Step 5 - Negotiate with your creditors for non-priority debts
To negotiate with a creditor, you need to know:
which debts to pay first - priority debts are more important
exactly what you owe
how much money you have left after your essential living costs and any priority debts you're paying off
what you’re going to offer to pay and over how long
If you don’t know these details, go back to the start of getting help with debt. It takes you through each step to get the information you need.
If someone you think you owe money to hasn't been in touch for a long tme, such as 5 years for example, you may not have to pay the money back. Get advice from an experienced money adviser before you contact the creditor. If you do contact the creditor, you may 'reactivate' the debt. This means that you may become liable to pay the money back again.
Contact your nearest Citizens Advice immediately if:
you’ve received court papers
you’re about to be evicted
- you’re expecting sheriff officers
Only deal with your non-priority debts once you’ve sorted out how to pay any priority debts - they are the most important ones to deal with. Read our advice in Step 2 if you don’t know which of your debts is a priority.
What to offer each creditor
The money you have left after paying any priority debts must be shared fairly between all your non-priority creditors.
You can work out how much to offer each creditor by dividing your available income by how much you owe each one. This is known as a ‘pro rata’ offer.
Use our calculator to work out what you can afford to offer.
You then need to write to each creditor. You can use our sample letter as a guide for what to say.
If you write your own letter, make sure that you:
explain why you’re in debt - for example, because you’ve lost your job, or had an unexpected large expense, or whatever the reason is
say that you’re sorting out the situation - as this shows them you’re not ignoring it
clearly explain how much you can afford to pay each week or month
ask them to freeze the interest and any other charges building up on the debts as long as you continue to pay the amounts you’re suggesting
With your letter, you should also:
include a copy of your personal budget
include a list of your other creditors and debts
explain that you're making pro rata offers to each of your non-priority creditors, based on how much you owe each one
Make sure you keep a copy of everything you send to your creditors.
If you're asked to pay more than you're offering
Some creditors might think you can afford to pay more than you’re offering. If they say this, you should be prepared to send them more proof of your situation.
This could be things like:
wage slips and benefits details
copies of gas and electricity bills
details of rent or mortgage payments
medical evidence if you’re off work sick
It’s important that your offers to creditors don’t leave you short of money for your essential living costs, like food and heating.
If you’re not sure whether you’ve got enough money to pay your debts, Step 3 will show you how to work out what you can afford to pay.
If you have no money left to pay your non-priority debts
If you have no money left for non-priority debts after you pay your priority debts or essential bills each month, get free help from a specialist debt adviser.
They will help you look at other debt solutions and decide which one is best for you. There’s no debt problem that’s unsolvable.
You can use our sample letter to let your creditors know you have no money to pay them while you get this free help.
If your creditors won’t agree
Sometimes you’ll need to contact creditors more than once to get them to agree to your offer.
If they won’t discuss it, or won’t agree to your offer, you should start paying what you can afford anyway and contact a debt specialist at your local Citizens Advice for more help.
What will happen next
Creditors will often ask you to agree to talk to them again after a certain amount of time, so they can see if things have improved. You should be ready to talk to them at that point and provide proof of your situation again.
If your situation changes before that, go through the steps here again to make sure you’re dealing with your debts in the best way. This could be if you get a new job, or someone moves in or out of your household.
You should make new offers to your creditors if your money situation improves, as this will mean your debts get paid off more quickly.