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Can’t pay - Can they really take it away?
23 Nov 2017

The popularity of programmes showing the daily workings of high court enforcement officers have thrown into sharp relief the sheer amount of personal debt in the UK today. 

According to figures released by the Money Charity, it’s estimated that the average debt per adult (including mortgage payments) is £30,277, more than 114% of the average wage. 

Credit card borrowing is at an all-time high, despite the years of austerity measures after the 2008 crash, with consumer credit borrowing at around £3,909 per UK adult. Nearly 250 people every day are declared insolvent or bankrupt.

When businesses or individuals are faced with mounting personal debt, it can be tempting to start ‘robbing Peter to pay Paul’. But if you owe money to a creditor, eventually you will have to pay that money back.

However, there are procedures that creditors have to go through to reclaim their money. They can’t simply send in the bailiffs to ‘take it away’, and any kind of harassment is regarded as a serious infringement of your rights. 

Elisabeth Glover, a solicitor in the Commercial Litigation Department at FBC Manby Bowdler looks at what can be done if you find yourself facing debt problems.

What can you do?

If you are being harassed by a creditor, the first thing you can do is to ask an intermediary to step in and talk to them on your behalf.  A solicitor will be able to represent you. They will also be able to tell you if the creditor’s behaviour constitutes harassment, such as:

Repeated contact several times a day or at times that wouldn’t normally be deemed as acceptable contact times such as very late at night or early in the morning
Using multiple debt collection agencies at the same time to pursue a single debt
Encouraging you to take out further loans to pay off the debt, or pressurising you to sell your home or property
Threatening or intimidating behaviour
Using quasi or fraudulent paperwork, letterheads, or business logos to imply that the correspondence is from the courts or official debt collection agencies such as high court enforcement officers.

Remember, that while harassment is a criminal matter, owing money is not. It is not a criminal offence to default on a debt, but a civil issue. A creditor cannot threaten you with criminal proceedings, no matter how large the debt, but you can contact the police if you feel you are being threatened or harassed by the creditor or any party acting on their behalf.

For more advice regards this article, contact Elisabeth on 01902 702097 or

Meet Elisabeth Glover