Debt Recovery and Bankruptcy
I am owed money. How do I recover the debt?
You should always start by writing a letter to the person that owes you money (the “debtor”) stating the amount owed, how it arose, and giving them a final opportunity to pay you the sums due, warning them that you will take legal proceedings if they fail to do so.
If payment is not received and the debtor does not attempt to dispute the amount owed to you, you will need to bring a claim in the Country Court Money Claims Centre.
This can be done by filling in a “Claim Form” which can be found on the court’s website. For simple debt claims, this can even be done online via the government’s “Money Claim Online” service. A fee is payable in either case (which is based on the amount owed).
In most cases, the court will then send the relevant claim documents to the debtor, who will then have 14 days to acknowledge the claim, either by admitting they owe some/all of the money due or alternatively by disputing the claim.
If the debtor fails to respond within the relevant time limit, you can then ask the court to make a judgment against them for the debt, plus certain costs that you may have incurred.
Please note that obtaining a court judgment is only the first step in recovering the money owed to you – especially if the debtor continues to ignore you or is difficult to get hold of. There are various ways that you can enforce your judgment and we suggest taking legal advice on the most appropriate options available to you.
How do I make someone bankrupt?
If you are owed more than £5,000 by the person whom you wish to be made bankrupt, you can send them what is called a “statutory demand”, asking them to pay the sums due. If they then fail to pay those sums (or fail to apply to the court to have the statutory demand set aside) within 18 days, you can then make an application to the court to have that person declared bankrupt. The application needs to be made to a court that is in the same administrative area as where the person lives.
You should note that the process of completing and sending a statutory demand is a very technical area and it is essential that you take specialist advice before doing so. You should not send a statutory demand for a debt which you know is likely to be disputed, as you may be liable to pay for the debtor’s own legal costs should your statutory demand be successfully challenged by them. We can advise you whether a statutory demand is a suitable method of recovering a debt that is owed to you.
What happens if my partner/husband/wife has been made bankrupt?
You may be affected if you own property (such as a house) jointly with your partner or spouse. When your partner is made bankrupt, their share of your property will be transferred to a person known as the “trustee in bankruptcy” who is an officer of the court. After one year, the trustee in bankruptcy will be able to apply to the court for an order for the property to be sold, so that he can help meet the bankrupt’s debts. Your share in the property should not be affected, although it is likely that a court will order a sale of your property without your consent unless there are exceptional circumstances.
Can I challenge my bankruptcy?
It is important to challenge a statutory demand (see question 1) if you have received one and you dispute that some or all of the money is due. As long as less than £5,000 of the sums claimed in the statutory demand are undisputed, you can make an application to the court to have the statutory demand “set aside”, meaning that bankruptcy proceedings cannot then be taken against you when the 18-day period of the statutory demand expires.
If you receive a statutory demand, it is important that you take professional advice as the time limits are strict and the area is very technical. If you do not make a successful challenge within the relevant time limits, you will usually not be able to do so at a later date and you will be at risk of bankruptcy proceedings being made against you, which can be very expensive.
It is possible (although much more difficult) to challenge bankruptcy proceedings. The grounds to challenge proceedings are technical and we recommend you take specialist advice.
What help is available for disputes in my bankruptcy?
Unfortunately, legal aid is not available in this area. However, we can provide you with help and assistance on a fee paying basis.
If you want any further information regarding any of the above, call us on 01502 532300. Our legal experts have extensive experience in dealing with debt collection and bankruptcy disputes, having advised on such issues for in excess of 35 years.
Landlord and Tenant
How do I evict a tenant from my residential property?
The first step is to send to your tenant an appropriate form which states the date by which they are required to leave the property and the basis upon which you are seeking repossession of the property. It is crucial to send the correct form of notice in the correct way to avoid unnecessary delays.
If the tenant fails to vacate the property voluntarily, you will then need to obtain a court order which involves submitting a further form to the court and paying a fee.
In certain circumstances, there may have to be a court hearing at which time the court will decide whether or not to make an order for the tenant to leave the property.
Is it expensive to evict a tenant?
Whilst the above procedure can be relatively swift and inexpensive, there are several potential pitfalls which can significantly delay matters or increase the cost and it is therefore important to take advice at an early stage.
If you want any further information regarding any of the above, call us on 01502 532300. Our solicitors have extensive experience in dealing with property matters on behalf of both landlords and tenants.
