Category Archive: Debt

Companies House Reforms – Changes now in force and more still to come..

The first phase of the reforms to UK Companies House made by the Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Act 2023 (ECCTA) went live on 4 March 2024. The reforms broaden the objectives and powers of Companies House, transforming it from what we knew as a largely passive recorder of the information provided to it, into a gatekeeper of company creation and an active scrutiniser of information.

Separately, Companies House have confirmed that a range of increases to their fees will take effect from 1 May 2024.

The ECCTA contains a wide range of measures to tackle economic crime and improve corporate transparency. Parts of Act deal with the wider aspects of economic crime, including a new offence of failure to prevent fraud. Part 1 however is focused principally on Companies House and UK corporates.

The key changes in Part 1 of ECCTA introduced on 4 March include greater powers, enabling the Registrar to:

  • query, reject and remove information that seems incorrect or inconsistent with information already on the register;
  • undertake stronger checks on company names;
  • annotate the public register to let users know about potential issues with the information that has been supplied; and
  • share data with partners, such as law enforcement agencies and regulatory bodies.

Part 1 of the ECCTA also includes new rules, including requirements for:

  • corporate entities to supply an appropriate registered email address and to have an appropriate registered office address. Businesses will no longer be able to use a PO Box as their registered office address; and
  • those forming a company, to confirm they are doing so for a lawful purpose when they incorporate. Every year, a company (or LLP) will need to confirm via their confirmation statement that their future activities will be lawful.

Enhanced objectives now require Companies House to promote and maintain the integrity of the registers it maintains. To support these objectives the new legislation enables Companies House with greater powers to reject a new filing if it appears inconsistent with information held by Companies House or request additional information to satisfy a query that Companies House has about information provided to it.  This will include information which it already has on the register.

We will see Companies House remove non-compliant material from its registers and it has a new obligation to analyse information held by it for the purpose of preventing or detecting crime and new powers to share information with law enforcement agencies and other public authorities.

Registered Email Address

Email Although the ECCTA requires all UK companies to provide a registered email address to Companies House, this will not be made available to the public.  From the 5 March 2024, we saw a requirement for all existing companies to provide them with a registered email address when they file their next confirmation statement.  The email address must be one where, in the ordinary course of events, emails would be expected to come to the attention of a person acting for the company.  You should therefore register an email address which is actively monitored so that any communication from Companies House is picked up and will be dealt with expeditiously.

Registered office address

ECCTA now requires all UK companies to have their registered office at an appropriate location. Although this can be a third-party service provider, this does however mean a location where, in the ordinary course of events, documents can be expected to come to the attention of someone acting for the company and where delivery can be recorded by obtaining an acknowledgement of delivery.  A company can no longer use a PO Box as its registered address and for some companies, this may mean that they need to move their registered office address.

Companies House has the power to require a company to change its registered office if it is not an appropriate address.

As well as these changes, we have seen the introduction of new restrictions on company names as well as some tightening of the rules relating to the disqualification of directors.

Whilst there is no firm timetable for the further stages of change, one of the most radical changes that Part 1 of ECCTA makes is the requirement for directors, people with significant control and those delivering information to Companies House to verify their identities. The introduction of this particular reforms, will require significant development to Companies House’s systems and other implementation work.

Other changes in Part 1 of ECCTA which will be implemented in due course include:

  • the abolition of the requirement for companies to keep their own registers of directors, directors’ residential addresses, secretaries and people with significant control;
  • some changes around membership information which companies must supply to Companies House;
  • enhanced rights for individuals to have personal information suppressed from public view to prevent the abuse of personal information;
  • steps to prevent a new director acting in that capacity where their appointment has not been notified to Companies House within specific timescales; and
  • some changes to the filing requirements for annual accounts. These will also be copied across to UK limited liability partnerships as appropriate.

Additionally, various wide-ranging changes to limited partnership law contained in Part 2 of ECCTA remain to be implemented. These no doubt aim to modernise the law governing UK limited partnerships and tackle their misuse by implementing more stringent registration requirements, increasing transparency and obliging limited partnerships to maintain a connection with the UK.

Companies should consider now if they need to take any action at this stage to ensure compliance with the provisions that are now in force, for example registering an email address and ensuring that their registered office address is appropriate.

If you have any queries about this article, please contact Allison Thompson on 0191 2267878.

Sintons once again wins praise from Legal 500 2024

Sintons has again confirmed its position as one of the leading law firms in the North of England with the release of Legal 500 2024, which highlights the expertise and client service excellence delivered by departments and key individuals across the business.

Newcastle-based Sintons has won praise across the firm for the high levels of legal advice and personal service it delivers, and it is highlighted in four key practice areas as being leaders in its field in the North of England, and being recommended in 15 others.

A total of 48 lawyers are recommended for their standout practice in their respective fields, with fifteen of its lawyers hailed as leading individuals, which comprises experts in their field from across the North. Head of licensing Sarah Smith maintains her place in the Legal 500 Hall of Fame, in recognition of being a leading individual consistently for more than a decade.

A further four are named as next generation partners, and four hailed as rising stars.

While Sintons has for many years continually been named by Legal 500 as one of the key law firms in the North, its rankings for 2024 show the firm’s ongoing growth and progress, with gains made in many key practice areas.

Newly released for 2024, Legal 500 is based on extensive research into law firms throughout the UK, with its independent findings based on examples of work, client and peer testimonials and interviews.

In Legal 500 2024, Sintons is named as a top tier firm in:

Its leading individuals have been named as:

Next generation partners have been hailed as:

Rising stars are:

Christopher Welch, managing partner of Sintons, says: “This is a phenomenal and very well deserved assessment of our performance as a firm. We are ranked as leaders in our field in several key practice areas, with Legal 500 rightly recognising the huge capability and expertise we have here, and the progress we continue to make.

“Sintons is all about our people, and to see so many recognised for the outstanding efforts they make on behalf of our clients is fantastic news. We have excellence running throughout the business, in all areas of our work, and our team are all absolutely committed to delivering the best possible service and outcomes to our clients.”

