What is statute barred debt?

When a debt has been outstanding for some time, with no payments being made or communication from the debtor, the debt can become what is known as ‘statute barred.’ When debts are statute barred it means they’re no longer enforceable, and the debtor is not required by law to pay the amount outstanding.

The Limitation Act, 1980, places a time limit of six years on many outstanding unsecured debts, and 12 years on some mortgage arrears.  In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, the debt remains in existence but a creditor is unable to initiate court proceedings to recover it. In Scotland, a debt that is statute barred is ‘extinguished,’ which means that it no longer exists in law.

The rules regarding statute barring

England, Wales and Northern Ireland

A debt may be statute barred after six years if the debtor has not acknowledged the debt, either by writing to the company or making a repayment, although there can be exceptions.

  • The limitation period for mortgage arrears is 12 years, but six years for mortgage interest
  • Debts owed to HM Revenue and Customs have no limitation period
  • Personal injury claims generally have a limitation period of three years

Scotland

In Scotland, the majority of unsecured debts are statute barred after five years, with certain exceptions – these include the capital aspect of mortgage repayments, and some overpayments of benefits. Council tax debts are not statute barred until 20 years have passed.

When does the limitation period begin?

The limitation period on simple contract debts such as credit cards, store cards, and personal loans, begins on the date the creditor is able to take legal action to recover their money.

This is the date they have a ‘cause of action,’ and it should be stated in the original contract – possibly after two or three missed payments, for example. For other debts with no fixed repayment period, such as bank overdrafts, it can be more difficult to establish when the limitation period begins.

Criteria for statute barred debt

The following criteria are generally applied to establish whether unsecured debt, such as credit or store cards, is statute barred:

  • Six years have passed since a repayment was made, and
  • The debtor has not acknowledged that the debt exists, either by payment or correspondence with the creditor, and
  • The lender has not obtained a court judgment or decree in relation to that debt

Once a debt has been acknowledged by the debtor, the limitation period begins again from the date of the acknowledgement. The Limitations Act came into existence, not to encourage avoidance of debt, but to prevent creditors pursuing debtors through the courts after a long period of time has passed.

John Baird is a personal finance and insolvency expert from Scotland Debt Solutions. He specialises in advising people on how to manage their money and deal with their personal debt problems.

Do I need to contribute more to an IVA if my financial situation improves?

An Individual Voluntary Arrangement (IVA) is a flexible debt solution that generally lasts for five or six years. At the outset, a licensed insolvency practitioner (IP) assesses your income and essential living expenses, and negotiates an affordable sum to repay creditors based on your financial position at the time.

During the IVA term, however, it is possible that your situation could change. If after reassessment by the IP your financial position has improved, the terms of your IVA could also change and you may be expected to increase your payments to creditors.

Increasing IVA payments following a change in circumstances

Although the IP assesses your repayments on an annual basis as a matter of course, it is important to advise them immediately of any changes to your financial status. Failing to do so could be regarded as a breach of the IVA terms, and result in its failure.

The insolvency practitioner will decide whether or not an increase in your repayment amount is required, after re-evaluating your situation – changes could be the result of a new job, for example, a wage increase or windfall lump sum/inheritance.

Increased wages

If you have received a relatively small wage increase, the IP may feel that ongoing increases in the cost of living are likely to limit any financial benefit to you, and take no action. Should your pay increase be larger, however, and your living costs do not increase to the same degree, your IVA payments may be amended to reflect this – usually involving a rise of 50% of the extra pay.

Commission, bonuses and overtime

If you receive commission or bonuses, you should inform your insolvency practitioner within 14 days. If the increase from commission and bonuses represents 10% or more of your basic salary, you are generally required to pay 50% of the additional monies to your creditors.

Overtime payments are not usually guaranteed, and may not have been factored into the original IVA terms. The same principle applies in this instance – of informing your IP should you receive additional money from working overtime.

Windfall payments

Your IVA may include what is known as a ‘windfall clause.’ This means you must pay over lottery wins, inheritances, gifts, or other forms of windfall payment to the IVA. You should check the formal agreement to find out your particular obligations in this respect.

The IVA supervisor will always ensure your essential living costs are covered before calculating any amended repayments, and is able to reduce repayments if your financial situation declines again.

