Debt

Most of us owe money or have credit but sometimes payments can become unmanageable when your circumstances change.

You may wish to know what action a creditor can take or you may wish to challenge the fact that the money is owed. What can a creditor do if you have not paid?

Sorting out payments or responding to payment requests from creditors isn’t something you want to face. However the sooner you get started the more you will feel in control.

Below, you will find useful information and links on how to resolve your debt issues. There is useful information on how to manage your money better in our MANAGING YOUR MONEY section.

1. MAKING A START - DEALING WITH THE BASICS

Quick and easy debt health check

If you feel you're struggling with debt or know you owe money and aren’t sure how much, there are some simple steps you can take to get back on track. Use our debt health check to check five warning signs that you may be heading for trouble and find out what to do to start tackling your debt before it gets out of control.

Find out more information here
Source: Money Advice Service

How to sort out your debts

This will help you work out how much money you owe and whether you've got any urgent debts. Then you'll need to look at the section on Budgeting to see if you've got enough money to pay off your debts.

Find out more information here
Source: Citizens Advice

Talking to your creditors

If you’re starting to miss bill payments don’t ignore the problem. There is no need to struggle in silence, or go it alone. The good news is that free, confidential help is available to everyone. If you don’t speak to the people you owe money to then your situation may become more difficult.

Find out more information here 
Source: Money Advice Service

2. WORKING OUT HOW MUCH YOU CAN AFFORD

How to work out your budget

If you have debts, you'll need to work out if you've got enough money to pay off what you owe. To do this, you will need to work out how much money you've got coming into your household and how much you need to spend. This is called your budget. Once you've worked out your budget, you'll be able to see how much you've got left over to pay off your debts.

Find out more information here
Source: Citizens Advice

There is also a link to a budgeting tool in our 'helpful tools' section below

How to increase your income

Read information on how to increase income, including applying for benefits, tax credits, loans and grants, ensuring that you are being paid and taxed correctly and getting the best deal your savings.

Find out more information here
Source: Citizens Advice

You may also wish to visit our BENEFITS section

How to spend less

Read information on how spend less, including checking whether you need to pay council tax, cutting the cost of fuel bills and ways of saving money on shopping, travel and leisure.

Find out more information here
Source: Citizens Advice

For further information please see our MANAGING YOUR MONEY section

3. DO YOU OWE THE CREDITOR?

How to dispute a debt

Overview of reasons why you may be able to dispute a debt, covering responsibility for a debt if you're under 18, a guarantor or catalogue agent, time limits for recovering a debt and whether a credit agreement is legally unfair.

Find out more information here
Source: Citizens Advice

Signing an agreement to borrow money

Read information on your responsibility for debts taken out by someone with the same name or falsely using your name (identity theft), joint debts, and the debts of someone who has died.

Find out more information here 
Source: Citizens Advice

You signed an agreement to borrow money when you didn't want to

Read information on whether you have to pay back a debt if you were pressured into taking it out against your will, or if you did not fully understand the responsibility for the debt.

Find out more information here 
Source: Citizens Advice

What can you do if you don't think you should pay back a debt

Read information on how to dispute a debt you don't think you owe, covering complaining to the credit lender and the Financial Ombudsman Service and what to do if you are taken to court.

Find out more information here
Source: Citizens Advice

4. PAY DAY LOANS

There is more information on Pay Day Loans under our MANAGING YOUR MONEY section (Borrowing).

Payday loans - don't let short term debt lead to long term problems

Click here to find out more about what the lender should do before they offer you a payday loan, how you pay back the loan and what happens if you can't pay. It also tells you how to complain about a payday lender.

Source: Citizens Advice

Alternatives to Pay Day Loans

Late repayment can cause you serious problems. Have you checked out the alternatives to a payday loan?

Find out about cheaper, lower risk alternatives and how to tackle money problems here
Source: Money Advice Service

5. DEALING WITH URGENT DEBTS

Please click on the links below to be taken to your desired section. 

RENT ARREARS

Things to check when you have rent arrears

Getting into rent arrears can be distressing. But don't ignore the situation. If you don't take action to deal with the arrears quickly, you could end up losing your home.
You will need to contact your landlord as soon as possible and try and make arrangements to pay back what you owe. However, before you do this, you should check that you owe all the money your landlord says you do.

