Dealing with Debt.

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1 Dealing with Debt

2 You Are Not Alone These days, lots of people are in debt for different reasons and many people find their debts difficult to manage. The important thing to remember is that you must not ignore your debts - they won t go away. The longer you leave them, the worse they ll get. If you have a mortgage or rent arrears, you could lose your home if you don t make your monthly payments. If you lose your home because you have paid other debts instead of your rent or mortgage, you may find that the Council can only help you in a very limited way to find somewhere else to live. Help addressing your debt Split your debts into two groups: priority and non-priority debts - see the later section called prioritising your debts for more information on how to do this. Always pay your priority debts first. Never pay your debts instead of living expenses like your rent or mortgage. Contact your creditors (the people or organisations you owe money to) to explain your situation. They are more likely to be helpful if you keep in contact with them. Check you are receiving all the benefits and tax credits you are entitled to. Avoid borrowing more - it may look like the only answer, but it usually means more debt. Be realistic - when negotiating with someone you owe money to, arrange payments that you can afford to keep making. There s no point agreeing to pay an amount that you can t afford to pay regularly. Your creditors are more likely to be unreasonable if you keep breaking your promises to pay. If you decide to deal with your creditors yourself, keep a record of all conversations you have with them. Make sure you write down the names and phone numbers of the people you speak to. Never ignore court papers. Courts are there for your benefit too, and are reasonable about personal debts. Most judgments are issued without a hearing (by default) because the person who owed the money did not respond. Be fair - give accurate information to your creditors and any organisation dealing with your debts. Don t underestimate or exaggerate your living expenses. 2

3 Prioritising your debts Different types of debts can be recovered in different ways and it is important to understand these differences when prioritising your debts. Never ignore priority debts: always pay them first. Once you have made arrangements to pay your priority debts you can then make arrangements to pay your non-priority debts. Both types of debt are listed below and on the following page. Non-priority debts are debts where your creditors have not got the extra powers listed below when trying to recover their money. In the end, they have to go to court. All the same, you should never ignore these debts. Priority debts Debt Possible action Mortgage Rent Income Tax, National Insurance, VAT Repossession Eviction Seizure of goods / bankruptcy / imprisonment Council Tax Seizure of goods / imprisonment / attachment of earnings orders (taking money from your wages) TV licence Gas / electricity / water Court fines Hire-purchase agreements for essential items Maintenance payments via the courts or CSA Fine / seizure of goods / imprisonment Disconnection of supply Seizure of goods / imprisonment Repossession of goods Seizure of goods /money / imprisonment / attachment of earnings 3

4 The most common non-priority debts include: Credit card debts Personal loans with banks, building societies and finance companies Charge cards Catalogues Personal debts to your friends and family Doorstep loans Credit sales agreements Trading cheques/vouchers Mobile phone bills Non-essential hire-purchase agreements Loans on a house or car that has been repossessed To work out your budget you need to: Work out how much money is coming into your household (income) Work out how much money is going out (expenditure) See how much money you have left (balance) Work out affordable offers to your creditors Plan your future spending. Use the form opposite to work out your weekly or monthly income and expenditure. This will help you to work out how much you can pay towards your debts. Your creditors will need this information when you negotiate a repayment plan with them. If a debt advice organisation is helping you with your debts, they will also find this information useful. If you find that your expenditure is more than your income, check whether you are entitled to any extra benefits. Ask at your local Job Centre Plus or local Housing Benefit Office, or contact the Tax Credits Hotline or Pension Credit Helpline, as appropriate (see page 7 for contact details). 4

5 Your income and expenditure Income Weekly/ Expenditure Weekly/ monthly monthly Wages Rent/Mortgage Income Support Endowment Policy JSA Secured loans Disability Living Allowance Council Tax Incapacity Benefit Water rates Working Tax Credit Gas Child Tax Credit Electricity Maternity Allowance Buildings / Contents insurance Statutory Sick Pay Life Insurance Child Benefit Phone Housing Benefit TV Licence Council Tax Benefit Car tax / MOT / Insurance / fuel Benefits Housekeeping Maintenance Travel Clothes Medicines Maintenance payments Pension Total income Entertainment School meals School trips Balance Court fines Child care costs Total Income Minus Total Expenditure Balance + / - Total Expenditure 5

6 How to try and help yourself Consider ways to increase your income, for example by renting out a room, working extra hours or taking a second job. Consider also whether you could raise any money through the sale of assets or by selling any possessions that you no longer need (e.g. through car-boot sale, garage sale or on an internet auction site). Make sure you are spreading the cost of your household bills so you don t have to pay them all at once. Try to cut down on any expenditure but don t go without basics like food, gas or electricity. Don t worry if the offers you make to your creditors look very small. They would prefer you to offer a small amount you can pay, rather than a larger one that you can t. Get help making pro-rata offers to your creditors by contacting a Debt Advice Service or your local Citizens Advice Bureau (see the contact phone numbers at the end of this leaflet). They can give you debt advice and possibly contact your creditors to help you negotiate a repayment plan. They could also give you options you have not thought of. At some point, you may be advised to: Arrange a Debt Management Plan with a Debt Management Company Arrange an Administrative Order Enter into an Individual Voluntary Arrangement with your creditors. Any of these arrangements could be right for you, in certain circumstances, but you should get independent advice before making them. In extreme circumstances you could consider voluntary bankruptcy, but again you should consider all the pros and cons very carefully and get independent advice beforehand. 6

7 Notes Useful Contacts Citizens Advice Bureau - follow the link to Advice Guide Aldershot Bramley Cranleigh Farnham Godalming Guildford / Haslemere Woking National Debtline Debt Free Direct Consumer Credit Counselling Service Waverley Borough Council Housing Benefits & Council Tax Benefits Helpline Jobcentre Plus Tax Credit Hotline Pension Credit Helpline

8 For further information: Web: Tel: Most of our publications can be provided in alternative formats. For an audio version, large print, text only or a translated copy of this publication, please contact or call mobile Disclaimer This leaflet is not a statement of the law. Nor does it cover every situation. If you are in doubt about your legal rights or obligations, you should seek further advice from the Citizens Advice Bureau or an independent solicitor. The information in this document may become out of date. We have made every effort to ensure it is correct at the time of publication, but the Council cannot accept any responsibility for any loss you suffer because you acted or decided not to take action as a result of any statement in this document k.ppd

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