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Tackling your debts

Doorstep debt collection rules

Posted 18 September 2016 by Christine Walsh

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A knock at your door by a debt collection agent can be overwhelming. If you find yourself in this situation – don’t panic! We’ll talk you through all you need to know.

If you find a debt collection agent knocking on your door, it’s important to know what to expect. There are rules that every debt collector must follow. And it’s helpful to understand these rules, should you find a debt collector on your doorstep. 

To help ease your mind, we’ll take you through what you need to know if you find yourself in this situation. 

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Know your rights 

Ignoring a creditor’s letters and defaulting on payments can often lead to a debt collection agency becoming involved in recovering what you owe.  This can be extremely stressful - even more so if you don’t understand your rights. 

It’s important to know that all debt collection agencies must abide by a set of rules set out by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). If you feel that an agent that has come to your home has broken these rules, you’re within your rights to make a complaint. 

Debt collection agents are not allowed to force entry into your home. A common misperception is that a debt collector has the right to take your possessions. They don’t have the authority to take your belongings and sell them. In fact, debt collectors are not working on behalf of the court, so they must leave your property if requested to do so. 

Bailiffs on the other hand, have greater legal powers. They are appointed by the court to recover debts such as unpaid County Court Judgements (CCJs), council tax, parking fines and court fees. In the right circumstances, they do have the power to enter your home and repossess your belongings. However, they are not allowed to use force to gain access to your property or enter your home if only your children, under the age of 16, are present. You can find out more information about the differences between debt collectors and bailiffs here. 

A debt collector will usually become involved after you’ve missed a number of payments but before any legal action has been taken by your creditors against the debt owed.  They’re not allowed to lead you to believe that they’ve been sent by the court. They also can’t tell anyone else about your debts, such as your neighbours, or turn up at your place of work. 

If you end up face to face with a debt collector – try not to panic. First things first, it’s important to check their ID card and understand which debts they are chasing you for. Your creditors can sell the debt to a debt collection agent, or alternately employ them to retrieve the money owed to them. If you have multiple debts, it’s important to understand which creditor the agent is working on behalf of.  

You are not legally obliged to answer your door to an agent. You can speak to them over the phone or in writing if you’d prefer. Remember, you have the right to seek professional debt advice too before speaking to them. 

Debt collectors are not allowed to intimidate you or pressure you to pay off your debts there and then in full. You can give them a copy of your budget and propose a reasonable payment plan to the debt collection agency. If they understand why you’re not able to maintain your contractual payments, they might agree to a new payment plan that’s affordable for you.

Seek debt advice 

If a payment plan isn’t an option for your circumstances, a debt solution may be the best way of helping you take control of your finances. The important thing is to not ignore your debts in the hope that they will disappear. It’s highly likely that the situation will only get worse. 

If you’re not managing to juggle your payments, and can’t see a way of getting your finances back on track, you should seek professional advice from a debt expert.  It may be that a debt solution is the right option to get your unmanageable debts under control. Debt advisors, like the ones here at Debt Advisory Centre, can look at your personal circumstances and talk you through the most appropriate debt solution for your situation. 

To find out whether a debt solution can help you on the road to becoming debt free, you can contact our debt advisors by using the options on the left of the page.  

 

 

by Christine Walsh

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To find out more about managing your money and getting free debt advice, visit Money Advice Service, an independent service set up to help people manage their money.