It’s a financially difficult time for many people at the moment.
Recent world events have thrown a lot of uncertainty onto things, meaning that it’s hard to budget and manage money. As such, debt is a common occurrence, and with it, the risk of receiving a debt collection letter.
But what should you do if you receive such a letter from a solicitor? We take a look at everything you need to know about dealing with Lightfoots debt recovery solicitors.
Who are Lightfoots LLP Solicitors?
Lightfoots is a Thame-based solicitors firm that deals with a range of clients across Oxfordshire, Berkshire, and Buckinghamshire. According to the Lightfoots website, the firm was first established over 150 years ago. They provide legal services, including debt collection, to individuals and businesses.
The Lightfoots Thame address is 1-3 High Street, Thame, Oxfordshire, OX9 2BX. The phone number for this office is 01844 212305. On their website, there is also a number (but no address) for the Princes Risborough office, which is 01844 397020. Both offices are open from Monday to Friday, from 9am to 5pm.
Are they a real firm?
You’re right to be sceptical when it comes to receiving a letter saying you owe money, especially if it’s from a firm or company you don’t recognise. So what about Lightfoots LLP Solicitors, are they a legitimate law firm?
A quick glance at Companies House shows that Lightfoots LLP is indeed a real company. This limited liability partnership was incorporated in February 2009 (number OC343229). However, there is also a Lightfoots Solicitors Limited private limited company that was incorporated in February 2020 (number 12479404).
You’ll also see that Lightfoots are authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) under number 508443. So, you can rest assured that any contact you receive from Lightfoots debt recovery solicitors is legitimate and needs to be addressed.
Why am I getting a letter from Lightfoots Solicitors?
There are several reasons why Lightfoots might be writing to you, although all of them are linked to the same reason. If you have a debt you haven’t paid, there’s a good chance that this is the root cause of the problem.
Usually, companies will call upon a solicitor or debt collection agency only when they have no other options. They may have tried to recover the money themselves and tried to contact you without success. If this is the case, they hope that using a debt collector or solicitor will prompt a quick payment (which it often does).
In some instances, companies actually sell the debt to the solicitor’s debt collection branch. If this happens, you now owe the money directly to the solicitor rather than the original creditor. Whichever the situation is, the letter you receive from them should outline all of the details.
What’s the difference between a solicitor and a debt collector?
There are several ways in which solicitors and debt collection agencies differ, as well as a few similarities. Both are used by companies as a means of recovering money. Often, the hope is that the person in debt will be scared into paying what they owe, rather than have to deal with either of these types of company.
However, both a debt collector and a solicitor only have the same powers as the original creditor. So, although the name may sound somewhat intimidating, it doesn’t change matters much initially. The difference is when things start to escalate.
Debt collection solicitors know the law inside out. As such, if they need to start legal proceedings against you, it’s often a much faster process. Although legal action is rare in the case of unpaid debts, it can happen. What’s more, solicitors can act swiftly and effectively to deal with the situation.
What can and can’t debt collection solicitors do?
So, to start with, solicitors only have the same power as the original creditor. But what does this actually mean? Well, here are some of the actions they can take when dealing with your debt:
- Request that you pay back the money, in writing or over the phone.
- Visit your property to ask you to repay the money.
- Add interest and charges to your debt.
This is a fairly limited set of powers, but things can certainly escalate if you continue to avoid paying what you owe. This can include:
- Filing for a County Court Judgement (CCJ) against you. This is a court order demanding you pay the money.
- Request the bailiffs visit your home if you don’t pay after the CCJ. They can take money and your possessions to recover the cost of the debt.
- Petition for bankruptcy, meaning you’d have to sell off any assets you have to settle the cost of the debt.
As you can see, this is a significantly stronger set of powers. Usually, debt collection agencies will need to consult solicitors to achieve the same results. However, there are certain things that debt collection solicitors can’t do when chasing the debt:
- Harass you or threaten you. They can’t call at unsociable times or repeatedly.
- Enter your house and take your things. Only bailiffs have this power, and even then, there are conditions.
- Lie to you. They can’t pretend they have powers they don’t have, and can’t claim that one outcome is more beneficial when it’s not.
When you’re dealing with a debt collection solicitor such as Lightfoots, it’s essential that you know where you stand.
What should I do if a solicitor writes to me?