Find out more information here 
Source: Citizens Advice

Paying off your rent arrears

Read information about rent arrears and how to pay them back, including sources of help, talking to your landlord, checking whether the amount of rent you have to pay is correct and agreeing a repayment plan.

Find out more information here
Source:CitizensAdvice

Rent Arrears

Rent arrears could mean you are at risk of losing your home. If you have rent arrears or are struggling to pay your rent you need to take action. Don't ignore the problem or you could be evicted.

Find out more information here
Source: Shelter

Private tenancies and rent arrears

Find out whether you're an assured shorthold tenant, what procedure your landlord has to use if they want to evict you and whether you can do anything to stop them.

Find out more information here
Source: Citizens Advice

Council and Housing Association rent arrears

Council and housing association landlords have to follow the steps outlined in a special 'pre-action protocol' for social landlords before they can start court action to evict you for rent arrears.

Find out more information here
Source: Citizens Advice

Being taken to court for rent arrears

If you have rent arrears, your landlord may try and evict you. This is called seeking possession. To do this, in most cases they will need to follow a procedure which involves getting a court order. They can't make you leave your home without going to court first. If they do make you leave without taking you to court first, this is against the law.

Find out more information here 
Source: Shelter

Eviction for rent arrears

Read information about what happens once your landlord has got a possession order to evict you and whether there’s anything you can do to stop the eviction going ahead. 

Find out more information here 
Source: Citizens Advice

If you have been evicted and are homeless, you may wish to visit our HOUSING section

Evicting a tenant: information for landlords

You must follow strict procedures if you want your tenants to leave your property, depending on the type of tenancy agreement and its terms. You may be guilty of illegally evicting or harassing your tenants if you don’t follow the correct procedures.

Find out more information about the correct procedures here
Source: Gov.uk

Illegal Eviction by a landlord

Illegal eviction by a landlord or someone acting on behalf of a landlord is a criminal offence and can result in prosecution and a criminal record. The rules on how and when your landlord can evict you depend on the type of tenancy you have. There is also a tool below to help you to check whether an eviction is legal.

Find out more information here
Source: Shelter

MORTGAGE ARREARS

How to deal with mortgage debts

If you’ve been struggling to keep up your mortgage payments, you may have started to build up a debt. You may have missed one or more monthly payments or be paying less money each month than you owe.

Click here for information about some of the things you might be able to do to pay back the money you owe on your mortgage payments. 
Source: Citizens Advice

Sale and rent back schemes

If you're struggling to pay your mortgage, one option you might be thinking about is a sale and rent back scheme run by a private firm. These schemes can also be called buy back or sale and lease back schemes.

Find out more information here
Source: Citizens Advice

Dealing with your mortgage lender

You'll need to come to an agreement with your mortgage lender. If you can't come to an agreement or you can't pay back what you owe, your lender will take you to court and you may lose your home.

Find out more information here
Source: Citizens Advice

What happens when your mortgage lender takes you to court

If you are in mortgage arrears, your mortgage lender will want you to clear them. If you don’t do this, your mortgage lender will start court action. This is called possession action and could lead to you losing your home. You must take action straight away. But you must take action straight away.

Find out more information on what to do here
Source: Citizens Advice

Your mortgage lender takes you to court – how to prepare for the court hearing

If you're in arrears with your mortgage, your mortgage lender might start court action. This is called possession action.

Read information about how to prepare for a court hearing with your mortgage lender here
Source: Citizens Advice

Eviction for mortgage arrears

Read information about what must happen before your mortgage lender can evict you, what happens during an eviction for mortgage arrears and what the bailiffs are allowed to do and whether you should just hand back your keys to your mortgage lender before you're evicted.

Find out more information here 
Source: Citizens Advice

GAS AND ELECTRICITY ARREARS

You may be able to get assistance to pay off some or all of your arrears- see our GRANTS ASSISTANCE section.

Struggling to pay your energy bills

If you’re struggling to pay your energy bills or get a bill you can’t afford, take steps to sort out the problem as soon as possible. If you don't pay your gas and electricity debts, you risk being cut off.

