In Northern Ireland, debtors with long-existing debts are protected from harassment by Limitation Order 1989. According to this Order, any debt which is deemed barred (or non-collectable) after a specified length of time as designated in legal statute terms, is still lawfully collectable provided direct contact has been established with the debtor by the creditor prior to expiration of the lawful time limit for debt collection. Under these conditions, the debt is still valid and recoverable by the creditor. However, the creditor must follow collection procedures which exclude any court proceedings against the debtor.
If the debt collector or creditor attempts to recover an unpaid debt after expiration of the collection limitation period, having had no contact with the debtor during the allowed collection period, this action will be deemed unfair practice by the Office of Fair Trading. This official governmental office will also consider an attempt to recover a debt unfair in the event the debt collection agent or the original creditor proceeds with collection measures or threatens legal action after the debtor states that he/she is aware that this debt is now barred by terms of statute.
Provisions of the Statute Barred Debt Designation and Debtor Protection Laws
The Statute Barred Debt designation applies to all debt which becomes barred or unrecoverable due to expiration of statutory time limitations. Under Limitation Order 1989 in Northern Ireland, outstanding debts generally become time barred after existing over a period of six years. Exceptions may occur in some instances if a loan agreement is approved by signature as a deed or similar document since the expiration time limit which applies to deeds in England, Wales and Northern Ireland is usually 12 years.
Debtors in Northern Ireland are legally afforded protection against harassment by aggressive debt collection companies or creditors. It is unlawful to contact a debtor repeatedly within one day to attempt to collect an outstanding debt. Contacting a debtor during early morning or late evening hours can also be considered unlawful harassment. Actually, since 1997, it has been against the law in Northern Ireland for debt collectors to make demanding or threatening calls, or to send such communications in any form, to a citizen debtor. In addition, creditors and collection agents who contact a debtor with unreasonable demands such as selling property or possessions in order to repay a debt are acting unlawfully throughout the country. Also, debt collectors are prohibited from contacting coworkers, relatives or acquaintances of the debtor in an attempt to gain their cooperation in bullying the debtor into making payment on a debt. An instance in which legal protection for debtors against harassment by creditors may not apply, however, is when these creditors are attempting to prevent or halt the occurrence of a crime.
According to the Protection from Harassment Order of 1997, a debt collector or creditor convicted of debtor harassment may pay a fine and/or be imprisoned for up to two years. Although debtors are not guilty of a crime if they fail to repay an outstanding debt, they may be forced to file for bankruptcy or lose their credit completely. Anyone experiencing harassment or unreasonable demands from a debt collector should contact the Citizens Advice Bureau for support, information and guidance. Debtors should also document all occurrences of creditor harassment and send requests to the creditor in writing urging that all such harassing incidents and measures cease immediately. Any debt collector who threatens acts of violence may be imprisoned for up to seven years and pay a fine if convicted.
If your spouse or partner has outstanding personal debts, you will most likely also be contacted by, or eventually speak with, the creditor or debt collector handling this account. Due to your financial association with the debtor, the creditor may attempt to hold you directly responsible for repayment of the debt. If this should occur, you will want to seek legal and/or financial counseling to keep your bank account and credit reference from being adversely affected by your partner’s outstanding debt. If you are divorced or legally separated from this person, take legal measures to enforce your current exemption from any financial association or obligations to him or her.
Professional Advice from Experts Concerning Harassment of Debtors
Knowledgeable staff members of InfoAviator, as well as Citizens Advice Bureau, are trained to assist and advise consumer debtors concerning all aspects of debt occurrence and recovery. They can provide excellent advice concerning how best to deal with offensive, demanding or threatening debt collectors. In addition, they will provide consumers with extensive information concerning the legalities (or illegalities) of wage garnishment procedures when such procedures are complied with by employers.
These experts can also inform you about the bankruptcy filing process and legitimate credit issuers who will assist current debtors in acquiring new, if limited, credit allowances. They can even help you obtain a mortgage while you are still indebted to creditors. These credit and debt information and counseling professionals will also assist and support you in handling abusive or overly aggressive debt collectors or creditors. Additionally, they will fully explain the current statute of limitations on outstanding debts.
With the assistance of experienced and well-informed professionals like the staff members of Citizens Advice Bureau and InfoAviator, along with the advice of attorneys, legal aid organizations, and financial or debt counselors, consumer debtors can understand and pursue a practical, attainable path to debt recovery. They can also gain the necessary support to deal calmly, but firmly, with creditors or debt collectors who are overly aggressive, abusive or threatening in their attempts to recover outstanding debts.
Whether debt collecting agents are anxious about retaining their own jobs and professional standing or over-worked and irritable, they do not have the legal right to transfer their angers and anxieties to debtors by being abusive or threatening in phone calls, email messages or letters. In addition, creditors and collection agencies should not employ individuals as debt collectors without providing them with adequate training to attempt recovery of debts through courteous and professional communications with debtors.
It is essential for debtors in Northern Ireland to fully understand their rights and legal protection as debtors. Only then can they begin to comfortably and confidently work with creditors to repay outstanding account balances. It is also necessary for debt collectors to have complete knowledge of debtors’ as well as creditors’ legal rights and obligations so that misunderstandings and occurrences of harassment do not take place during attempted collection of debts. Once debtor and creditor have a good understanding of their legal rights and protections under Limitation Order 1989 in Northern Ireland (Statute Of Limitations), they will be well on their way to lawfully resolving any obstacles to the successful elimination of outstanding debts.