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1 Dealing with Debt

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1. Introduction

2. Rent or mortgage payment problems

3. Council Tax bill problems

4. Hire Purchase (HP) problems

5. Gas, electricity and phone bills

6. Water bills

7. Loan and credit problems

8. What creditors can do to get their money

9. Going to court

After getting a judgment, the creditor can ask for you to be questioned in court about your circumstances, so they can find out how best to get the money you owe. In court, you can be ordered to answer questions on oath, about, for example:

  • your income;
  • what you spend money on; and
  • what things you own.

If you do not go to the hearing, the court could issue a warrant for your arrest. The creditor may call off the hearing if you give them the details they want.

If you don't make the payments
If you do not pay what has been ordered in a judgment, there are several things a creditor can do:

  • warrant of execution;
  • attachment of earning;
  • charging order; or
  • High Court enforcement

Warrant of execution
This is when the county court involves its bailiffs (see 'Dealing with bailiffs').

Attachment of earnings
The court can make an order to take regular payments from your wages. You will receive a form on which you must give certain details so they can take the payments. If you don't co-operate with the court in this, you could be arrested, or sent to prison for up to 14 days.

If there is an attachment of earnings, the court will set a 'protected earnings rate' (PER). This is a level below which they can't make deductions. It is based on Income Support rates, and takes account of other earnings (like your partner's wages) and things you must pay for. The court will then set a normal deduction rate (NDR), which is normally between half and two-thirds of the difference between the PER and your wages or salary.

Charging order
This is when the creditor asks the court to secure the debt to your home (or other property you have a financial stake in). If you don't make payments, the creditor could apply to the court order for an order to sell your home to get the money you owe. The court rarely allows a home to be sold, though you will need expert advice if the creditor asks the court to do this.

High Court enforcement
For some types of debt (ones for more than £600, and debt on unregulated credit agreements), your creditor could use High Court Sheriffs' Officers acting as bailiffs to collect what you owe. If you cannot come to an agreement on how much you should pay, you will need to get advice on:

  • applying to court to stop bailiff action; and
  • arranging a way to pay what you can afford.

10. Dealing with many debts

11. Dealing with bailiffs

12. Other legal protection if you are in debt

13. When you can be sent to prison for your debts

14. Terms used when dealing with debt

15. Further help

16. About this leaflet

This leaflet is published by the Legal Services Commission (LSC). It was written in association with Birmingham Settlement.

The leaflets are regularly updated but the law may have changed since they were printed so the information in them may be incorrect or out of date.

Leaflet Version: October 2019

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