An increase in Late Payment causes concern for Businesses

Latest figures indicate that companies are increasingly slower in paying invoices.

According to Allianz, one of the world’s biggest insurance companies, credit is set to become more expensive and in shorter supply as companies become slower in making payments which raises liquidity risks and may push more companies into problems with cashflow.

Operational costs as a proportion of turnover have hit their highest level since the financial crisis and late payments continued to rise last year, with nearly a fifth of businesses worldwide reporting that typically they were paid for their services after 90 or more days.

The rise in late payments is one of many factors that have led to the rising costs of running a business. A reduction in growth, climbing inflation, as well as the higher cost of financing and more non-payments have all contributed.

The rising cost of running a business has slowed the pace of the post-pandemic recovery for many countries. Its thought Britain now faces a liquidity gap of around £570 million, with a global liquidity gap of £24.2 trillion, according to experts.

Figures recently published by Bibby Financial Services, which provides financial services to small and mid-sized businesses, found the average level of “bad debt”, where a company suffers because their clients fail to pay the full sum invoiced, had risen by 61% over the past twelve months.

Smaller companies have an average of £16,000 of bad debt which is an increase from last Spring of around £6,000.

On average 6 out of 10 businesses say that customers are taking longer to pay invoices in full.

Businesses that are owed money and seen a late payment increase are urged to take professional debt collection measures.

Providing your customer with clear payment terms so that your customers know when to expect invoices to be issued, and when you expect them to be paid will help you avoid late payments and disputes with your customers.

As soon as the payment deadline is passed, commence recovery action without delay.  Your debtor may continue to provide you with excuses for why their payment is late, but any delay in chasing your payments can impact your business cashflow as well as successful recovery.

If you have any queries about debt recovery, please contact Allison Thompson on 0191 2267878.

Debt Conference 2022

Head of Debt Recovery Allison Thompson hosted our Debt Conference 2022, our guest speakers included Allison and;

Please click on the play button in the bottom left corner of the below video image to start viewing.

Click here to view Martin’s presentation.

We have also included a podcast version, the link is also below.

Late Payment Warning from the Small Business Commissioner

In a recent podcast, The Small Business Commissioner, Liz Barclay, issued a warning that without confidence in cash flow, the UK’s small and micro businesses would be restricted from investing in new jobs, equipment and training or risk shutting shop.

During the conversation with Saltare CEO, Anthony Persse, Liz Barclay raised the issue of late payments hindering small and micro businesses, because often they are forced to stretch funds if invoices are delayed or paid late. This has a knock-on effect in cutting budgets for new staff or research and development.

“If we look economically, small businesses are put at risk and cannot manage their cash flow if they do not have payment certainty or know when payments will be made. This means they either must stretch their funds or look elsewhere for funding, and this limits their investments not just in business growth but business-as-usual functions.”

In addition to the strain late payment puts on business owners’ books, Liz also raised the issue of the mental health challenges business owners face through not having sufficient cash.

Areas of focus for Liz are freelancers, sole traders and micro businesses. She believes these individuals and owners are most at risk of struggling with mental health challenges and sleepless nights, due to an unpaid invoice putting their livelihood at risk.

There is drive for business leaders and policymakers in the UK to prioritise paying on time. Early payment and the certainty of payment eases cash flow concerns and improves the likelihood of future success and growth. Whilst on the other hand, poor cash flow and poor payment practices ultimately leads to business failure and insolvency.

The message from Sintons debt recovery team has always been to focus on your credit control and deal with any late payment of invoices promptly and robustly, wherever possible.  You have the best chance of recovering what is owed to you the sooner you chase.

If you have any queries about this article, please contact Allison Thompson on 0191 2267878

Insolvency Service Increases Bankruptcy and Liquidation Fees

The Insolvency Service has introduced changes to the deposits for creditor bankruptcy and compulsory liquidations.

The petition deposit is a sum paid up-front by the petitioner and the Insolvency Service has announced a rise of the fees effective from 1 November 2022.

 Current feeFee from 1 November 2022
Creditors’ bankruptcy petition deposit£990.00£1,500.00
Company liquidation petition deposit£1,600.00£2,600.00

**There will be no change to the adjudicator petition deposit where the individual applies for their own bankruptcy.

Each creditor bankruptcy or liquidation case administered by an Official Receiver is partly funded through a deposit paid by the petitioner to initiate the process.

The deposit contributes to the Official Receiver’s administration costs, with the remainder of their costs recovered through fees charged against assets realised during the bankruptcy or liquidation proceedings.

If there are sufficient assets to recover all the fees and costs, then the deposit is returned to the party who initiated the insolvency.

Fees have not changed since April 2016 and although the Insolvency Service continues to take steps to reduce operating costs it has stated that the deposit increase will enable the Service to continue to administer and investigate personal and commercial debt insolvencies effectively, maximising outcomes for creditors whilst mitigating the risk of cost recovery being passed on to the taxpayer.

The Insolvency Service has been releasing monthly company and individual insolvency statistics for England and Wales (as well as Northern Ireland and Scotland), throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, and thereafter.  However, it must be noted that the statistics are marked ‘experimental’ since the process of compiling insolvency data in monthly format is new to the statistics team at the Insolvency Service and is subject to review and, currently,  the Insolvency Service does not record whether an insolvency is directly related to the coronavirus pandemic.

Company insolvency statistics for England and Wales.

In August 2022 there was a total of 1,933 company insolvencies in England and Wales, which included:

  • 1,662 creditors’ voluntary liquidations (CVLs)
  • 142 compulsory liquidations
  • 116 administrations
  • 13 company voluntary arrangements (CVAs)
  • 0 receiverships

Overall company insolvencies in August 2022 were 73% higher when compared to August 2019 (pre-pandemic) and 33% higher than insolvencies recorded in August 2021.

Individual insolvency statistics for England and Wales – In August 2022, there were:

  • 565 bankruptcies (491 debtor applications and 74 creditor petitions)
  • 1,932 DROs
  • 7,340 IVAs registered (using a three-month rolling average)
  • Bankruptcies

Bankruptcies in August 2022 were 10% cent lower than in August 2021 and this was driven by a drop in debtor applications (11% lower) and creditor petitions (1% lower). Compared to August 2019, total bankruptcies were 58% lower.

