor can sue you in the High Court. This procedure is the same but extra interest can be added on to judgments in the High Court.

Debts Owed to Family and Friends

If you owe money to friends and family, you should usually treat these debts the same as ordinary credit debts and make any offers of payment in the same way. You could agree to make no payments until your circumstances get better. You may want to make larger payments on a personal debt because lending you the money has caused hardship to someone you know or your relationship or friendship may suffer if you don’t. This can be very difficult because other creditors would be unhappy if you are paying more on a personal debt than is strictly ‘fair’. You need to explain your reasons to your other creditors and point out that if you pay off the personal debt quickly, you will be able to pay more to everyone else.

Debts on Catalogues

If you have a debt with a catalogue you should treat this as a credit debt too. Any goods ordered from a catalogue belong to you and can't be taken back if you don't pay.

Have you signed a credit agreement?
Catalogue companies should give you a credit agreement (Consumer Credit Act 1974), this does not always happen. If this is so the county court may not be able to enforce the agreement if you started using the catalogue before 6 April 2007. After that date you can ask the court to decide if the agreement can be enforced or not. This may apply to you if you can’t remember signing an agreement when you received the catalogue.

Ways to Pay

When you have arranged to pay your creditors, you will need a convenient way to pay. You could open a basic bank account which offers free standing orders. Or you could ask your creditors for a paying-in book but make sure there are no fees to pay at the post office or bank. Some creditors actually accept payments through their website. Also check to see if you have a Pay Point or Payzone outlet at a shop near you and see if your creditors are part of a scheme. If collectors call every week at your home and you are offering a small amount see if they can call every month instead, but make sure you budget in order to make these payments. You could pay at a creditor’s local office or shop. Make sure that if you send any cheques or postal orders that you send any reference numbers, and a covering letter. Keep records of all the payments you make in case you need to dispute the amount paid.

Debt Management Plan (DMP)
You could pay using a free DMP which means you make one payment every month to cover all your credit debt payments. This can be split up and sent to your creditors for you. Contact the National Debtline for advice. They could help you set up a free DMP if: you have at least three credit debts; your money for credit debts is a hundred pounds a month or more; and you owe at least £5,000.

Offers of Payment Review

Creditors will sometimes write to you after you’ve made an agreement usually after every three months to see if you can now afford to pay more. What ever you do don’t give up if you still can't pay the
usual installment. Write and tell them that you can't increase the payments and enclose your personal budget sheet. The National Debtline has a help pack for people who can afford to make offers to their creditors and also a help pack for those who have no available income. They include sample letters that should help when creditors ask you to review your payments.

Offer Refusals from a Creditor

creditors will sometimes refuse to accept your offer of payment made on your personal budget and can ask for more than you can afford and they can also refuse to freeze the interest. Check that any offer given has frozen the interest. Start paying the money you have offered anyway and write to the creditor again and ask them to reconsider your offer. Tell them you think that your offer is reasonable and it is all that you can afford. If some creditors have accepted the offer of payment, and have frozen any interest, write to the creditors who have refused and tell them about this. If a collector calls for your payment, you should not let get you to pay more than the amount you have offered. Because you won't be able to make the payments you have agreed with your other creditors especially your priority debts. Most of these creditors are members of an association and always have an agreed code of practice. This code normally says creditors should be sympathetic in cases of genuine difficulty. They may ask you to fill in one of their own budgeting forms instead. They could also ask for further information as proof of any income or letters from other creditors. You could want to help with any reasonable requests but if the creditor wants proof of all your bills, tell them that this would not be asked for by the courts.

Never pay more than you can afford
Offers of payment in your personal budget are fair to all your creditors and the most you can afford. If you let one particular creditor persuade you to pay more than is shown, you will not have enough for your outgoings and other creditors.

Creditor Harassment

If you don't keep up to date with your payments your creditors are allowed to keep reminding you but they must not act against the law. If they threaten or harass you to try and get payment, they may be committing a criminal offence. The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) issues Debt-Collection Guidance. It tells you the kind of behaviour which they will treat as ‘unfair business practices’. If an organisation breaks certain conditions, it may call into question their fitness to hold a consumer credit licence. Creditors should not: communicate with you in an unclear, inaccurate or misleading manner; contact you in a deceitful manner; put psychological pressure on you to the point of being oppressive; use unfair methods or charge you unfairly.

