When you’re in debt, it can be tough to deal with creditors threatening to bankrupt you or send the bailiffs round.
A lot of people turn to debt management companies just to ‘make the hassling people go away’. But why pay money to do something that you can do for free?
Here’s the easy guide to getting them off your back and where you can go to get FREE professional help with it.
- How to deal with creditors step by step
- Remember to communicate
- Where to get free help to deal with creditors
Step 1: Prioritise
Some debts are more important than others. The bills you MUST pay each month are:
- Mortgage or rent
- Council Tax
- Utilities (gas, electricity)
Think of any other bills you have to pay as well. These could include insurance, car repayments, and other things.
Pay these first, even if you have to make different payment arrangements with the companies.
You can pay other debts later on.
The credit card companies will hassle you and send you nasty, threatening letters but they have relatively little power. They bank on the fact that most people don’t know this and will cave in to pressure.
However, if you don’t pay your Council Tax, the council could make you bankrupt.
Mind you, do find out if you could get Council Tax benefit. If you are on a very low income, whether you work or not, you might be eligible. There are details on how to find out if you could get Council Tax benefit on the Directgov website. You can also find out about benefits and tax credits that you could be entitled to at Turn2us and Entitledto.
Steps to take:
- If you can afford it, make sure that your mortgage/rent, Council Tax, electricity and gas bills are paid.
- Then, see if you can get them reduced – i.e. get Council Tax benefit, speak to your mortgage company to restructure your debt so that you pay less each month, switch your gas and electricity to a cheaper version or, if you can’t do that, speak to your providers and see if they can help in any way.
- If you have money left over, that can go into paying your other debts.
Don’t ignore creditors.
It may be horrible, even terrifying, but the least painful and cheapest way to deal with them is to keep communicating.
Think about it – if you lent money to someone and suddenly they stopped paying you back, didn’t return your phone calls, ignored texts, emails, and letters and generally went completely silent, wouldn’t you worry? You would probably be even more persistent in trying to get hold of them.
That’s what it’s like for the banks and credit card companies. If you don’t pay and you don’t communicate, they worry.
Steps to take:
- Contact your creditors before they contact you.
- Write to them or phone them explaining your situation and showing what you’re doing to pay off your various debts.
- Be polite and respectful and keep them abreast of your situation and everything you’re doing to pay the money back.
- If you phone, make sure you follow it up with an email or letter detailing the points you covered in your phone conversation. This means there’s a paper trail you can refer to later if need be.
Learn their language.
As in so many areas of business, if you know how the other side are thinking, and the words that press their buttons, you will get on much better.
If you want help with this, contact one of the free debt advice agencies (see below) and ask them to help. They know exactly how to speak to creditors and they will either help you or do it for you.
As long as you show that you’re honestly trying to sort things out as best you can, many creditors will accept an offer of much smaller payments and may even suspend the interest charges.
In other words, you can do your own personal arrangement with your credit card companies and banks. It’s the sort of thing that debt advice companies say they will do for you for a fee, but actually you can do it yourself or get one of the charities below to help you with it.
Subscribe to our free debt action plan emails for more advice and sample letters to creditors.
Step 3: Beat creditors’ tactics
Credit card companies, banks, and loan companies can do very little to harm you. What they’re good at is making your life miserable by threatening you and pursuing you.
As many consumers believe lenders, government agencies, and landlords have the power to throw you and your family on the street, this often works for them.
Actually, they usually don’t – at least not at first.
Don’t be intimidated by demands for payments that you can’t afford, or threats to send the bailiffs round. Creditors can do nothing without a court order, and that includes coming into your home to take away your possessions. They know this but they count on your ignorance and hope to intimidate you.
It’s particularly important to know the rules when it comes to bailiffs. As you can see from our article on what to do if the bailiffs knock on your door, they can’t force their way in. Just be careful not to open the door to them or have any other entrance open that they could use.
Step 4: Know your rights
- Get in touch with Citizens Advice with any questions you have about your rights.
- If creditors become really nasty, you should report them to Trading Standards for breaking those rules.
- If private debt collectors arrive on your doorstep without an ‘execution warrant’ issued by a County Court, deny them entry and report the firm and the creditor: they are breaking the law. That’ll shut them up for a bit.
Use charities that offer free advice and will help you organise a debt management plan.
Any of the steps above can be done with the help and support of one of these free organisations.
Don’t pay for help – the paid ‘advisers’ are often not as good as the free ones anyway.
- Community Money Advice – is run out of local churches and will stay with you all through the process of getting out of debt
- Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) which provide free, confidential and independent advice from thousands of locations in the UK.
- StepChange is a debt charity offering an online debt remedy service and free debt advice in person or on the phone.
- Christians Against Poverty is a national, free debt advice service that runs through local churches.
- National Debtline is a website offering a guide to dealing with debt – and has some useful sample letters for writing to creditors.
- PayPlan is a free debt management company funded by the credit industry, which makes repayment arrangements.
- Shelter is a great resource if you’re having problems with your rent or mortgage. They can help stop you being turfed out of your home, even if you’re about to go to court.
- AdviceUK – the largest support network for free, independent advice centres in the UK.
These organisations can do everything from helping you create a budget to negotiating with your creditors and dealing with legal issues.
Even if you have to wait for help (they’re all in high demand) it’s definitely worth it.
Here at MoneyMagpie.com we also offer lots of free advice to help you organise your finances and start making a dent in those debts. Learn how to detox your finances and read our guide to credit cards and if they’re right for you. You can also sign up to our free debt action plan e-mail service.
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