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1 Dealing with Debt

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1. Introduction

2. Rent or mortgage payment problems

3. Council Tax bill problems

4. Hire Purchase (HP) problems

5. Gas, electricity and phone bills

Gas, electricity and phone companies can disconnect you if you haven't paid your bills, without having to go to court. But they should give you written notice that they will disconnect you.

Gas and electricity companies must also take notice of customers' needs. They should allow you to repay the money you owe at a rate you can afford. However, if you don't make the payments, the company may want to fit a prepayment meter, or if you don' t agree it may disconnect you. If you have a prepayment meter fitted, you will normally pay a higher rate for your electricity or gas. And if you owe the company money, the prepayment meter will normally be set at a rate that includes paying off your arrears, as well as paying for electricity or gas in advance.

If you come up with an amount you can afford to pay, but the company won't accept your offer, you should:

  • seek advice, for example, from a Citizens Advice Bureau; or
  • get in touch with energywatch, the gas and electricity consumer body or Ofcom, which regulates telephone companies

See 'Further help' for their numbers.

Who must pay the bill?
The person who has to pay any gas or electricity debt is the person who originally asked for the gas or electricity to be supplied. In the past some energy companies have also demanded payment from anyone living at the house when the gas or electricity was being used - calling them 'beneficial users'. But in several cases, courts have refused to allow companies to pursue this kind of debt, and if you are in this situation, you may be able to stop a gas or electricity company trying to make you pay. If a company is trying to make you pay a bill that you don't think you are responsible for, get in touch with the energy watchdog, energywatch, for advice (see 'Further help' for details).

6. Water bills

7. Loan and credit problems

8. What creditors can do to get their money

9. Going to court

10. Dealing with many debts

11. Dealing with bailiffs

12. Other legal protection if you are in debt

13. When you can be sent to prison for your debts

14. Terms used when dealing with debt

15. Further help

16. About this leaflet

This leaflet is published by the Gurkha Free Legal Advice (LSC). It was written in association with Birmingham Settlement.

The leaflets are regularly updated but the law may have changed since they were printed so the information in them may be incorrect or out of date.

Leaflet Version: December 2007