You can’t be prosecuted in the criminal court because you haven’t paid your debts but some creditors will probably try to make you think that you can – that sort of behaviour is against the law as well. It is best to keep records of the creditor’s behaviour. Don't be pushed into making payments that you just can't afford. Creditors should not threaten to tell your neighbour or employer. If you have any questions about whether a particular creditor is acting legally, ask trading standards. Phone numbers and addresses are in the local phone directory, under the name of your particular local council.

You should discuss payments with the collection agency in the same way as your other creditors. Collection agencies may try to charge you extra fees for collecting any debts from you. Make sure if the agreement you signed with the creditor allows this to happen. If you feel that the fees are making it harder for you to pay, you may be able to complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service.

Complaining About a Credit Agreement

Currently there are new rights to complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service about how your creditor has dealt with your account. You will have to follow the creditors correct complaints procedure first and you can only complain about events that happen from April 2007 onwards. From this date you may also be able to ask the county court to look at your agreement and decide if there is an ‘unfair relationship’ between you and your creditor. This could lead to the court changing the terms of the agreement and possibly reducing the balance or ordering the lender to pay any loan payments back to you.

What Will Happen if my Creditors Take Further Action

Lots of people are frightened of courts particularly when they feel guilty because they owe money but the county court does not judge anyone as guilty or innocent, they are there to settle disputes about money owed, and how is the best way to repay it. The court is there to serve the interests of both you and your creditors. If court action has been taken, you will not usually have to go to a court hearing. Most of this is done through the post. You will usually receive a claim form from the court. The claim form includes details of the debt, known as the ‘particulars of claim’. If at this point you don’t agree with the amount owed then fill in the ‘defence form’. In this particular case send the form back to the court.

If You Agree That You Owe the Debt
With the claim form there will be a reply form for you to make an offer of repayment and this is called the ‘admission form’. There are instructions included on how to fill in this form. It looks a bit like a personal budget sheet and actually asks for the same sort of information on income and essential outgoings.

Making an Offer of Payment
The claim form has a section where you can fill in the payments you make on your priority debts and you also have to include any other court judgments you have, and to list all of your credit debts. It is very important to make your creditors an offer on the form in the ‘offer box’. If you don't fill this in the court will decide you have not made an offer and might tell you to pay the whole amount at once or order you to pay what the creditor asks for. Finish filling in the form and send it back to the creditor (the claimant) not the court. The address will usually be in the ‘address for service’ box. There is a time limit of sixteen days from the date on the postmark to send back the form. If you do not send it back the court can order you to pay the whole debt in one big lump sum.

If they accept your offer you will receive an order from the court to pay your offer in monthly installments. You should at this point send your payments to your creditor, not the court. You must keep any record of what you have paid and when. If they don't accept your offer, the court will decide what you should pay every month. If you owe under fifty thousand pounds the court staff will decide without a hearing. If you owe over this amount the district judge decides. If you cannot pay what the court has decided you should contribute, you can ask them to look at your offer again. This is generally known as a ‘re-determination’. There is usually no fee for doing this. You must complete this within fourteen days of getting the order. The case should then be transferred to your local county court for a hearing. This re-determination will be done by the district judge and if the order was made by the court staff, the district judge can then decide to have a hearing or make a decision by looking at the papers. You can ask for a hearing when you write to the court to ask them to look at your case again. If the judge made the first order without a hearing, the re-determination of your offer must be at a hearing. If there is a hearing, the case will be automatically transferred to your local county court. The court will give you a hearing date and you must go to the hearing, which should be in the district judge’s rooms. Don't forget to take a copy of your personal budget with you.

Payments on Court Orders Reduced
Monthly payments can be reduced if your circumstances change or if you can’t afford them anymore. You can apply for a reduction using form N245, which you can get from the local county-court office. There is normally a fee to pay with your application. If your creditors have already taken you to court, you can apply to the court for a reduced payment based on your pro-rata offers, using form N245.

Getting Your Payments Reduced
If a district judge made the first order on how much you pay at a hearing, you cannot apply for a re-determination but must apply for the monthly payment to be reduced or ‘varied’.

