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Step 4 - Negotiate with your creditors for priority debts

This advice applies to Scotland

To negotiate with a creditor, you'll need to know:

  • whether the debt is a 'priority' or 'non-priority'

  • exactly what you owe

  • how much money you have left after your essential living costs

  • what you're going to offer to pay and over how long

If you don't know these details, read our advice on 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

What to do if creditors for non-priority debts are contacting you

You can ask your non-priority creditors to hold off for 30 days while you deal with your priority debts. This can be helpful if you’ve got several priority debts and you need time to sort them out.

If they try to pressure you into paying sooner, talk to a specialist debt adviser at your nearest Citizens Advice.

Call the creditor for each non-priority debt, or use our example letter. It's best to call if you can - it's easier and quicker to discuss your situation.

Make sure you take the name of the person you talk to and note down the details of what’s been agreed.

Whether you call or write, you’ll need to tell each creditor that:

  • you're dealing with your debts

  • you're sorting out your priority debts first - creditors know you have to do this

  • you want them to freeze the interest and charges on your debts in the meantime, so they don't keep increasing

  • you’ll contact them again in a month, when you know how much you can afford to pay. Ask for longer than this if you’re waiting for an appointment to see a specialist about your debt - you should tell the creditor the appointment date

What to say when you contact a priority debt creditor

Call each priority debt creditor to speak to them about your debt.

You'll need to talk them through:

  • why you're in debt - for example, because you've lost your job, or had an unexpected large expense, or whatever the reason is

  • how you're sorting out the situation - for example, that you're now budgeting and using Citizens Advice to help you

  • how much you can afford to pay them each week or month - see step 3 for some suggestions on how much to offer your creditors

You'll probably have to answer questions about what other debts you have, and whether your situation is likely to get better or worse.

They could ask you if you're likely to get more money coming in from work or benefits, for example. They might also ask what you're doing to reduce your spending or increase your income.

You can tell them that:

  • you're budgeting
  • you're looking at all your debts
  • you're following Citizens Advice's information on getting help with debt

It's best to be completely honest, so the creditor can see that your offer is realistic.

If the first person you speak to is unhelpful, ask to speak to someone more senior.

For each creditor you'll need to:

  • keep a note of the name of the person you spoke to, the date you spoke to them, and what you agreed

  • follow up your call with a letter, confirming the details

  • keep copies of any letters you write

If you can't come to an agreement with a creditor

You should talk to an adviser at your nearest Citizens Advice if you're finding it difficult to contact a creditor, or you can't come to an agreement with them. There might be other debt solutions available to you.

You should start paying what you can afford straight away, even if the creditor hasn't agreed to your offer. This shows you can and will make payments. 

Step 5 - Negotiate with your creditors for non-priority debts

Start again

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