…and how Griffin Law can help you get paid during the pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic continues to present businesses with exceptionally trying circumstances and one of the worst is the failure of debtors to pay what they owe you. No matter how big or small your business, managing cash flow is essential to your survival and managing it can be extremely challenging.
“The coronavirus pandemic continues to have a significant impact on the UK public sector finances. These effects arise from both the introduction of public health measures and from new government policies to support businesses and individuals.” – Representative of the Office of National Statistics
As every business owner and Board knows, maximising debt collection is a priority for your business as it secures your financial future. Although as many businesses are finding, it is often tough to accomplish during the pandemic. We are often asked whether it is appropriate for a company to continue to collect their debts in the “old-fashioned” way as many debtors may be struggling financially, or argue that they are unable to pay invoices as a consequence of the pandemic. Many debtors may try to get out of their obligations, claiming that coronavirus has severely impacted their business, even when this is not true.
The difficult financial situation caused by the lockdown will soon start to be alleviated as the UK begins its transition back to work but, in the meantime, knowing what practical options are available and applying the right debt recovery methods at the right time is more important than ever.
So, what steps can you take?
Communicate • Communicate • Communicate
At Griffin Law our reconciliation and arbitration experts recommend keeping the lines of communication open, wherever, and for as long as possible, to avoid disputes. In challenging times, when everyday is spent putting out other fires, it is easy to lose focus on debt-collection and even easier to lose control of the situation by being ill-informed. Regular communication enables you to assess which debtors are genuinely facing financial distress and those who may simply be refusing to pay. Attempting to agree an informal repayment plan with debtors who have fallen behind may be sufficient to resolve the matter.
Do not wait for things to get worse
Should you have concerns about the debtor’s ability to pay what is owed to you, commencing legal proceedings quickly may allow you to obtain some form of security should the debtor become insolvent, as you have a better chance of recovering the debt. Remember, obtaining professional advice early reduces the risk of expensive and time-consuming litigation in the future.
Remember, too, that most debtors are willing to work constructively with their creditors to reach a workable solution and avoid legal action. However, there at times – and certain clients – when stronger action is needed in order for you to maintain your cash flow.
Letter before Action / Letter of Claim (“LBA”)
Instructing a solicitor to send a LBA will often bring unresponsive debtors to the table for the purposes of striking a deal. An LBA sets deadlines by which debtors should respond, or failing to do so, face legal action. Therefore, you will know if your debtor’s appetite for genuine repayment discussions within 14-30 days and can take appropriate action promptly.
Debt recovery court proceedings
If your debtor fails to make payment or respond to the LBA, you 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 which are currently open and in operation, despite lockdown. Bear in mind that acting early may reduce any court delays which may arise as debt claim numbers increase.
The Government recently made an amendment to the Taking Control of Goods Regulations (2013), in effect for the duration of the COVID-19 restrictions. 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. Given these restrictions it is worth avoiding the need for enforcement, where possible.