Commercial Debt Recovery
If any of your customers fail to pay their debts it can cause the business both major cash flow problems and in some circumstances, complete failure of the business altogether. Getting advice from a specialist commercial debt recovery solicitor as early on as possible could save your business from the disruption caused by unpaid debts.
Our service is comprehensive and starts from as little as £25 plus VAT for a solicitor chasing letter, which often can be enough to get the debt paid.
With the right legal approach, the issues affecting your business can be resolved quickly and efficiently, helping the business avoid any serious financial consequences and allowing it to move forward.
We aim to provide you with practical, straightforward commercial advice. We have a proven track record of successfully recovering debts for a wide range of clients, from sole traders, start-ups and small businesses to large corporations.
Our commercial debt recovery service
Our debt recovery service is fast, efficient and focused on getting the best results for you.
We will get to know your business and the risks posed by the unpaid debts so we can provide advice that is specifically tailored to your individual needs.
We will ensure the fastest possible turnaround of your case. To comply with the Pre-Action Protocol for Debt Claims, we are required to provide debtors with a certain amount of time before we can progress each stage of the recovery. However, we will always schedule to chase and progress the case at the earliest possible dates so you can trust that there will be no delays. That being said, with our strong negotiation skills, most cases do not need to progress beyond the initial correspondence stage. A letter from a reputable debt recovery solicitor is often all it takes to compel payment.
Our team members will always be accessible to you and will provide you with detailed updates throughout the process. At the beginning of your case, you will be provided a personal phone number and email address for your assigned commercial debt recovery lawyer so if you have any questions or concerns, all you need to do is get in touch and we will be more than happy to provide an update.
Our commercial debt recovery fees
We take pride in our ability to offer the highest quality of advice for a proportionate cost. We will be very clear from the outset about the costs you could expect to incur during your case. We offer a range of flexible payment structures and are keen to agree a budget that works for you, such as fixed fees or capped hourly rates.
For more information about our pricing, please visit our Commercial Debt Recovery Fees page.
How does the debt recovery process work?
There are three main stages to the debt recovery process:
There are many reasons to try to engage the debtor in settlement discussions before resorting to legal action, the first being that it is generally faster, cheaper, and simpler to come to an agreement out of court.
Also, for any court claim to be successful, you should take all possible steps to comply with the Pre-Action Protocol for Debt Claims. This is a set of court guidelines for the proper conduct of debt recovery cases. The court will usually look favourably on those who do their best to settle amicably out of court, so it will help your case to engage with the pre-action stage.
Letters Before Action
The first step is to send a Letter Before Action (also known as a Letter of Claim) to the debtor setting out details such as:
- The amount of the debt owed
- The basis for the debt (e.g. non-payment for a product or service)
- The deadline by which the debtor must pay before you consider court proceedings
In our experience, the majority of commercial debt cases are resolved at the pre-action correspondence stage. Receiving a firm but friendly letter from a solicitor is usually all it takes to convince a debtor to engage.
We have sent hundreds of LBAs over the years and know exactly how to negotiate to extract a positive response from even the most elusive of debtors.
‘Without prejudice’ negotiations
If you are prepared to make a settlement with the debtor, such as agreeing to a payment plan or a lower lump sum that is paid immediately, we can conduct ‘without prejudice’ negotiations on your behalf. This means that we can negotiate freely without any risk that the settlement discussions will later be used as part of a legal claim, counter claim or defence.
Alternative Dispute Resolution
If informal settlement discussions prove fruitless but the debtor is willing to engage, you may benefit from a form of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR), such as commercial mediation or arbitration. For more information about ADR, please visit our Business Dispute Resolution page.
If the debtor does not engage with pre-action negotiations or ADR, the next step will be court proceedings. Depending on the value of the debt and the circumstances of the case, we will provide advice on your prospects for success and help you balance your chances of recovery with potential costs.
There are two mains types of court action you can take:
County court money claims
This involves making an application to court for a judgment that the debtor owes you the debt. You can also claim your legal costs and interest. Getting a County Court Judgment (CCJ) opens up a range of enforcement opportunities, including bailiff action and Charging Orders (to secure the debt).
If the debtor does not dispute the debt or does not respond to your application, the money claims process is relatively straightforward. However, if the debtor does dispute the debt, we can provide practical advice on pursuing the claim and the potential costs involved.
If the debtor cannot pay at all, it may be worth considering insolvency proceedings. Once the debtor is insolvent, you can ‘prove in’ your debt with the Insolvency Practitioner or Official Receiver and could receive some of your money back from the distribution of their assets.
First, you must serve a Statutory Demand for the debt. If the debtor still does not pay, you can make:
- A Bankruptcy Petition for an individual
- A Winding up Petition for a company
The final stage of the debt recovery process is enforcement. Your options might include:
Bailiff action – either through the county court or the High Court. A bailiff can be authorised to enter the debtor’s premises and take assets to cover the debt or negotiate repayment with the debtor in person and using correspondence such as letters and phone calls
Charging Order – once you have a CCJ, you can apply to secure it by way of a Charging Order over the debtor’s property, e.g. their business premises, shares, or property. Once your debt is secured, you become a ‘priority creditor’ making recovery more likely if the debtor ever becomes insolvent.
Order for Sale – once you have a Charging Order, you can either rest on your security until the asset is sold or apply for an Order for Sale to force the sale of the asset.
Third Party Debt Order – also known as a Garnishee Order, this is another method of enforcing a CCJ. It allows you freeze the debtor’s assets and take the money directly from them or their bank accounts.
‘Proving in’ your debt – if the debtor is made insolvent, you can submit a claim to their Insolvency Practitioner or Official Receiver. As an unsecured creditor, you will not have priority and are unlikely to recover the whole debt. However, you could receive a proportion.
Speak to our Commercial Debt Recovery solicitors in Sidcup, the London Borough of Bexley, Kent
- Chris Elliott
- Senior Partner, COLP, Head of Litigation
Our service includes:
- sending a solicitor letter chasing the debt for a fixed fee of £25 plus VAT
- Advice on all options open to the business to chase a debt
- Negotiating a settlement, where appropriate
- obtaining a Judgment against a debtor
- instructing Enforcement Officers
- applying to the court for an order that the debtor attends court for questioning
- applying for an attachment of earnings order
- applying for a charging order on the debtor’s property to secure the debt
- where necessary insolvency routes that can be taken such as winding up petitions