Debt relief orders (DRO)

The number of DROs in August 2022 were similar to August 2019, but 12% higher than in August 2021.

Individual voluntary arrangements (IVA)

IVA numbers are calculated using different methodology and are presented separately to debt relief orders (DROs) and bankruptcies. IVAs in August 2022 were 5% higher when compared to the average number of registered IVAs during the three months ending August 2021 and 8% higher than the three months ending August 2019.

Breathing Space registrations

In August 2022 there were 6,058 Breathing Space registrations. This is 25% higher than the number in August 2021. The Breathing Space registrations in August 2022 comprised of:

5,971 Standard breathing space registrations, which is 25% higher than the number in August 2021

87 Mental Health breathing space registrations, which is 30% higher than the number in August 2021

If you have any queries concerning this article, please contact Allison Thompson, Head of Debt Recovery on 0191 2267878.

Debt team praised for support of clients

The capability and commitment to outstanding client service of Sintons’ specialist debt recovery team has been praised by Legal 500 2023.

The team works nationally with clients ranging from SMEs through to national businesses, supporting them in recovering debt quickly and efficiently.

The practice’s work covers pre-legal collections, litigation, enforcement and insolvency work, with the firm’s expertise combined with a first-rate client service.

The debt recovery team has seen strong levels of growth in the recent past, with it seeing a surge of instructions during the COVID-19 pandemic from businesses and individuals needing to recover debt to help them weather the unprecedented economic storm.

The team responded by offering a raft of free online resources to provide additional support to businesses in understanding their debt recovery options, which were hailed by the business community as delivering significant and timely levels of assistance.

Head of debt recovery Allison Thompson was praised by Legal 500 for her work, alongside Angus Ashman and Hilary Waters, both of whose expertise in disputes contributes to debt recovery matters.

Christopher Welch, managing partner of Sintons, says: “Recovering debts has been of huge importance to businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic, and continues to be so as we experience the mounting challenges of the cost of living crisis. Our debt recovery team have really stepped up their support of clients during this time, which we know has benefitted many clients greatly in understanding their options and having the clarity on how to proceed.

“Legal 500 rightly recognises the capability we have in our debt recovery team, alongside the commitment to clients in bringing their matters to a quick and efficient conclusion. Our combination of legal and client service excellence is central to all we do at Sintons, and we are very pleased to see this acknowledged in the service we provide to our debt clients.”

International Debt Recovery

A new report has revealed the Countries where recovery of debt is most complex.

With an ever-growing number of businesses entering the world of international trade, we see an increasing number of enquiries about debt recovery from outside the UK.

The third edition of the trade insurers Allianz Trade Collection Complexity Score provides a simple assessment of how difficult it is to collect debt, which can help to support decisions and manage expectations when you are trading internationally.

International Debt Recovery has always been a challenge and this new report produced by Allianz Trade sheds some light on those countries where the risk of not getting monies back are highlighted. This makes for valuable reading in an environment where global business insolvencies are set to rise (+10% in 2022 and +14% in 2023).

Knowing countries who present a greater risk can help you manage the risk to your business by way of forecasting and putting in place preventative measures and good credit control when dealing with customers in specific Countries.

The scoring covers 49 countries representing nearly 90% of global GDP and 85% of global trade.

The Allianz Trade Collection Complexity Score measures the level of complexity relating to international debt collection procedures from 0 (least complex) to 100 (most complex). The score combines the expert judgment of Allianz Trade’s Collection specialists worldwide and over 40 administrative indicators relating to: (i) local payment practices; (ii) local court proceedings and (iii) local insolvency proceedings. The score is then split into a four-modality rating system: Notable (score below 40), High (score between 40 and 50), Very High (50 to 60) and Severe (above 60).

Where is the best place to collect a debt? Unsurprisingly, Europe is still the easiest place to collect debts.

European countries account for the top 10 easiest places to collect debts. Sweden (with a score of 30), Germany (scoring 30) and Finland (scoring 32) are top rated.

New Zealand is the first non-European country to be ranked in the list  at 12th (with a score of 36), followed by Brazil at 20th place (scoring 43).

The scoring suggests that in Sweden, Germany and Finland, the payment behaviour of domestic companies is good, and courts are efficient in delivering timely decisions, thus easing debt collection for companies. This stands in contrast to other European countries, such as France (10th – scoring 36) and Spain (11th – also scoring 36) where collecting debt remains extremely complicated when the debtor has become insolvent, especially as far as unsecured creditors are concerned.

Saudi Arabia (91st with only 3 points), Malaysia (78th) and the United Arab Emirates (72nd  scoring 9) are closing the ranking in 2022. Despite some improvements in court-related complexity, international debt collection is three times more complex in Saudi Arabia than in Sweden, Germany or Finland.

Almost one in two countries has seen its collection complexity score reducing since previous ranking.   The gap between advanced economies and emerging markets is still large. 14 out of 16 Western Europe countries stand at the less severe level of collection complexity.

Meanwhile, the United States of America at 32nd (scoring 55) and Canada being 29th (scoring 53) both post a very high rating.

On average, the Middle East, Asia and Africa are the three regions where debt collection is the most complex.

Nonetheless, this gap has been reducing over time. During the past four years, twenty our of forty nine countries have seen their collection complexity score decreasing. Covid-19 lead several countries to accelerate the reforms of their insolvency frameworks.

The report has also highlighted some improvements in terms of preventive restructuring frameworks such as we have seen in the UK.  Australia and in the EU, where the Directive 2019/1023 is currently under transposition within the different Member States.

Saudi Arabia and China also showed some noticeable improvements. In these countries, the collection complexity scores reduced by -3 points and -2 points, respectively.

Despite this positive trend, international debt recovery is without doubt very complex but it is not impossible.

Pockets of collection complexities exist in all countries. Local payment practices in particular stand out in the Middle East. Court related complexities are slightly less frequent, notably within Western Europe and North America, but each occurrence is more challenging. Insolvency related complexities are the toughest and insolvency proceedings still explain half of the collection complexities around the world.