If you’re having trouble paying your bills or are in debt to your supplier click here 
Source: Citizens Advice

Disconnection

While it is very unusual to be disconnected if you’re behind with your energy bills, it can happen. That’s why it is important to contact your supplier as soon as possible if you’re having trouble paying your bills.

Read information about what you should do if your supplier is threatening to disconnect you because of arrears here
Source: Citizens Advice

COUNCIL TAX

Council Tax arrears

You may also wish to see our information on Bailiffs

It’s important to keep up with your council tax payments. If you fall behind, you could lose the right to pay in monthly instalments or even be taken to court.

Find out what the council will do if you get into arrears, and what help you might be able to get if you’re struggling to pay what you owe here
Source: Shelter

CHILD SUPPORT

Child Maintenance arrears

The CSA or CMS should try to contact you to make an agreement to pay the arrears as soon as a payment is missed. If you don't come to an arrangement with the CSA or CMS to repay what you owe, they can take further action through the courts.

Find out more information here 
Source: Citizens Advice

INCOME TAX ARREARS

Problems paying your tax?

The worst thing is to ignore the matter. Your situation may not be as bad as you think, but you should act quickly. If you do nothing at all, you increase the risk of legal action against you. 

Find out more information here
Source: TaxAid

You need time to pay

If you can’t afford to pay your tax bill in one go, HMRC may agree to payment by instalments. Sometimes you may be contacted by a Debt Collection Agency on behalf of HMRC. You should check that the agency is genuine by comparing it to the list on the HMRC website.

Find out more information here 
Source: Tax Aid

TV LICENCE

For more information on TV licencing and methods of payment please visit our CONSUMER section

Detection and Penalties

It’s against the law to watch or record TV programmes as they're being shown on TV without a valid licence. This includes the use of devices such as a TV, computer, mobile phone, games console, digital box or DVD/VHS recorder.

Find out more information here
Source: TV Licencing

HIRE PURCHASE AND CONDITIONAL SALE

Hire purchase debts are usually treated as non-priority debts. However, in special circumstances you may want to treat a hire purchase debt as a priority debt. For example, if you bought a car on hire purchase and you need it to get about because you are disabled.

Find out more information here
Source: Citizens Advice

6. DEALING WITH NON-URGENT DEBTS

How to deal with your creditors

Read information about how deal with non-priority creditors and less urgent debts, including how to deal with debt collectors, here
Source: Citizens Advice

Overdrafts

An overdraft should be for short term borrowing or emergencies only. Unfortunately, it’s all too easy to treat it as your spending limit rather than as a last resort.

Read information about the steps to follow to ensure you don’t exceed your overdraft limit and end up paying high fees here
Source: Money Advice service

7. ACTION YOUR CREDITOR CAN TAKE

Please click on the links below to be taken to your desired section. 

CREDITOR TAKES YOU TO COUNTY COURT

Read information about what happens when you are taken to court for debts like bank and building society loans or credit card debts and loans from other companies. These cases are usually dealt with by a county court. If an order is granted against you, it's called a county court judgment, or CCJ. Getting a CCJ may affect your credit rating.

Find out more information here
Source: Citizens Advice

BAILIFFS

This section contains information about bailiffs, who are enforcement officers used to chase up certain kinds of debts. It explains what a bailiff is and the process they must follow. You'll also find information about how you can prevent or stop bailiff action, what to do if a bailiff is due to visit, what you need to do if you've received a bailiff's notice, and how to complain about bailiffs.

Find out more information here
Source: Citizens Advice

HOW A CREDITOR CAN GET INFORMATION ABOUT YOUR FINANCES

If you are issued with a court order to obtain information, it's very important that you go to the hearing and answer the questions you are asked. If you don't turn up and don't have a good reason why, or you don't answer the questions, you can be sent to prison.

Find out more information here
Source: Citizens Advice

CREDITOR TAKES MONEY FROM YOUR BANK ACCOUNT

If your creditor thinks that you have the money to pay them and are holding it back, or are due to be paid some money which would cover the debt, they can apply for another court order. This is called a third party debt order. The link below tells you what to do if your creditor tries to get a third party debt order against you, including how to try and stop the order and what to do if your bank account is frozen and you're left with no money.