I have a boundary dispute with my neighbour. What do I do?
Disputes between neighbours over the position of any boundary line between their properties are, unfortunately, very common and can be very expensive and drawn out to resolve.
The best solution is often to try and reach an agreement with your neighbour before considering legal action, which should always be a last resort.
How do I know where my boundary lies?
Where there is a dispute as to where the boundary line lies, evidence as to the correct position of the boundary is usually found in the property’s individual title deeds, rather than from information held at the Land Registry. This is because the Land Registry does not properly consider where the boundaries between properties lie when property is registered with it.
Are boundary disputes expensive?
Boundary disputes are often complex and can prove to be very expensive, and you should always take legal advice before commencing any formal dispute proceedings, or if you are threatened with legal action.
If you want any further information regarding any of the above, call us on 01502 532300. Our solicitors have extensive experience in dealing with property disputes.
Can I challenge the validity of a will?
Will disputes are a very complex area of law and legal advice should always be sought as soon as you become aware of any issue which means you need to challenge the validity of a will.
There are limited grounds on which you can challenge the validity of a will, although an increasingly common ground is that the person which made the will did not fully understand what they were doing when they signed the will, either because they lacked the relevant mental capacity or because they were unduly influenced into signing the will by someone else.
I have been left out of a will. Is there anything I can do?
If you have expected to receive money or assets from a will, but have not done so (for example, if the person that made the will left these to other family members, friends or even a charity) then it may be possible to challenge the will.
If there is no indication that the will itself is invalid (see question 1 above) then you will need to show that you were financially dependent upon the person that made the will or alternatively that you had otherwise been led to believe that you would receive something under the will.
The law in this area is very complex and it is essential that you take advice at an early stage as there are strict time limits involved.
If you want any further information regarding any of the above, call us on 01502 532300. Our solicitors have extensive experience in dealing with will disputes.
How do I employ someone?
If you are employing someone for more than one month, you must give them a written statement containing certain information about their employment. This is sometimes known as the “written particulars of employment”. The information that you need to give includes:
It is often worthwhile to set out further information about your employee’s employment, such as sickness and absence policies and maternity leave, and these can be contained either in the written particulars that you give to the employee or alternatively in a staff handbook that is available to all employees upon request.
We can provide you with template employment contracts and staff policies which can be as simple or as sophisticated as required to suit your business’ needs.
You must also be responsible for collecting tax on behalf of your employee. We suggest that you take accountancy advice in this area.
How/when can I dismiss my employee?
It is important that you handle the dismissal of any employee properly – otherwise you will be at an increased risk of your former employee bringing a claim against you. These claims can be costly and time-consuming so it is important that you handle the situation correctly from the outset.
Employees that have been continuously employed for two years or more have the additional right not to be “unfairly dismissed” by their employer. Unfair dismissal can also occur before the two-year period, in certain circumstances when the dismissal is deemed to be “automatically” unfair.
To avoid liability when dismissing an employee, the dismissal has to be “fair”. A “fair” dismissal is when the correct procedures are followed and the employee is dismissed due to a “fair” reason, such as the employee’s capability to do their job or their conduct.
We strongly suggest that you take legal advice before you begin any dismissal or disciplinary process as the consequences of getting it wrong can be very costly.
Can I change the terms of my employees’ contracts?
In most cases, you cannot change the terms of your employees’ contracts without their consent and without providing some kind of other benefit in return. If you attempt to change the terms of your employees’ contracts without following these rules, you may be at risk of your employees bringing a claim against you.
It is important to consider and understand both the practical and legal issues involved whenever you are planning to make changes to your employees’ terms of employment and we suggest you seek legal advice at an early stage to avoid any potential claims.
What are the time limits for bringing an employment claim against my employer?
There are various time limits, depending on the nature of the claim. For example, a claim for unfair dismissal must be made within 3 months of the date of the dismissal, whereas a claim for redundancy payments has to be made within 6 months.
It is important never to leave it until the last minute to bring a claim, as it is very rare for these time-limits to be extended. Whatever the claim, it is worthwhile taking advice at the earliest opportunity to avoid last-minute rushes or, even worse, losing your right to bring a claim entirely.
If you want any further information regarding any of the above, call us on 01502 532300. Our solicitors have extensive experience in dealing with employment matters on behalf of both employers and employees.