So which exporters are the most exposed to collection complexity? 

Combining each country’s collection complexity score with their share of trading partners, Allianz Trade also calculates the exposure of exporters to international debt collection complexity in their report.  Our clients, as well as ourselves can make good use of this data to assist with business forecasts and potential revenue.

Finland, Austria and Norway are the least exposed as their trade partners are countries where debt collection is less complex.   At the other end of the spectrum, Asia stands out with seven countries topping the list of those most exposed to debt collection complexity due to international trade, being Hong Kong, Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Japan, Singapore and India.

Of course, you would expect our message to be that if you are considering trading internationally then we strongly encourage our clients to have protective measures in place.  You can stipulate payment terms which best suit your cash flow projections and the operational needs of your business. Providing your customer with clear payment terms so that your customers know when to expect invoices to be issued, and when you expect them to be paid will help you avoid late payments and disputes with your customers.

You can review the full report by following this link Collection Complexity (

If you have any queries about this article, please contact Allison Thompson on 0191 2267878.

Shocking increase in business insolvencies

According to recently released statistics there has been a rise in business insolvencies. The alarming rise has seen a 70% increase, jumping from 11,261 to 19,191 in the last year

Experts suggest that the highest interest rates in 13 years have made businesses’ debts more expensive to service and has led to an even greater number of indebted businesses falling into insolvency.

It is thought a number of businesses have shifted much of their borrowing to fixed rate loans and had this not been the case, the financial impact on business as a whole could have been even greater.

With interest rates rising for the fifth consecutive time in June, the economic outlook for business is bleak. Businesses have suffered a double blow from inflation as their own operating costs are rising sharply and consumers are cutting back on spending. Latest figures show UK inflation hit a 40 year high of 9% in April and this is expected to rise to more than 11% by October.

A good number of businesses are struggling to navigate themselves through difficult times with the added worry of falling consumer spending and rising energy prices. We are seeing businesses being forced to increase their prices despite consumers feeling the pinch.

Many businesses that were already struggling are now facing a real crisis. The financial support that the Government provided during the pandemic has now ceased and the UK economy appears to be seeing some of the post covid wave of insolvencies which were feared. These latest insolvency figures will still cast greater uncertainty over some businesses.

One way to deal with financial pressures is to make sure your invoices are paid. Cash flow and profitability are the lifeblood of any successful business and in today’s environment this means that the prompt recovery of debts is vital.

If you are struggling to get your invoices paid, please contact a member of our dedicated debt recovery team.

Any queries concerning this article, please contact Allison Thompson on 0191 2267878.

Government backed Recovery Loan Scheme (‘RLS’) extended…

On 20 July 2022, the UK government announced that the Recovery Loan Scheme (RLS) will be extended for a further two years.

The government scheme was originally launched in April 2021 and sought to help small businesses recovering from the COVID pandemic. It gives lenders a government-backed guarantee against the outstanding balance of the facility

Under the scheme, the government provided a guarantee of 80% for loans made before 1 January 2022 and 70% for loans after that date. The borrower remains 100% liable for the debt and the RLS has supported almost 19,000 businesses with an average of £202,000 in credit.

The extension provides further government support for businesses grappling with cost pressures and adds to measures already announced by the Chancellor, such as increasing the Employment Allowance, slashing fuel duty, and introducing a 50% business rates relief for eligible high street businesses.

Business Secretary, Kwasi Kwarteng, said: “Small businesses are the lifeblood of the British economy, which is why we are determined to support our traders and entrepreneurs in dealing with worldwide inflationary pressures.  The extension of the Recovery Loan Scheme will help ensure we continue to provide much-needed finance to thousands of small businesses across the country, while stimulating local communities, creating jobs, and driving economic growth in the UK.”

The maximum loan size remains at up to £2m. However, recognising that businesses and the UK more generally are now in a better position than they were during the pandemic, lenders may now require a personal guarantee from the borrower, in line with standard commercial practice.

There is no doubt the scheme will save some UK businesses during these challenging times and will again cloud the real picture of our economy.  Whilst it will inevitably ease cashflow difficulties for some businesses, it may also be said that we just kicking that potential insolvency can a bit further down the track…….

If you have any queries concerning this article, please contact Allison Thompson on 0191 2267878.

Enforcing a County Court Judgment – is not as simple as it may seem!

Pursuing a debt recovery claim may seem straight forward and in fact we find there are some elements of the Court system which encourages litigants in person.  For example, in using the Money Claims Online system (‘MCOL’).  However, obtaining and enforcing a County Court Judgment (otherwise known as a ‘CCJ’) is not always as simple as it may seem.

CCJ enforcement has been on the rise for several years and certainly post covid we have seen a marked increase but simply choosing the best enforcement option for you,  can be the difference between getting paid, or not getting paid.

A CCJ endorses a debt.  It is a document produced by the Court stating that the money is owed, and that it must be repaid. We must stress however that having a CCJ does not guarantee that the debt will be repaid.

Despite the request from the Court, when a CCJ is not repaid then a creditor must consider enforcement action and there are various options available to a creditor to enforce their CCJ.

Once a CCJ has been issued by the Court, the debtor needs to pay the CCJ within 30 days or it will be automatically entered on their credit file – irrespective of whether the debtor is an individual or a business.

If the debtor fails to repay the CCJ then enforcement action can begin.

Before choosing a CCJ enforcement option, there are several things that the creditor needs to consider. As we have already touched on earlier, obtaining a CCJ can be a straightforward process but enforcing it is rarely so simple.

A creditor needs to understand if the debtor has the financial means to pay the debt. This can mean by way of funds held in a bank account or goods and assets to cover what is owed or maybe, the debtor owns a property upon which the debt can be secured on.

If the debtor has no assets, no income and no property ownership, CCJ enforcement action may be fruitless. It is always important to remember that CCJ enforcement does not come with any guarantees.

If you believe that the debtor is heavily in debt then it may also be worth checking the insolvency register.  A quick search will tell you if a person has gone bankruptcy or signed an agreement to deal with their debts. The Government website is free to search – click here.