Find out more information here
Source: Citizens Advice

CREDITOR TAKES MONEY FROM YOUR WAGES

If you're in debt, one or more of your creditors may have taken court action against you and got a county court judgment (CCJ) or other court order. If you don't keep to the terms of the court order, your creditor can take further action to try and get back the money you owe. The link below tells you what happens if your creditor applies for an attachment of earnings order and if there's anything you can do to stop the order from being made or to change the terms of the order.

Find out more information here 
Source: Citizens Advice

CHARGING ORDERS

If you're in debt, one or more of your creditors may have taken court action against you and got a county court judgment (CCJ) or other court order. If you don't keep to the terms of the court order, your creditor can take further action to try and get back the money you owe. A charging order secures the debt against your home or other property you own. This makes the debt very serious. It means that you could lose your home if you don't pay back what you owe.

Find out more information here 
Source: Citizens Advice

HARASSMENT FROM CREDITORS

The link below tells you how creditors are supposed to behave towards you when they are trying to recover their money. It also tells you what kind of behaviour is not acceptable and how to tell if you are being harassed by a creditor. Harassment is any action that makes you feel distressed, humiliated or threatened.

Find out more information here
Source: Citizens Advice

8. LOAN SHARKS

Loan Sharks

Information about illegal lending, how to check if a lender is properly licensed and what to do if you owe money to a loan shark can be found here 
Source: Citizens Advice

How to spot a loan shark

Information on why loan sharks are dangerous and how to spot a loan shark can be found here
Source: Citizens Advice

How to report a loan shark

Loan sharks are illegal moneylenders who often charge very high interest rates. You can check if a company is authorised to lend money and report loan sharks anonymously. If you spot a loan shark or you’ve borrowed money from one you can report them anonymously.

Click here to find out more
Source: Gov.uk

9. BAILIFFS

This section contains information about bailiffs, who are enforcement officers used to chase up certain kinds of debts. It explains what a bailiff is and the process they must follow. You'll also find information about how you can prevent or stop bailiff action, what to do if a bailiff is due to visit, what you need to do if you've received a bailiff's notice, and how to complain about bailiffs.

Find out more information here
Source: Citizens Advice

10. OPTIONS FOR DEALING WITH YOUR DEBTS

OPTIONS AVAILABLE TO HELP YOU SORT OUT YOUR DEBTS

There are many processes available to help you sort out your debts. Your circumstances will determine which ones are available.

For a list of the different options available and guidance on situations that must be dealt with urgently and longer term options click here.

CONSIDERING YOUR OPTIONS

If you're considering different options for clearing your debts, it's important you choose the right one for you. What's right for you will depend on things like how long you want to take to become debt-free and whether you want to deal with your creditors yourself.

Click here for a link which will help you work out how to choose between different debt solutions.

Source: Citizens Advice

Please click on the links below to get more information on the individual processes

BANKRUPTCY

Advantages and disadvantages of going bankrupt and how to go bankrupt can be found here
Source: Citizens Advice

DEBT RELIEF ORDERS

Read information that explains all you need to know about debt relief orders (DROs). It includes information on who can get a DRO, how to get a DRO, the impact it may have on areas of your life and what to do if you have problems with an existing DRO.

Find out more information here
Source: Citizens Advice

INDIVIDUAL VOLUNTARY ARRANGEMENTS

Read information about individual voluntary arrangements (IVAs). The IVA is a formal debt solution to pay back debts over a period of time. Click the link below to read how an IVA works and help you decide whether it's the right solution for you. It also tells you how an IVA is set up, how it's managed over time and what to do if you have problems with an IVA later on.

Find out more information here
Source: Citizens Advice

ADMINISTRATION ORDERS

Click the link below to read basic information about administration order and what the eligibility criteria are for getting one. It covers what debts can be included and how much spare income you need to get one.

Find out more information here
Source: Citizens Advice

DEBT MANAGEMENT PLANS

Click the link below to read information about debt management plans (DMPs). It includes information on the advantages and disadvantages of DMPs, how to choose a provider and what to do if you are experiencing problems with an existing DMP.