One of the benefits of paying more money into your IVA, however, is that you will be free of debt sooner. Depending on the amount, it could help you avoid having to take equity out of your property in year five, which is often a requirement in an IVA.

Written by Lawrence O’Hara; Head Advisor at Northern Ireland Debt Solutions  part of Begbies Traynor Group plc.  Lawrence has experience in debt problems, cash flow management and insolvency.

Can an accountant’s mistake lead to a professional negligence claim?

Although business owners and company directors are ultimately responsible for ensuring their compliance with HMRC, it is natural to want to seek compensation if they have suffered a material loss due to an accountant’s mistake.

Professional input to a business can be costly, and there is usually high expectation on the part of clients that their accountant’s advice and general services will be reliable. So what type of accountancy error could potentially lead to a claim for professional negligence?

Possible accountancy mistakes

Accounting errors that might result in a claim for professional negligence could include, but are not limited to:

  • Failing to meet filing and submission deadlines
  • Not advising a client about the changes in tax legislation
  • Failing to warn their client of potential risks connected with a tax mitigation scheme
  • Submitting materially inaccurate statutory accounts
  • Failing to identify and/or report instances of fraud
  • Not informing a client about their VAT obligations, such as when they should start paying VAT

These types of professional error can result in significant loss for clients. HMRC impose considerable fines and penalties for late filing and submission, for example, and for failing to register for VAT when the threshold has been met.

Considerations when making a claim

A number of factors should be considered when making a professional negligence claim against an accountant, including:

  • Whether or not they hold professional indemnity insurance: even if a claim is successful, the accountant may not be able to pay a court judgment if they are not insured
  • If the accountant has admitted their error: this provides the proof needed to make a claim in court
  • Whether the business is completely up-to-date with its HMRC liabilities: if the penalties and fines resulting from the error have not been paid, they cannot be reclaimed

Making a claim for professional negligence can be a complex and time-consuming process, so what factors need to be considered?

How a claim for professional negligence is made

If the accountant has admitted their mistake and they hold professional indemnity insurance, it may be a simple case of claiming against their insurance company. In some instances, however, an accountant may be unwilling to file a claim with their insurers, or simply deny having made an error. In this case, taking the accountant to court may be the only way to obtain compensation.

If the accountant is no longer practicing, or has gone out of business, it could still be possible to make a claim for professional negligence. Consideration should also be given to the time limit for professional negligence claims, which is generally six years from the date of negligence.

Written by David Tattersall from Handpicked Accountants – a website which helps business owners and company directors find a reputable and reliable accountant in their local area.  

January and February see spikes in online divorce legal searches

According to Google search statistics, January 2016 and January 2012 were the two most popular months for divorce searches in the last ten years, and it is consistently proven to be the busiest time of the year for solicitors who handle divorce and the financial and conveyancing issues surrounding separation. According to The Independent, January 8th is being dubbed as “Divorce Day” by lawyers because of the number of enquiries they receive from couples wishing to end their marriages after the festive period.

Experts say the stress of trying to have a perfect family Christmas when you’re no longer happy with your spouse can get too much, as well as the financial pressures and unfulfilled expectations this time of year brings.

Relate, one of the UK’s biggest relationship charities, has also revealed it received a peak in calls in January.

Google’s data also shows that there are some peaks in other months, such as May and August, and that December is also consistently higher for divorce searches.

For solicitor firms, it may be prudent to absorb such figures and plan effectively for both marketing plans and coordinate processes to handle the upsurge in clients around the peak times.

MSHB: expert divorce law advice

Collectively, the lawyers at Miller Samuel Hill Brown Solicitors have over 300 years of experience, making them one of the most well-established firms in Scotland. Their family lawyers based in Glasgow, help all kinds of clients, including business owners, entrepreneurs and other individuals with complex aspects of family law and divorce – as well as those that are more straightforward. Their lengthy and extensive experience means that they are able to provide the highest quality legal advice, tailored to your specific circumstances.

Strong client relationships

Miller Samuel Hill Brown’s divorce lawyers understand that family issues are personal and sensitive matters, and that’s why they work to build strong relationships with their clients to help them feel at ease. They provide support for their clients throughout the legal process. They believe their commitment to customer satisfaction sets them apart from other law firms and is the cornerstone of their successful practice.