The main options available to a creditor for enforcing a CCJ are:

  • Bailiff or High Court Enforcement;
  • Charging Order;
  • Third Party Debt Order;  or
  • Attachment of earnings.

Bailiff or High Court Enforcement

Enforcement by way of a Bailiff or High Court Enforcement is by far the most popular and commonly heard used forms of enforcement.

This is where the debtors address is visited in order to obtain payment or seize goods to cover the value of the CCJ.

Presently debts under £600 can only be collected by County Court Bailiffs. A warrant of control can be applied for at the County Court which will then be passed to the Bailiff to execute.

If the debt is over £600 then the CCJ can be transferred up the High Court and a ‘Writ of control’ obtained. This allows a High Court Enforcement Officer to act on the creditor’s behalf.

The use of High Court Enforcement Officers is considered a more robust and quicker method when compared with County Court Bailiffs.

Charging Order

Payment of a CCJ can also be secured by applying to the Court for a charge order on the debtor’s property. This is not the quickest way for enforcing a CCJ but does at least secure the debt. It effectively transfers your debt from an unsecured,  to a secured debt but your debt will not be repaid until the property is sold.

In some circumstances a creditor may apply for an Order of Sale to force the debtor to sell the property. This is not always a straightforward exercise, and the court will consider various aspects and take into account the debtor’s circumstances before allowing such an Order.

Third Party Debt Orders

A very efficient way to enforce payment of a CCJ is to freeze a debtor’s bank account. This can be used for both unpaid Business CCJ’s and CCJs against individuals. This can allow for funds to be extracted from their bank account to pay the CCJ in full. This is a worthwhile method of CCJ Enforcement where the creditor has knowledge of the debtor’s bank account details and that there are adequate funds in the account.

Attachment of earnings (deduction from wages)

Attachment of earnings applications are only suitable for enforcing a CCJ against an individual. It allows for deductions to be made from a debtor’s wages in order to pay off the CCJ in instalments.

It is worth noting that debtors have a ‘protected earnings rate’ applied by the Court and are allowed to take home a minimum amount of their wages.  In addition, the creditor is responsible for informing the Court of the debtor’s employment details therefore if your debtor is known to jump from job to job then it can be quite time consuming and sometimes difficult to obtain their employment details.

As the debt is paid by instalments and sometimes the monthly payments are low, it is not the fastest method of enforcing a CCJ but, it is still effective.

Insolvency Proceedings for a CCJ

If it is clear that the either the business or an individual debtor does not have sufficient means to pay the CCJ then a last resort can be insolvency proceedings.

This is where an individual can be made bankrupt or a company forced into liquidation. The aim of insolvency proceedings is to liquidate all assets and pay off creditors debts. It can be a complex and timely exercise. Again, this comes with no guarantees and is reliant on the insolvency practitioner liquidating assets to be able to pay dividends to creditors.

It can be expensive and should only be used as a very last resort. Insolvency should not be used as a general method of enforcement and only when the creditor is absolutely sure that the debtor cannot pay their debts as they fall due.

And finally … always proceed with caution…..

Before any creditor sets out to enforce their CCJ, it is essential to do your homework before hand. If the debtor has absolutely no means of paying the debt then CCJ enforcement is not a viable option.

A CCJ will stay on a Debtors credit file for six years. You may at any time during that six year limitation period commence enforcement.  It could be that whilst at the present moment CCJ enforcement is not feasible, the debtors’ circumstances may change so it’s worth reviewing on a regular basis to check the debtor’s position.

If you have any queries about this article, please contact Allison Thompson on 0191 2267878.

Spotlight on The Renters’ Reform Bill…

The Government has published its long-awaited White Paper which they intend will bring about ‘a fairer private rented sector’.  The Paper promises tenants safety and security in their homes, and there is no doubt its’ changes will bring huge challenges for landlords too.

The piece of legislation has the potential to transform the way residential properties are currently let. The White Paper sets out the government’s long-term vision for the private rented sector and the plan includes such changes as:

  • Abolish Section 21 ‘no-fault’ evictions and introduce a simpler tenancy structure.
  • Apply the Decent Homes Standard to the private rented sector for the first time.
  • Introduce a new Property Portal to help landlords understand their obligations.
  • Introduce a housing ombudsman covering all private rental sector landlords and providing redress for Tenants.
  • Giving all tenants the right to request a pet in their home, which a landlord must consider and cannot unreasonably refuse.
  • Help the most vulnerable by outlawing blanket bans on landlords refusing to rent to families with children or those in receipt of benefits; and
  • Doubling notice periods for rent increases and giving tenants stronger powers to challenge them if they are unjustified

The Bill seeks to end the use of arbitrary rent review clauses, which will restrict tribunals from hiking up rent and enable tenants to be repaid rent for non-decent homes. This will allow tenants the ability to take their landlord to court to seek repayment of rent if their homes are of unacceptable standard

The Bill also proposes that all tenants to be moved onto a single system of periodic tenancies, meaning they can leave poor quality housing without remaining liable for the rent or move more easily when their circumstances change. A tenancy will only end if a tenant ends or a landlord has a valid reason, defined in law. However, the Bill does incorporate proposals to ensure responsible landlords can gain possession of their properties efficiently from anti-social tenants and can sell their properties when they need to.

By the introduction of this Bill the Government aims rebalance the rights and responsibilities of landlords and tenants.  They hope to drive up standards of rental accommodation so that everyone will know what is expected of them. As part of the bill, the government has also committed to improving court processes, which, we all hope will make processes simpler and easier to use for all concerned.

We can expect to see the Renters’ Reform Bill to be debated on and voted on before the Spring 2023 Parliamentary Session and we will be keeping a careful eye on these changes.

If you have any queries about this article please contact Angus Ashman on 0191 2267823 or Allison Thompson on 0191 2263719.

The Commercial Rent (Coronavirus) Act 2022

We have provided a number of articles over recent months about the various temporary measures which were introduced by the Corporate Insolvency and Governance Act 2020, which aimed to help companies affected by the lockdown restrictions during the pandemic.