Find out more information here
Source: Citizens Advice

11. BUSINESS DEBTS - WHERE TO GET HELP

Business Debtline

Business Debtline is a free, impartial and confidential debt advice service for people who are self-employed, as well as owners of small businesses.

Find out more information here
Source: Business Debtline

HMRC Business Payment Support Service

HM Revenue & Customs' (HMRC) Business Payment Support Service is designed to meet the needs of all businesses and individuals who are experiencing difficulties in paying the tax due in full and on time.

Find out more information here
Source: HMRC

12. DEALING WITH DEBTS OF SOMEONE WHO HAS DIED

You can get further information about dealing with someone’s estate under FAMILY AND RELATIONSHIPS

Dealing with the debts of someone who has died

When someone dies, their debts don’t automatically die with them. The guide below explains the different kinds of debts, Who has to pay them, and when they don't have to be paid from the estate of the person who has died.

Read the guide here
Source: Money Advice Service

13. COMPLAINTS

Financial Ombudsman Service

The FOS can help deal with complaints about pay day loans, credit card providers and help with repayment problems and debt collection.

Find out more information here
Source: Financial Ombudsman Service

Complaints about Bailiffs

The link below explains what you need to do to make a complaint about a bailiff. It also includes information about the rules bailiffs must follow, how they must deal with vulnerable people and how to take your complaint further.

Find out more information here
Source: Citizens Advice

Complaints about harassment and illegal eviction

Some private landlords put pressure on their tenants to get them to leave their home. As a private tenant you have legal rights which mean that you cannot be forced out of your home without your landlord first taking you to court. Further help is available through Stockton Borough Council, Housing options Team

Find out more information here
Source: Stockton Borough Council

14. HELPFUL TOOLS

We have provided a variety of tools below to help you with your problem but if you still need help, you can click on FIND LOCAL AGENCIES WHO CAN HELP YOU for information about local agencies who may be able to assist you further.

Please click on the links below to be taken to your desired section. 

CALCULATORS

Budgeting Tools 

The budgeting tool is an online calculator which helps you list all your household income and expenditure. You can use the budgeting tool to work out how much you've got to pay off your non-priority debts. At the end you will be able to print off a financial statement which you can use to come to an agreement with your creditors.

Use the budgeting tool here
Source: Citizens Advice

ONLINE HELP AND TOOLS

Debt Remedy Tool

There may be a number of ways to deal with your debts. What options you have depends on your circumstances, the amount of debt you have and what action your creditors have already taken.The StepChange Debt Charity Debt Remedy tool can help you to work out what options you have for sorting out your debts. This asks you a series of questions about your household, income and expenditure and then provides you with a recommendation to sort out your debts, based on your personal circumstances.
Source: Citizens Advice

Use the debt remedy tool here

My Money Steps

My money steps is a free, online debt advice and MANAGING YOUR MONEY service from National Debtline. It's easy to use and gives you a personal, step by step plan to help you with your debt problems and manage your money.

Find out more information here
Source: My Money Steps

Eviction checker

Your rights will vary a lot depending on who your landlord is and when your agreement started.

Click here for an online checker that will confirm your legal status and rights.
Source: Shelter

SAMPLE LETTERS

Sample letters to creditors

If you've got debts you can use these sample letter generator to write to your creditors. You can use the letter templates to tell your non-priority creditors about your situation and to ask them to accept your repayment plan. These debts include credit cards and other unsecured loans. Make sure you read the guidelines for using the letter templates first.

Find out more information here
Source: Citizens Advice

Create your own letters

Click here for sample letters to write to your creditors. 

Source: National Debtline

PODCASTS AND VIDEOS

Money Advice Service videos

The Money Advice Service provide videos, covering subjects such as insurance, retirement savings and inflation.

Find out more information here
Source: Money Advice Service

Young people – money advice videos

If you're struggling to manage money and debt problems, you can get help from Citizens Advice. These four short films, have been produced by the Citizens Advice Youth Forum to show how Citizens Advice can help young people with money problems.

Find out more information here
Source: Citizens Advice

Debt Advice in BSL

This film will give you basic information about debt. 