Contact Miller Samuel’s Family Lawyers in Glasgow, Scotland

For more information on Miller Samuel Hill Brown’s legal services, click here: https://www.mshblegal.com/

How important is no win, no fee to your online presence?

There is no denying, that when it comes to making a personal injury claim, no win, no fee is exceptionally important for your clients. It allows many people to pursue personal injury claims they otherwise would not, which is great news for you, and for your client. However, how can you utilise the power of taking on clients on a no win, no fee basis? Friends Legal, no win no fee lawyers Leeds, are an excellent example of how to market no win, no fee services correctly. Here are the three main things you can do.

Provide information

Although clients understand the basic concept of no win, no fee, many are still sceptical – how can lawyers simply work for free? Providing clear information about how exactly no, win, no fee works, and what your client can expect is an excellent way to build trust. It will also boost your conversion as you have already been helpful to the client by assisting them in understanding.

Provide a free initial assessment

Providing a free initial assessment is something most firms do anyway, but be sure to advertise this on your website. Make sure that clients understand that you are happy to discuss whether you can take on their claim on a no win, no fee basis, and that there is also no obligation to continue their claim, regardless of whether you can take them on on a no win, no fee basis or not. Consumers are very wary of hidden costs, and are fearful of how much legal fees might set them back. As a result, you should be as clear as possible about your processes for assessing a clients claim.

Provide information about how much they might be able to claim

We know that how much you can claim for a personal injury can vary wildly, however it is possible to give clients an idea of how much they might be awarded, should their no win, no fee claim be successful. Case studies of your successful past cases are very useful in helping clients understand how much they might be awarded, and also build confidence in your ability to win their case. You can also outline example amounts for different types of injury, and of varying severity. Clients are also interested in finding out all of the things you can help them claim for, so be sure to provide as much information about heads of claim as you can.

Does using a messenger service improve how much business you get from your website?

The way in which law firms acquire clients has dramatically changed in recent years. When just a decade ago, you no doubt acquired most of your clients by word of mouth, or because they saw your office near where they live or work, the digital revolution has meant that nowadays, the internet can be your best source of business. However, customers have greater choice than ever before and can quickly compare firms and their offering online. So how do you make sure your customer chooses you? As well as building trust and confidence, you also need to make it as easy as possible for your customer to get in contact you. Friends Legal, personal injury lawyers Reading have utilised a ‘messenger service’ prompting site visitors to message the firm. But how can this assist in getting business? This post looks at three reasons your firm should take advantage of message services or enquiry forms.

Mobile first

Your potential clients are doing more and more of their admin on the go – and that includes finding a lawyer. Whether on the train, waiting for an appointment or simply on their lunch break at work, when clients come across your website, it’s not always convenient for a call. Having the option to send a message, captures more clients when they are browsing your site, wherever they are.

Client expectation

Modern client expectation is to be able to carry out a transaction with as little human interaction as possible. We can now order anything we like at the touch of the button, so why not a lawyer too? Prompting clients to send a message shows that your firm is modern and straightforward to deal with, which appeals to the younger and contemporary consumer.

No commitment

Allowing potential clients to send a message as opposed to calling, gives the person the opportunity to outline their circumstances, and make a speculative enquiry. It feels less committal than speaking to someone on the phone. This is an easy way of capturing your customer slightly earlier in their ‘customer journey’ than you would with only allowing them the option of calling you.

These are just a few of the reasons why all firms should consider implementing a messaging service or contact form on your site, but there are also many more practical benefits, particularly if you are too busy with enquiries to answer the phone.

Wilford Smith: A modern law firm incorporating new internet technologies

With continuous changes and evolution taking place in the legal sector, and numerous challenges facing law firms who carry out their business in a “traditional” manner, Wilford Smith has chosen to position itself at the forefront of legal technology to provide a superior service to our clients.

We have chosen to utilise modern internet strategies to make ourselves as visible as possible to potential clients, generating business and improving competitiveness by establishing a prominent identity online. Built and supported by online business generation specialists, our website – wilfordsmith.com – is robust in both the quantity and quality of its content, and we have sought to use modern internet based practices combined with a responsive online platform to allow clients to find out about what we do quickly and effectively.