A letter out of the blue from Lightfoots debt collection solicitors can certainly come as a shock. Your first reaction may well be to ignore the situation and hope it resolves itself. Sadly, this is unlikely to happen. However, there are steps you can take to resolve the matter:
Keep a record
One of the most important things you can do is to keep a detailed account of everything that happens when dealing with Lightfoots. Start by gathering up all of your documents and details relating to the original debt. This can include:
- The original agreement and terms and conditions
- Any receipts from the transaction
- Your bank statements showing any payments made/received
- Any letters regarding the debt from the original creditor
Once you have these, you’ll be in a much stronger position to deal with things. You should also note down what actions you take and when, as well as details of who you speak to. If you need to make a complaint or contest the debt, all of this information can help.
Prove the debt
The creditor or solicitor dealing with your debt must be able to prove that it exists and give full details of that fact. If they can’t do so, then they can’t enforce the debt. With this in mind, it’s worth considering sending a ‘prove the debt letter’.
Essentially, such a letter outlines some of the FCA rules about how companies must handle debt collection. If they want to continue pursuing the debt, they’ll need to provide proof of it first. You can find a template for what to write online easily enough.
However, there are some instances where you don’t want to send such a letter. If you’ve received a CCJ or court papers, such action isn’t appropriate. Similarly, if you’ve not heard anything about the debt or made a payment for over six years, you don’t want to acknowledge it at this point until you’ve checked the status of it.
Check the status of the debt
There is a piece of legislation called the Limitation Act 1980 that outlines how long a creditor has to take action against you. Effectively, this means that certain unsecured debts (such as loans, credit cards and store credit) have a time limit on them for a creditor to repay them.
If it’s been over six years since you last heard anything about or made a payment on your debt, it could be barred under statute. Although statute-barred debt still exists, the creditor cannot take legal action to recover it. They can still ask you to repay it, and it may stay on your credit file, but you’ve no legal obligation to repay it.
There are certain requirements a debt has to meet before it’s deemed statute-barred. Provided neither you nor the creditor has acknowledged the debt in the last six years (including sending a CCJ), and you haven’t made a payment, it could be statute-barred.
Talk to them
If they’ve proved the debt and it’s not barred by statute, you should consider talking to Lightfoots. Again, you should bear in mind our first suggestion about keeping a record of your correspondence. If they visit your home, you don’t have to let them in, but you can talk to them.
Generally, most debt collection agencies and solicitors can tell when a person is making excuses and when they’re being genuine. So, if you’re struggling with debts or they’ve contacted you by mistake, they’ll usually take this into account.
Repay the money
We all have to pay our debts at some point and in some way. If you owe the money and it’s not statute-barred, you should consider paying it back. Depending on the circumstances, you’ll either need to pay the original creditor directly or Lightfoots solicitors. You should check the letters you’ve received to see who you owe the funds to.
Of course, it’s not always as easy as paying the full amount all at once. Many people in debt can’t afford such a lump sum payment without it impacting their finances elsewhere. Depending on the circumstances, Lightfoots solicitors or your creditor might accept a repayment plan.
This is where having all of your documents in order can help. If you approach your creditor with a suggestion of how to make regular repayments, they might settle for this without further actions/charges. Just remember that they’re not obliged to accept such an arrangement. They are, however, more likely to accept it if you’re honest and upfront about your situation.
What happens if I don’t pay?
The consequences for refusing to pay can be fairly significant. As well the likely charges and interest that keep accruing, you’ll also face the possibility of legal action.
As we mentioned earlier, a solicitors firm such as Lightfoots can take fairly swift and decisive action against people refusing to pay their debts. As well as things like a CCJ or a visit from the bailiffs, you could face further penalties.
Ultimately, you may have to appear in court, and could even face the possibility of jail time if you refuse to pay without proper grounds. The best-case scenario is that your credit file is decimated for years to come. Clearly, it’s not worth it to ignore them and refuse to pay.
Where can I get help if I can’t pay?
No matter how bad your situation may seem, there are always options and places you can turn to for help. As well as debt charities such as StepChange and National Debtline, you can also get help from organisations such as Citizens Advice.
There are also financial options available to you. This includes things such as:
- Getting an IVA. An individual voluntary arrangement is a method of dealing with multiple debts. You basically pay a fixed amount each month, which is then split between your creditors. At the end of 60 months, anything remaining is absolved.
- Taking out a consolidation loan. With this method, you take out one big loan to cover the cost of your existing debts. You then make one regular repayment, often at a lower interest rate than your combined debts.
Can I make a complaint against Lightfoots Solicitors?
If you feel like you’ve been treated unfairly by Lightfoots Solicitors, you are entitled to make a complaint. The first step is to complain directly to Lightfoots. They have to deal with the matter in a timely and fair manner. If they don’t address the situation to your satisfaction, you can escalate the issue to the Legal Ombudsman.