What are the Advantages to Going to Court?
Courts will stop interest being charged on most ordinary credit agreements so that this means that the amount you owe cannot increase any more. If you owe over five thousand pounds on a personal debt or for supplies for your business, your creditor could still be able to charge interest. Some creditors could tell you they can charge interest on a debt before and after judgment. There are new rules about when interest can be charged and what notices your creditor must provide.

Usually the court let's you pay a monthly amount which you can afford. But they can only do this if you explain your income, outgoings and other debts on the reply form to the county-court claim. Usually you won’t have to go to the court for a hearing as most of this is done through the post.

Court costs are usually added on to your debt but creditors cannot add on what they want. Costs will be added on a sliding scale depending on the amount of money you owe. Details of judgments are recorded on the register of judgments, orders and fines and passed to credit reference agencies. This will probably make it difficult for you to get any credit in the future. If you pay your county-court judgment within one month, you can ask to have the entry removed from the register. If you don't pay the amount which the court orders, the creditor could take further action against you. So it is best to make sure you pay your monthly payments regularly or apply for them to be reduced.

Your Belongings
If you act quickly, it is rare for county-court bailiffs to actually take people’s belongings away. Basic household goods cannot be taken. County-court bailiffs have no right to break in, unless you have let them in at another time. Use the N245 form, to suspend the warrant immediately.

The Creditor Can Take Further Action
Not paying the monthly amount the court orders means that the creditor can ask the court to take further action.

Charging Orders

If the court makes you to pay your judgment in one lump sum or if you fall behind on the monthly amount ordered, the creditor can ask for a legal charge on your home. This means that the debt is secured on your home like a mortgage and may put your house at risk. There must be a court case before a charging order is made. It is up to the court to decide and there are many arguments you can use against a charging order. It is becoming more common for creditors to apply for a charging order.

Attachment of Earnings

The court can actually order your employer to make deductions from your wages to clear a debt. The court uses a set formula but this order can be suspended if it might affect your employment and you can make the payments yourself.

If you have to go to a court hearing, your name will not appear in the local paper, so don’t worry about publicity. The county court is not a criminal court and is not there to hurt anyone. The court staff and the district judge who decide these cases are used to dealing with people who do not have a solicitor. If you get a letter or form from the court you do not understand, take it to them and ask for an explanation. You have rights the same as your creditors do.


Obtaining Credit Again

Contrary to belief, there is no credit blacklist but if you do not pay your debts, you could find it difficult to get credit in the future. When you apply for credit, companies consult a credit reference agency. They keep all records of county-court and High-Court judgments, IVA's, bankruptcy orders and details about credit accounts. This particular information is kept on file for up to six years. It will show if you are behind with your payments.

If you are currently in arrears or have a county-court judgment against you, you may well be refused credit. Credit records will also show when you have paid your debts. But they should only keep information on you and anyone you have a ‘financial connection’ with at the same address. Financial connections are created if you make an application for credit in joint names or open a joint bank account. Other people’s credit details usually don't affect your credit rating. You can usually file a notice of ‘disassociation’ with the credit reference agency to tell them a financial connection has ended. If you are constantly refused credit, you have a right to ask if the loan company has used a credit reference agency. They must by law give you the agency’s name and address. They should give you very good reasons why they turned you down for credit. This includes telling you if they have used a credit-scoring system.

For help in finding out what information a particular agency holds about you, write to them and enclose a postal order or cheque for two pounds. Agencies should send the information within seven days. If the information is wrong, you have a right to change it. If the finance information is correct, the agency does not have to remove it even if you ask them to. If it is an old paid debt you can ask them to mark the file as ‘satisfied’ to show this is so.

Companies that Specialise in Credit Repair
Some companies offer to clear your credit record if you pay them a fee. Be very careful with these companies, many promise to remove judgments when they cannot legally be removed. Before sending any money to a credit-repair company, contact your local trading standards department.

Trouble Opening Another Bank Account

Sometimes you can have difficulty opening a bank account if you have certain debts showing up on your credit file. Some institutions have basic bank accounts and these allow you to have your wages or benefits paid in and take cash out. Some accounts let you have standing orders and direct debits. You are not normally given a cheque book, cheque guarantee card or an overdraft. If you need this type of account, you should shop around. The post office offers basic bank account to its customers the facility for paying in and withdrawing cash at a post office counter. If you don’t want a basic bank account, you can ask for a post office ‘card account’. Your benefits can be paid into this account and you can make withdrawals at a post office counter near you.





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