It’s not only about what happens with clients making their initial online enquiry with us – we have invested in developing an end-to-end solution so that enquiries from our website are instantly placed in our system so that we can follow up on all enquiries more effectively and deliver excellent legal services to our clients.  With continued investment in our online strategy, with our new platform having launched only in the past couple of months, we expect our online presence later in 2018 to give us an enviable position in the market. This will enable us to attract new business, strengthen existing relationships with clients and demonstrate our expertise in specific practice areas.

We hear stories of some law firms still running their business through emails and Word documents only, but without a professional case management system, the service delivered to the client would undoubtedly be weaker and less efficient.

Wilford Smith provides clients with high quality legal advice across a wide range of areas, including serious crime, fraud, corporate crime, directors defence, commercial and residential conveyancing, motoring offences and estate planning. With teams based in Sheffield, Rotherham and London, we assist clients throughout England and Wales. We offer strategic legal thinking, presented in a manner that is clear and free of jargon, as part of our exceptionally personal service, and are able to call on the support of the highest quality barristers when necessary.

At Wilford Smith, we embrace modern internet technologies to make ourselves the go-to firm for commercial and private clients. Get in touch today on 0808 278 2031 or contact us online.

How to hire a Process Server to serve court and legal papers

If you are involved in a court case or legal process, you may need to hire a process server. A process server is trained to handdeliver important legal documents to their intended recipient. You may wonder why you can’t simply send these documents in the post? Using a process server will ensure that the recipient cannot claim ignorance or that they haven’t received the legal papers. Post can get lost in transit and people can move home  a process server will track down the recipient and obtain proof of delivery to ensure this doesn’t happen.

If you need a process server, how can you hire one and what must you consider when making a choice? The following guide explains how you can hire the services of a professional process server:

Choosing a Process Server

Before you start the process of hiring a process server, you should ensure you are fully prepared and confident in your choice. A process server offers a specific service, but within this service, the terms and conditions could vary greatly from each company to the next. The following is a comprehensive checklist of the “job specifics” that you should be aware of:

  • How does the Process Server charge clients i.e. is it a fixed fee or “per attempt” basis?
  • Does the Process Server provide an unlimited number of delivery attempts, if not, how many?
  • What geographical locations does the Process Server cover?
  • Is there a fixed price per area or does their fee cover any UK destination?
  • What method of proof will the process server obtain when delivering your documents?
  • What information do you need to provide to the process server?

Once you are 100% clear on the above pointers and requirements, you should then search for reviews of the process server. Use Google to find previous customer reviews and check the website of the firm (if they have one). Reading actual reviews allows you to formulate an opinion of the ability of your potential process server and check their reliability.

Hiring a Process Server

Now that you have discovered the fine points of the service provided, scoured the web for positive reviews, and settled on a trusted process server, you can now instigate the procedure and start the ball rolling. First and foremost you should contact the process server or legal firm, agree on a contract and establish a rapport.

Once you have done this, you should then scan, email or hand deliver your legal documents to the process server – ensure the documents are clear and legible, and that all relevant information is included. To help the process server in their work, you should also provide as much information as possible about the respondent. Consider including their place of work and occupation, their home address, their immediate family details and any past failed attempts at serving.

Other useful information to provide could include their weekly routine and habits such as any hobbies they have or any locations they regularly visit. Do they go to a gym? Do they take a particular route to their place of work? Is there a local shop they visit? The more information you can provide, the quicker your process server can deliver your documents. If you feel a piece of information may appear trivial, give it anyway – it could turn out to be a vital link to your target.

Now that you have provided the legal documents and a substantial amount of information relating to your target, your chosen process server can set to work immediately. Be sure to maintain regular contact and check on their progress – they may need additional information or clarification on some of the details you have provided. All you can do now is play the waiting game as your process server works to track down the target and obtain proof of delivery of the legal documents.

What can you legally do to find someone in the UK?

There may be a time in your life when you have to track someone down. This could be for personal reasons or for legal reasons i.e. a court case. You may just want to snoop around and be nosey! Whatever the reason, you should be aware of what you can legally do to find someone, and what options you have at your disposal to find your desired target.

