Have you just received a West Lancashire Borough Council debt letter?
If your life in the rolling emerald hills of West Lancashire has been spoiled with scary debt letters, we can help.
Our guide explains what to do after receiving a West Lancashire Borough Council debt letter – and your rights!
Is My West Lancashire Borough Council Debt Letter Genuine?
It is highly likely that any debt letter you receive from West Lancashire Borough Council is genuine. Some people do fall into debt with their local council – and they will let you know if this is the case.
There have been some instances of people trying to scam others by pretending to be a council requesting payments, but these are not common.
If you are unsure if your West Lancashire Borough Council debt letter is genuine, you should call the council directly and ask if they were the ones who sent the letter.
Reasons Why You May Owe West Lancashire Borough Council Money
There are a number of reasons why people end up owing their local council money. You could owe them because of:
- Council tax arrears
- Council home rent arrears
- Unpaid council parking fines
- Business rent arrears
These are just some of the main ways you could owe them. There may be other instances of debt to the council, such as one-off invoices known as sundry debt.
Council tax arrears are some of the most common council debts, and these debts are being chased again since COVID-19 restrictions were eased!
Contact West Lancashire Borough Council
There are different ways to contact them to discuss your debt letter. For a full breakdown of their different numbers and emails, consult this page from their official website.
There are further contact details on their specific West Lancashire Borough Council debt page. On this page, you can also find information on how to pay debts to the council. Before you consider paying, read our guide first.
Will West Lancashire Borough Council Use a Debt Collection Agency?
If you owe money to the council, they could ask for the money themselves and then threaten legal action if you fail to pay. There is also the chance that the council will use a debt collection agency to chase the debt.
A debt collection agency does not have more powers than the council themselves. All they provide is time and resources to chase the debt on their behalf.
There is no evidence to suggest that they have teamed up with a specific debt collection group right now, but that could always change.
What Does My Debt Letter Mean?
A letter stating that you owe debt of any kind is likely to be what the industry calls a Letter Before Action. They call it this because the letter notifies you of the debt, requests payment and if payment is not received threatens further action.
The further action will often mean going to the courts to get a court order to enforce the debt. It is only with this court order and an enforcement team (not a debt collection group!) that you will be made to pay.
The enforcement agent will come to your home to request either:
- Full payment of the debt
- A payment and agreement on a payment plan
- Alternatively, they will repossess items to be sold at auction to pay the debt
Their letters and this process can sound intimidating and really damage people’s lives, but there are ways to prevent this from happening, even if you cannot afford to pay.
Deal with West Lancashire Borough Council debt in the right way with our guidance below.
Is My West Lancashire Borough Council Debt Letter a Mistake?
Sometimes debt collection groups send letters to multiple people even though there is only one debt to chase. This is a trial-and-error method to find the right person. For this reason, it is possible that debt letters can fall into your lap by mistake.
However, it is not likely that any West Lancashire Borough Council debt letter will be a mistake, unless you have recently moved to a new property in the council’s jurisdiction.
Even when you think it is a mistake or admin error, you should not ignore the letter and follow our “prove the debt letter” guidance further below.
Should You Ignore the West Lancashire Borough Council Debt Letter?
Hundreds of people receive debt letters in the post and choose to ignore them. This is a natural reaction because the wording of these letters – and the stages of collecting debt as illustrated earlier – are scary.
But it is always best to take action when receiving a debt letter.
Whether you know about the West Lancashire Borough Council debt or not, you should never ignore their letters.
Should I Pay West Lancashire Council Instantly?
But taking action does not always mean getting out your chequebook. Taking action means using the process of debt collection and the regulations to your advantage.
You can take action by simply responding to the West Lancashire Borough Council debt letter. We discuss the different ways you may need to respond soon.
Could West Lancashire Borough Council Take My Possessions?
West Lancashire Council cannot come to your home and take your possessions. That doesn’t mean you cannot lose your possessions because of West Lancashire Borough Council debt.
But for this to happen, the process must be used, and West Lancashire Borough Council will have to go to court and then use a debt enforcement officer to carry out the repossessions for them.
The key takeaway is that anyone working for West Lancashire Borough Council cannot claim to enter your home and take away your possessions to pay off the debt. This can only be carried out by specialised groups after they’ve taken you to court.
Can I Stop West Lancashire Borough Council Debt Team from Calling?
Anyone being pursued for debt in England has the right to not be harassed by creditors and debt collection agencies. This rule also applies if you owe West Lancashire Borough Council debt.