Most of these measures expired at the end of June and September 2021, except for restrictions on winding up companies, which were extended until 31 March 2022.

Today sees the end of this restriction which will not be extended and see the insolvency regime to return to its pre-pandemic process.

Many clients will be concerned about commercial rent debts which have accrued because of the pandemic.

A new law is now in place to help resolve certain remaining commercial rent debts accrued because of the pandemic.

The ‘Commercial Rent (Coronavirus) Act 2022’ received Royal Assent on the 24 March 2022. This introduces a legally binding arbitration process available for commercial landlords and tenants who have not already reached an agreement to deal with commercial rent debts. Its purposes is to resolve disputes about pandemic related rent debt and help the market return to normal as quickly as possible.

The law applies to commercial rent debts in respect of unpaid rent arrears relating to the ring-fenced period, of business tenants which:

  1. Were mandated to close their premises or business (in whole or in part, including with exceptions such as non-essential shops being allowed to open for collections) under regulations made under the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984 during the COVID-19 pandemic; and
  2. Lease their premises under a business tenancy, as defined by Part II of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1954; that is, a tenancy under which premises are occupied by the tenant for business purposes (or business and other purposes)

The ‘Commercial Rent (Coronavirus) Act’ applies to England and Wales and for those tenancies that fall within scope of the Act and have failed to reach agreement, either party can apply for arbitration, as a backstop after negotiations have failed.

There is a strict window to apply for arbitration which is six months from the date legislation comes into force. Arbitrators may award a reduction of protected rent debt and/or time to pay, with a maximum period to repay of 24 months.  The legal arbitration process will be delivered by arbitrators appointed by approved arbitration bodies from a list of suitable and available arbitrators.

The new legislation provides for:

  1. A claim for a county court judgement or high court judgement, made between 10 November 2021 and commencement of the Bill and including debt within the scope of the Commercial Rent (Coronavirus) Bill, to be eligible for arbitration under the process in the Bill. The Bill will prevent issue of debt claims including ringfenced debt from commencement until the end of the arbitration application period or the arbitration process.
  2. A petition for bankruptcy relating to debts within the scope of the Commercial Rent (Coronavirus) Bill where the statutory demand or claim on which the petition is based was issued between the 10 November 2021 and commencement of the Bill will be effectively void, and any order made relying on such petitions would also be void. The Court will have power to restore the debtor to which the petition or order relates, to the position it was in immediately before the petition was presented. The Bill will prevent a landlord from petitioning for bankruptcy of a business tenant such as a sole trader, based on non-payment of a statutory demand relating to any ringfenced debt served on or after 10 November 2021 and before the Bill comes into force. It will also prevent a petition based on a judgment debt if the claim was issued in this period.

If you have any queries about the rent recoveries, please contact Allison Thompson on 0191 2263719 or in respect to any commercial landlord queries please contact Angus Ashman on 0191 2267878.

Proposed Changes to Insolvency Regulation

The Government has set out new proposals to reform and simplify regulation of the insolvency sector.  A new consultation is inviting views on creating a single regulator for Insolvency Practitioners and extending regulation to firms that offer insolvency services.

Key changes set out in the consultation include:

  • establishing a single independent regulator to sit within the Insolvency Service, replacing the current four Recognised Professional Bodies
  • extending regulation to firms that offer insolvency services, as the current regime only covers individual Insolvency Practitioners
  • create a public register of all individuals and firms that offer insolvency services
  • create a system of compensation and redress

It is believed that the proposed changes will help strengthen and modernise the regulatory regime which has been in place for over 30 years.

The reforms aim to ensure a robust and proportionate regulatory regime that enhances consistency, improves transparency and, importantly, will also regulate firms that offer insolvency services rather than just individual Insolvency Practitioners.

Regulation at firm level would see the insolvency sector brought into line with other sectors such as the legal profession.

The Insolvency Service is currently responsible for oversight of regulation of the Recognised Professional Bodies (‘RBPs), which are responsible for regulation of individual Insolvency Practitioners (‘IPs’). However, they found that the current framework is disproportionately complex, with 4 membership bodies and government all involved in regulating fewer than 1,600 individuals.

The Government suggests that this approach has led to weaknesses in the regulatory system as the market has evolved over recent decades. As well as a lack of regulation of firms undertaking insolvency work, the current system also lacks transparency and has inconsistencies, with different bodies making information available in different formats.

The Government is also proposing a public register that will clearly show all individuals and firms that are authorised to provide insolvency services, together with whether that individual or firm has previously been sanctioned by the regulator.

There is also a proposal to introduce a new mechanism allowing for the payment of compensation if it is found an IP or firm offering insolvency services has made a mistake and one of the parties involved have been adversely affected.

The consultation will run until midnight on 24th March 2022 and we will be monitoring the results and any changes which are subsequently enacted.

You can respond to the consultation and register your views here.

If you have any queries about this article, please contact Allison Thompson on 0191 2263719.

Get your business finances off to the best start in 2022

One of the most time-consuming aspects of running a small business is chasing unpaid invoices.

Credit control is often regarded as a drain of time and resources when trying to run your business. It takes key personnel away from more important tasks and can be demoralising. However, not having strict credit control policies can seriously damage your cashflow and the wellbeing of your business.

Adopting good credit control policies be simpler than you might think. A quick review of how you tackle your credit control can help you identify weakness within your procedures in just a few minutes.

Here we give you some industry recognised handy tips to keep your businesses credit control in the best possible shape for 2022.

Monitor your ledger

This is not as time consuming as you may think. Just a quick 5 minutes every morning to review your sales ledger is an effective way of identifying which customers are near or have missed a payment deadline.

Speak to your customers

Maintaining personal relationships with customers and clients can help keep them aware of pending credit periods. It also helps you to manage them as a customer and can result in more business.

Update your invoice templates

Are your invoices providing all the key information to your customer? Ensure your invoice template clearly states your terms for payment, credit terms and payment methods etc…

Credit check customers

It is vital to credit check new customers but also be aware of existing customers getting into financial difficulties. A company’s credit status can change very quickly so it is imperative you do carry out regular credit score checks.