It is important to understand what is against the law when trying to find someone in the UK before embarking on your search. What could you potentially be arrested for? The following is a list of tracing means a member of the public cannot do without potential legal action being taken if caught:

  • Place a wiretap on someone’s phone
  • Intercept someone’s personal mail
  • Access government held records
  • Access certain and special databases containing personal information
  • Enter someone’s property without permission

As you will find out later, it is possible to do some of these things, but you would have to enlist the services of a private detective or law firm who can offer a person tracing service. If you are unsure if what you are doing is illegal, seek advice before you do it or hire a professional!

Simple methods anyone can use to track a person both online and offline

Now you understand what you cannot do, we can look at the myriad simple methods you can use to track a person within the realms of the law. It is surprising to see that you do not need extensive training to track someone – although the methods listed below are not guaranteed to work, they are relatively easy to do and could yield positive results:

1. Search social media platforms

In today’s modern society many people live their lives on social media. You can find out a decent amount of information about a person simply by trawling through Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

2. Search through phone directories

Phone directories and products such as the Yellow Pages do still exist. Consider searching through directories such as these to see if your person has a listed telephone number and address.

3. Perform a Google Search

Have you ever tried “Googling” your own name? You will be surprised at the results! Why not try searching for your person through a search engine to see what information you can gather.

4. Visit their last known whereabouts

If you know your target’s last known address or place of work, you can simply go to that address and see if they are in. Whether or not they answer the door or agree to speak to you is an entirely different matter, however.

5. Contact their last known place of employment

This is still considered legal but may not yield any results. If you know where your target worked, you can always call their office. In most cases, a company will more than likely not provide any personal information about an employee but you could get lucky .

Hire the services of a professional tracing agent

If your sleuthing skills prove inadequate and you cannot locate your target, do not despair! It is possible to hire the services of a firm such as Diem Legal that specialises in Tracing and Process Serving. A tracing agent and process server both specialise in tracking individuals, and if necessary, serving them important documents. Furthermore, such firms have access to databases and documents not widely available to the general public. Finally, organisations such as these can help obtain warrants to search premises and get approval for other surveillance methods in some cases.

ONS reports highest number of road deaths since 2011 – claims for compensation rising too

car crash

According to the ONS, a total of 1,792 road deaths were reported in 2016, a rise of 4% compared with those in 2015; the highest figure since 2011. There was a 44% drop in fatalities during 2016 in comparison with 2006.

Personal injury claims as a result of road traffic accidents are on the increase, and if you have suffered an injury due to a road traffic accident, you might be entitled to compensation. If you need to file a road accident claim Gloucestershire legal specialists are available to assist you with legal and procedural advice to ensure your claim has the best possible chances of success.

Other notable statistics reported by the ONS include:

  • There were 24,101 people seriously injured as a result of road traffic accidents during 2016. However, comparisons of this figure with earlier figures is challenging, as there have been changes in the manner in which severity of injuries are now reported.
  • There were 181,384 casualties in total in 2016. A 3% decline from 2015 figures, the lowest ever recorded.
  • Motor traffic levels increased by 2.2% from 2015 to 2016.

What can be concluded:

There has been a statistically significant decrease in the number of casualties in road traffic accidents between 2015 and 2016. This suggests there are various factors that have combined together to improve some aspects of safety on Britain’s roads.

What cannot be concluded:

The number of deaths as a result of road traffic accidents increased between 2015 and 2016, but the change is minor, and can be attributed to natural fluctuation in deaths over a period of time.

The 2016 serious injuries figures were substantially impacted, and figures for slight injuries also, but less severely, by changes in reporting systems used by approximately 50% of UK police forces. Therefore, comparisons with figures from 2015 for serious injuries may prove to less accurate.

  • In 2016, a total of 24,101 seriously injured casualties were reported in road traffic accidents.
  • There were 181,384 casualties reported in road traffic accidents during 2016. This is around 3% lower than in 2015, and the lowest level ever recorded.
  • 136,621 personal-injury cases related to traffic accidents were reported in 2016, of which 1,695 involved at least one death.

Regardless of the type of personal injury sustained in a road traffic accident, you should always seek legal advice. Many legal firms offer a team of specialists in personal injury and compensation claims. If you need to make a traffic accident compensation claim, a workplace compensation claim, a burn compensation claim, or a cosmetic surgery compensation claim, having the right legal specialist working on your case will increase the chances of receiving an acceptable compensation settlement.