You cannot bar all communications with West Lancashire Borough Council or any debt collection team working on behalf of them. They must have at least some way of contacting debtors about money that is owed to them.
That being said, the debtor can request:
- Contact at certain times
- Contact on certain days
- No contact is made at work or during unsociable hours
The debt collection group or West Lancashire Borough Council should respect your requests, or you could make a complaint.
Ways to Respond to the West Lancashire Borough Council Debt Letter
So, you’ve received a West Lancashire Borough Council debt letter and are not sure what to do now. We’ve established that hiding it out of sight or putting it in the bin is not the correct move.
So, what is?
Ask West Lancashire Council for Debt Proof
If you are told that you owe West Lancashire Borough Council debt, they have to prove you owe the money. No company can claim you owe debt without proof that you do. And it is their responsibility to provide proof.
Examples of proof could be your council tax agreement or other signed documents. By requesting this proof, you can show that there has been a mistake or buy yourself some more time to figure out the best debt solution for you.
Use Prove the Debt Letter Templates
To ask for proof of your debt, you need to send a letter back to West Lancashire Borough Council. The letter you send is well-known in the industry as a prove the debt letter. Because it is a standard reply to any claims you owe money, there are readymade templates available for you to use. Just add some personal details to these details and send your letter back.
If they can’t prove the debt, you might never hear from them again.
Tell West Lancashire Borough Council You Don’t Have to Pay
Not being able to prove the debt is not the only way of avoiding paying.
You will not have to pay some types of West Lancashire Borough Council debt if it is a really old debt, known as statute barred debt.
What Is Statute Barred Debt?
Statute barred debt is a debt that has become too old to be legally enforced.
The courts were being stretched to their limits as the number of cases they had to deal with grew. Included in this growing number of cases were old debt cases. To free up more courts and resources, they made old debts as not enforceable through the Limitation Act 1980 (statute barred).
Specifically, a statute barred debt is:
- Six years old or older (five years in Scotland)
- The debtor has not acknowledged the debt in the last six years
- The debtor has not made a payment towards the debt, no matter how small, in the last six years
- The debt has never had a CCJ on it
If your West Lancashire Borough Council debt ticks all criterion, then it is a statute barred debt and you can never be taken to court or made to pay. The debt is not cleared, but you will only pay if you voluntarily offer to pay.
Send a Statute Barred Letter
In these circumstances, you should not send a prove the debt letter. You can choose to send a statute barred letter instead.
This letter lets West Lancashire Borough Council know that the debt cannot be legally enforced, and you will not be paying. The best way to do this is by using the statute barred letter templates found on UK debt charity websites.
Whereas you may choose to write your own prove the debt letter, it is recommended to use a template in this situation.
Council Debt Proven – and Not Statute Barred?
If your West Lancashire Borough Council debt has been proven to you and the debt is not statute barred, the only option is to pay the debt.
- Payment Plans with West Lancashire Council
You can clear your West Lancashire Borough Council debt by agreeing a payment plan with them or the debt collection agency they may be using. This allows you to avoid further legal action even if you cannot pay.
It is better to agree a payment plan now instead of with enforcement agents because the latter will request a payment upfront and could simply repossess items instead.
As this forum user discussing unpaid council tax explains well:
“There is no requirement for the enforcement agent to accept anything other [than] full payment – any offer of a payment arrangement following a liability order is at their discretion.”
[Money Saving Expert Forum]
- Use an IVA to Pay off Multiple Debts
If your West Lancashire Borough Council debt is not your only debt, a better option could be to use an IVA. These are similar to payment plans but are professionally drawn up by IVA specialists. They last for five years with large monthly repayments, often starting at £100 but could be much more.
The benefit of an IVA is that they only last five years, which means any debt not paid when the five-year period ends is automatically wiped. Some people with a lot of debt can avoid paying as much as 90% of their debt and become debt-free.
- More Debt Solutions
These are not the only two ways to approach your West Lancashire Borough Council debt. There could be a better debt solution for your circumstances.
By looking at your other options, such as a debt relief order or even bankruptcy, you could end up in a better position. The debt charities listed at the end of this guide can help you to discover the best option for you.
Get Additional Support from Money Nerd
Money Nerd also has lots of information on how to escape your debts.
The Money Nerd blog is a useful place to learn about the process of debt collection, your rights and the lesser-known-but-legal tactics to use when dealing with debt.
Debt Charities Are Here to Help
For further support, consider contacting one of the following debt charities:
- Step Change UK
- Christians Against Poverty
- National Debtline