Set clear payment deadlines

If your business has an array of older unpaid invoices that have taken up way too much time, set a payment deadline. This will make it clear that you cannot simply act as a free overdraft for their business. This is the most important tip of all. Thousands of SME’s go to the wall every year by not taking positive steps to ensure they get paid.

Don’t wait to chase what you are owed!

As soon as the payment deadline is passed, commence recovery action without delay. Your debtor may continue to provide you with excuses for why their payment is late, but any delay in chasing your payments can impact successful recovery.

If you have any queries about debt recovery please contact Allison Thompson on 0191 2267878.

Sintons again recognised for capability across the board by Chambers 2022

Sintons has again been hailed as one of the leading law firms in the North of England in newly-released rankings from Chambers and Partners UK.

The firm, consistently praised for its strength and capability throughout the business, again wins recognition for its legal expertise, deep experience and first-rate levels of client service.

Practice areas across the business win recognition as leaders in their field, with healthcare again being confirmed as one of the key advisors nationally for its work with growing numbers of NHS Trusts, organisations, professionals and healthcare businesses across the UK.

Chambers and Partners 2022, published today, also highlights 17 of Sintons’ lawyers as being stand-out names in their specialism, many of whom are recognised in the legal marketplace as being leading figures regionally and nationally.

The rankings come only weeks after Sintons won similar praise across the board from Legal 500, which also recognised the wide-ranging expertise, legal capability and service excellence the firm delivers to its clients.

Both Chambers and Legal 500 are independent publications which assess and rank law firms and lawyers throughout the UK, based on interviews, examples of work, and client and peer testimonials.

“For over 125 years, Sintons has built a well-deserved reputation as a first-rate legal advisor delivering outstanding levels of service to its clients, and those values have remained at the heart of the firm since our foundation in 1896,” says managing partner Christopher Welch.

“That these key features are consistently highlighted by independent legal publications like Chambers and Partners, and recently Legal 500 too, is a huge endorsement of what we do here at Sintons. Businesses, families and individuals put their trust in us to deliver an outstanding legal and personal service and that is what we deliver.

“Chambers again confirms our strength across the whole Sintons business, with capability and talent running throughout the firm, and a shared commitment by everyone here to continue to build Sintons so it can be the best it can be. We are all delighted to again have our efforts recognised in this way.”

Sintons’ comprehensive debt offering wins Legal 500 praise

Sintonsdebt recovery team has won praise from Legal 500 2022 for its wide-ranging specialism and first-rate client service.

The team, led by Allison Thompson, was highlighted for its work on a wide range of contentious issues, including winding up petitions, overdue invoice and rent payment recovery claims, among others.

Over the past 18 months, the department has attracted widespread praise for its dedication to supporting businesses through the pandemic, offering an array of free online resources via Sintons’ COVID-19 portal to deliver advice and guidance to give clarity during the fast-developing situation for businesses.

Head of department Allison was praised for being “responsive, concise and knowledgeable” as well as for her “professional conduct and pragmatic approach”.

Partner Angus Ashman, named as a leading individual in the North of England, is also noted for his work in debt recovery.

“At Sintons we are very proud of our reputation in supporting businesses with every aspect of their running, debt recovery being a crucial aspect of that. During the pandemic, the successful recovery of debt has been absolutely vital to the function and often survival of many businesses, and we are very pleased that so many have turned to Sintons for support,” says Christopher Welch, managing partner of Sintons.

“We are very pleased with Legal 500’s praise of our team, and the recognition of the outstanding service Allison and her team deliver to our clients.”

Autumn Debt Summit 2021

Head of Debt Recovery Allison Thompson hosted our Autumn Debt Summit 2021, our guest speakers included Allison and;

Please click on the play button in the bottom left corner of the below video image to start viewing. The slides are also attached here, should you wish to follow them throughout.

Finally, we have included a podcast version should you wish to listen to the seminar again at your leisure, the link is also below.

Sintons once again wins praise from Legal 500 2022

Law firm Sintons has again maintained its reputation as one of the leading law firms in the North of England in newly-released rankings from Legal 500, winning plaudits for its strength and expertise across the firm.

Legal 500 2022, released today, renews its praise of Sintons and confirms them as being a go-to legal provider in the region in many key practice areas.

The independent publication – which ranks law firms and lawyers across the North, compiled as a result of examples of work, interviews and client and peer testimonials – names eight of Sintons’ lawyers as leading individuals, three as next generation partners and a further six as rising stars. One of its lawyers also secures the highly coveted accolade of being named in the Legal 500 Hall of Fame, in recognition of consistent achievement throughout their career.

The latest Legal 500 rankings add further to the long-standing reputation of Sintons – winner of five awards at the most recent Northern Law Awards, including overall Law Firm of the Year – as a leading player in the North of England, with national reach and capability in many of its departments.

The leading individuals at Sintons, as identified by Legal 500, are:

The next generation partners, as identified by Legal 500, are:

The lawyer named as member of the Legal 500 Hall of Fame is:

The rising stars at the firm are:

Christopher Welch, managing partner of Sintons, said: “We are very proud of the reputation we have built during our 125 year history as being a law firm which consistently offers legal excellence and an outstanding service to our clients, and for these two factors to again be recognised by Legal 500 as being a staple of Sintons’ offering is very pleasing.

We are delighted to maintain our position as one of the leading law firms in the North of England, with strength, capability and experience running throughout our practice areas.”

Temporary Insolvency Measures to end

The Government has announced that the temporary insolvency measures brought in during the Coronavirus Pandemic are to be phased out from 1 October 2021. The temporary insolvency measures, contained in the Corporate Insolvency and Governance Act 2020, are to be replaced by new legislation and new protections for businesses.

Companies in financial distress because of the pandemic have been protected from creditor action since June last year, through temporary measures in the Corporate Insolvency and Governance Act 2020.

This was to ensure that viable businesses affected by the restrictions on trading during the lockdown periods were not then forced into insolvency. Now, as the economy returns to normal trading conditions, the restrictions on creditor actions will be lifted.

