I recently did a joint webinar with The Sheriffs Office (twitter: @sheriffsonline) entitled Introduction to High Court Enforcement for Business. It was a great way to get across a really important message! Here is a really brief overview of what was shared in the webinar….
Who are you doing business with?
Do sensible checks before you enter into an agreement with someone. If you are going to spend your precious time working for people, check first that there is a strong likelihood of you actually getting paid for the work! There are free checks you can do. Check Companies House, or the relevant registration body. If you have doubts, you could potentially ask for payment upfront, give shorter payment terms or reduce their account limit. In other words, don’t be TOO trusting! For more info check my previous blog on this.
These can be useful in the short term, but can end up problematic over time.
Be careful, oral agreements ARE legally binding! If there is no written contract, how can you prove what was agreed?
Have you read my previous blog on the 4Ps? Always remember their importance! For a contract to be legally binding, you must make sure all 4Ps are covered. You also need to consider and additional clauses. Have a dispute resolution mechanism to deal with disagreements and/or the right to charge additional interest on unpaid invoices - make sure your contract covers every scenario and is watertight!
Make sure you invoice promptly and include all the information required. This sounds simple but this really is a very important step! If payment is not received in time, follow up in writing (detailing the invoice information, amount owed, interest accrued etc). If the payment still doesn’t come then begin to follow your dispute resolution mechanism which you stated in your contract because you cleverly followed the steps listed above!
Think carefully before going to court
You have to ask yourself 1) is it worth it, 2) do they have the money to pay you and 3) are you wasting time, money and resources on a bad debtor? Going to Court is an option but it’s REALLY important to ask yourself these three questions first. Or it could be a total waste of time.
If you do go to court…..
Be sure to follow the Civil Procedure Rules. If your debt is less than £10,000 you can issue proceedings yourself via the Small Claims Court - moneyclaim.gov.uk. If the debt is more than £10,000 then consider instructing a solicitor. Remember the more evidence you have, the more likely it is you’ll win!
If you get judgement…. Speak to the Sheriffs Office about enforcement.
…And if you need a really great solicitor, then you’re already looking in the right place :)