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€50,000 Business Debt

I am owed approximately €50,000 for sale of goods for a number of years. While promising to pay and even putting it in writing I am still waiting. What are my options? What is the time limit for taking a Court case? Is this the only option as it appears to be expensive for a sum like this? (Agnes)

Hi Agnes,

Before we look at the option of taking Court proceedings I am wondering does the debtor still have the goods in his or her possession and if so do you have a retention of title clause in your sale documents?. If this is the case you would have the right to demand the return of the goods because they would always remain yours and at least you would recoup some of your money as a result of getting the goods back.

However, from the wording of your question I gather this debt has been outstanding for a number of years (I suspect that the goods are long gone) you have six years in which to sue for the debt from the date of contract or if the debt has been acknowledged in writing (by letter or payment on account) six years from that later date.

Agnes, your options are as follows – if you cannot go the ‘retention of title’ route you can only ask your Solicitor to sue. If it is a proper debt you will get your Court Order for recovery and your Solicitor can send in the Sheriff to sieze any goods belonging to the debtor in satisfaction of your claim. My worry is not the ease with which you will get the Court order – that is straightforward enough for your Solicitor - the real question is does this debtor have the money or asset equivalent to satisfy your €50,000 debt. If you are dealing with a sole trader who is not trading through a limited company then you would have some chance of recovery because they may own a house and that house would be at risk from your Judgement once you got the Judgement obtained. In other words you could possibly get an Order for sale of the house in satisfaction of the debt that is due to you. With a limited liability company it is less likely that the Company will hold assets and unless you can prove that this debtor was recklessly trading under the Companies Act there is very little you can do from a practical point of view.

On the topic of a company debtor, your solicitor may advise to petition the High Court to liquidate the debtor and put in a liquidator to realise the assets and pay you.

My suggestion is that you go to a Law Firm that offers debt collection on a “no win – no fee” basis. They will almost certainly charge you around 20% – 25% of the debt if recovered but if they don’t recover the debt for you you will owe them no fee at all. Our firm has some experience in this in that we have recently established a Debt Recovery Service and whilst it is a “fixed cost service” we, like many other law firms, are open to proposals for “no win – no fee” basis.

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