One of our client’s, a Yorkshire based Gas supplier, with the majority of the custom coming from the licensed trade, particularly small hotels and public houses had a customer at ‘The Public House’ in Rochdale who had stopped paying their monthly invoice for the gas supply.
After going through their usual credit control and collection procedures, the gas company attended the site armed with a warrant and a gas engineer to disconnect the supply. On arrival at the site they were informed that the previous tenant and the person responsible for payment of the gas a ‘Mrs X’ had left the pub without leaving any forwarding address or any way of making contact.
Passed To The Professionals
After various efforts to contact the debtor, the matter was passed to Tremark Associates, in Leeds for their assistance. Without an address, it was going to be impossible to contact ‘Mrs X’. The matter was therefore handed to Tremark’s investigation department for an absconder trace. After extensive enquiries Tremark were able to report back to the gas company shortly after with information that ‘Mrs X’ was, in-fact still residing at ‘The Public House’. Local enquiries revealed that whilst the tenancy had been taken over by a third party ‘Mrs X’ remained living at the address in the capacity as manager, and that she was evading various creditors. Crucially our investigator was also informed that ‘Mrs X’ owned a local property which was rented out to students. With the debtor located the file was passed to the Tremark Commercial Debt Recovery team.
When telephone contact was made with ‘Mrs X’ she claimed she had lots of debt and that the most she could possibly afford to pay was only £30.00 per month. Equating to £360 per year and taking over five years to clear the debt. An unrealistic figure for both ourselves and our client. On advising her of legal action, ‘Mrs X’ reiterated that she could not pay any more than her initial offer and that she had no assets and our clients would be wasting their money.
Following this, the gas company instructed Tremark to undertake a pre-sue report, in an attempt to gather further back ground information to assist them in deciding whether legal proceedings were a realistic option. A combination of enquiries revealed that not only did ‘Mrs X’ own a property in Rochdale, but it was up for sale with estate agents for£130,000. Land Registry searches revealed that ‘Mrs X’ had purchased the property a few years before and that only one mortgage/charge had been registered against it, however it’s value was unknown.
Tremark’s collectors presented this information to ‘Mrs X’ and at this point she made a verbal agreement to a voluntary charge being placed on the property. She also agreed to pay £100 per month until the sale of the house was complete and at which time the debt would be paid in full with costs. She also revealed that the only charge on the property was for a £12,000 loan which she had almost paid.
However, documentation relating to the above agreement was not signed and returned by ‘Mrs X’ who subsequently stopped answering her phone or responding to our correspondence. Her actions convinced us that she was attempting to buy time in order to sell the property.
With a large amount of equity held in the property it was decided to serve a statutory demand for bankruptcy upon ‘Mrs X’ by our legal team and this was passed to our local agent, an ex police officer, for personal service.
The Chase Was On
Our agent attended both the ‘The Public House’ and the property address in Rochdale where it became apparent that ‘Mrs X ’ was evading the service of the papers. However, after extensive enquiries we were able to ascertain a new mobile telephone number for ‘Mrs X’. On speaking with her we advised her that she should voluntarily meet us to accept the documents rather than run the risk and embarrassment of the court ordering service through advertising in the local press.
On meeting Tremark’s agent at ‘The Public House’, she promised to make a substantial payment on account and to pay the debt in full after the sale of the property. Again she failed to keep her promise and ignored our follow up letters and phone calls.
On contacting the estate agent handling the sale of the property we established that an offer had been made and we agreed with our client to issue a bankruptcy petition.
Once the petition had been issued by the local County Court it was immediately passed back to our agent to effect service. On attending the ‘The Public House’ he was informed by customers and neighbours that she had left the pub and was preparing to move to Spain.
On visiting the residential address the property appeared to be empty, however our agent was able to see mail addressed to ‘Mrs X’ indicating she was still in residence therefore a letter was posted marked for her attention explaining the nature of his visit. Letters addressed to both ‘Mrs X’ and her solicitors were also left with her estate agent.
As a result ‘Mrs X’s’ solicitors made contact with our legal team as the sale of the property had been agreed but could not be completed until the bankruptcy petition had been withdrawn.
Finally, we received payment in full including interest and legal costs from ‘Mrs X’s’ solicitors.
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