To view this video click here
Source: Citizens Advice

FAQs

Citizens Advice Frequently Asked Questions about debt

For answers to common queries about debt, click here
Source: Citizens Advice

The Financial Ombudsman

For answers to common queries about complaints about financial services, click here
Source: The Financial Ombudsman Service

NATIONAL HELPLINES

Citizens Advice
Advice by phone is available from Citizens Advice Bureaux 
Telephone: 0344 2451295

Business Debt Line
Business Debtline is a charity that gives free specialist advice by telephone to the self-employed and small businesses on most aspects of debt, including preparing a budget, cash flow issues, negotiating with creditors and bailiffs, dealing with tax matters and avoiding repossession. 
Telephone: 0800 197 6026

DAWN- Telephone debt service from Citizens Advice
DAWN Advice offers a free and confidential Debt Advice service for families and individuals. Whether you have one debt or many, small or large, we can help you deal with the situation so please get in touch for advice
Telephone 0300 303 1931

Financial Conduct Authority
Our Consumer Helpline offers impartial information and general guidance
Telephone: 0800 111 6768

Financial Ombudsman Service
The FOS can help deal with complaints about pay day loans, credit card providers and help with repayment problems and debt collection.
Telephone: 

HMRC- Business Payment Support Service
HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) provides a Business Payment Support Service for businesses who anticipate having difficulty meeting tax, national insurance or other payments before they become due to HMRC
Tel: 0845 302 1435

Home Heat Helpline
The Home Heat Helpline offers advice on energy efficiency and fuel debts to people on a low income. The Helpline can also make sure that if you're in one of the groups of people who should get extra protection from disconnection, you're not at risk of being cut off. 
Telephone 0800 33 66 99

Illegal Money Lending
If you spot a loan shark or you’ve borrowed money from one you can report them anonymously.
Telephone 0300 555 2222
Text LOAN SHARK and the lender’s details to 60003

Money Advice Service
Adviceline giving unbiased advice on how you can manage your money better
Telephone: 0300 500 5000

National Debtline
Information and advice on debt issues
Telephone: 0808 808 4000

Shelter
Shelter can give you advice on all housing matters including eviction 
Telephone: 0808 800 4444

Stepchange
For debt advice and a personal solution to your debt problems talk to one of their advisors
Telephone: 0800 138 1111

WEBSITES USED IN THIS SECTION

Citizens Advice 
The Adviceguide website is the main public information service of Citizens Advice, providing people with round-the-clock access to CAB information on their rights - including benefits, housing and employment, and on debt, consumer and legal issues.
http://www.adviceguide.org.uk/england.htm

Disability Rights UK
We are disabled people leading change, working to create a society where everyone with lived experience of disability or health conditions can participate equally as full citizens.
http://www.disabilityrightsuk.org/about-us

Gov.uk
The websites of all government departments and many other agencies and public bodies 
www.gov.uk

Money Advice Service
The Money Advice Service helps people manage their money. We do this directly through our own free and impartial advice service. We also work in partnership with other organisations to help people make the most of their money. We are an independent service, set up by government.
https://www.moneyadviceservice.org.uk/en

 

My Money Steps
My money steps is a free, online debt advice and MANAGING YOUR MONEY service from National Debtline. It's easy to use and gives you a personal, step by step plan to help you with your debt problems and manage your money.
www.mymoneysteps.org

National Debtline
National Debltine is a free, independent and confidential debt advice service run by the charity Money Advice Trust.
www.nationaldebtline.org

Shelter
Shelter helps millions of people every year struggling with bad housing or homelessness – and we campaign to prevent it in the first place.
http://england.shelter.org.uk/home

TaxAid
TaxAid is a charity that helps people on low incomes with their tax affairs.
http://taxaid.org.uk

LEAFLETS

Debt and Mental Health

Debt and mental health problems, be they caused by redundancy, bereavement, relationship breakdown, abuse or just naturally occurring, are rarely talked about but very common. What’s also rarely discussed is the link between mental health issues and debt. When debt mounts up, so does stress and anxiety. This guide is not only aimed at people experiencing mental health problems, but friends, family and carers who want to help them tackle their finances. 

To access this leaflet click here.

Source: Money Saving Expert.com