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Monday, November 28, 2011

How to collect a debt - How to get someone to pay the debt they owe you or your business

How to collect a debt
When a customer or a party refuses to pay on a debt that they owe…what do you do? Below, are a few things to consider when collecting an outstanding debt:

First, you should take a minute or two to find out why the customer hasn’t paid. It could be that they are refusing to pay because that customer is unsatisfied with your product your service. In this case, good customer service skills will quickly resolve the problem.

Second, you may consider some type of mediation. Generally, mediation is only effective for large debtors or when the debt itself is in dispute. Nowadays mediation can be expensive (comparable to filing a lawsuit) but if the debt is in question mediation may be a quick way to validate the debt or its amount. Of course, the debtor must be willing to participate in mediation – which is another issue all together.

Thirdly, the dreaded “Lawyer Letter” can and should be sent. The power the “lawyer letter” wields is amazing. Generally, if a customer is just delaying payment for one reason or another a letter from a lawyer is effective. Also, the “lawyer letter” is an effective tool to determine the resolve of the debtor. If the debtor ignores the letter, you can get an insight into the uphill battle it will take to obtain payment.

Fourth, if you have any collateral – take it! You or your business will have to follow the proper steps to foreclose on a security interests you may have, but that is what collateral is for. If your business sold product to a customer you may have a security interest in the product sold. Anytime you decide to foreclose or take collateral time is of the essence. You and your lawyer must work quickly before the debtor transfers the property of encumbers is any further. This is a time that having a lawyer on speed dial is very handy.

Lastly, (or if you don’t have any collateral/security interests) you will direct your lawyer to file suit against the debtor. If the amount owed to you is under $7,500.00 (or $5,000 for a entity) you can file suit in small claims court. This is the preferred method since the process is simplified, quick, and inexpensive.

If the amount owed to you or your business is over $7,500.00 you will need to file suit in Superior Court. It is recommended that you retain the services of an attorney (if you are a corporation – you must be represented by an attorney) in order to properly file suit in Superior Court. The fees paid to your attorney may be recoverable and added to any judgment against the debtor.

Jeremiah Raxter of Raxter Law concentrates the practice on business and corporate law, civil litigation, including breach of contract, and enforcement of debts and judgments. Raxter Law represents several local businesses as in-house counsel.

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