However, new measures will be brought in to help smaller companies get back on their feet in an effort to give them more time to trade their way back to financial health before creditors can take action to wind them up.

The new legislation will:

  1. Protect businesses from creditors insisting on repayment of relatively small debts by temporarily raising the current debt threshold for a winding up petition to £10,000 or more.
  2.  Require creditors to seek proposals for payment from a debtor business, giving them 21 days for a response before they can proceed with winding up action.

We will see these measures in force until at least the 31 March 2022.

The protection from eviction for commercial tenants will continue until 31 March 2022. The government then intends to introduce a rent arbitration scheme to deal with rental debts which have arisen as a result of the pandemic. The Government announced:

‘Businesses should pay contractual rents where they are able to do so. However, the existing restrictions will remain on commercial landlords from presenting winding up petitions against limited companies to repay commercial rent arrears built up during the pandemic.

Continuing the restriction on winding up, in respect of commercial rent only, supports the announcement on 16 June that commercial tenants will continue to be protected from eviction until 31 March 2022, whilst the government implements a rent arbitration scheme to deal with commercial rent debts accrued during the pandemic’.

The changes will be brought into force in England by the ‘Corporate Insolvency and Governance Act 2020 (Coronavirus) (Amendment of Schedule 10) Regulations 2021’ (SI 2021/1029), which comes into force on 29 September 2021 (under Corporate Insolvency and Governance Act 2020, ss 20(1)(a), 25(1)). Regulation 2, the main provision in these Regulations, substitutes into the Corporate Insolvency and Governance Act 2020 a new Schedule 10.

If you have any queries about the insolvency measures, please contact Allison Thompson on 0191 2263719 or in respect to any commercial landlord queries, please contact Aimee Hubbard on 0191 2263792.

Debt summit attracts national speakers

Key local and national figures from the debt recovery sector will be speaking at a highly-anticipated annual event held by Sintons.

The Autumn Debt Summit 2021 will bring together experts from across the country to discuss prevalent issues from across the world of business with regard to recovering debts.

Debt has been a major issue for businesses of all sectors during the pandemic, with the successful recovery of what was owed often proving a lifeline for those struggling for survival.

Now, in this event – to be held on October 14 at Sintons’ headquarters, The Cube in Newcastle – insight and advice will be shared on what the landscape may look like going forward and how debt recovery will continue to play a fundamental role in the operation of businesses as the economy continues to rebuild.

Sintons’ Debt Summit is a very popular event, attracting participants from well beyond the North East, and last year saw guests join from throughout the UK due to it being held online.

Allison Thompson, head of the debt recovery unit at Sintons, says: “During the unprecedented economic conditions we’ve seen since March last year, the recovery of debt has been absolutely vital for many businesses, and the maintenance of cash flow will continue to be fundamental going forward.

“We are by no means out of the woods yet, with economic conditions definitely improving but there is still a lot of uncertainty, and debt recovery is a hugely important means for many businesses to get back what is rightfully theirs.

“At our annual Debt Summit, we’ll have an array of brilliant speakers who can share their deep insight of the world of business, and offer some guidance as to what may lie ahead. This is always a hugely popular event, which we are delighted to hold in-person again, and look forward to continuing to support the business community in the North East and beyond going forward.”

* The Autumn Debt Summit will be held on October 14, from 4pm to 6.30pm, at Sintons, The Cube, Barrack Road, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE4 6DB. To register, click here

Government extends COVID ban on commercial evictions until March 2022

The government has today announced a further extension on the ban on commercial evictions which were introduced during the early part of the pandemic. The moratorium on commercial evictions were first introduced in April 2020 to help struggling businesses through the pandemic and were due to end on the 30 June 2021

In the wake of the government’s decision to push back “freedom day” from 21 June to 19 July,  Steve Barclay, chief secretary to the treasury, told the House of Commons today that the moratorium will be extended until 25 March 2022.

The measures which the Government have taken, aim to protect debtor companies against creditor action during a period when companies are continuing to be impacted financially by coronavirus. Restrictions on landlords using laws permitting them to recover rent arrears by selling a tenant’s goods will also continue.

This further extension has brought relief to businesses who have been unable to negotiate rent deferrals with landlords and feared being evicted from their properties once the protections were lifted but undoubtedly, this further extension will have significant ramifications for landlords.

Some landlords have raised concerns that the moratorium has allowed some businesses to escape paying rent whilst still making profits.  The government’s extension of the policy follows a call for evidence launched in the spring which looked at how best to replace or end the protections.

While it is currently speculation, whether the Government will also extend the temporary restrictions on winding-up petitions brought in under the Corporate Insolvency and Governance Act 2020 (“CIGA”) in April 2020 and which were also due to end at the end of June,  we think its highly likely the Government will also extend these measures in some way in a further attempt to prevent multiple insolvencies and business collapse and rather, urging creditors to agree repayment instalments with their debtors.

If you have any queries about the temporary insolvency measures, please contact Allison Thompson on 0191 2263719 or in respect to any forfeiture/commercial landlord queries, please contact Aimee Hubbard on 0191 2263792.

Breathing Space: The Debt Respite Scheme – 4th May 2021

The implementation of the Debt Respite Scheme (Breathing Space Moratorium and Mental Health Crisis Moratorium) (England and Wales) Regulations 2020 will begin on the 4th May 2021.

Breathing spaces will provide someone in problem debt the right to legal protections from creditor action and enforcement. In this article, we aim to provide you with a brief overview of the new scheme and when a debtor is eligible to apply.

There are two defined types of breathing space:

  • a standard breathing space; and
  • a mental health crisis breathing space.

Debtors can only access a breathing space by seeking debt advice from a debt adviser. The definition of a debt adviser is quite specific and is referred to as either a debt advice provider who is authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) to offer debt counselling or a local authority (where they provide debt advice to residents).

There is no guarantee an application will be granted.  Although all applications must be considered the debt adviser may well decide a breathing space is not appropriate for a debtor and advise a more appropriate debt solution for them.

The application process which will be used by debt advisers is an electronic service which will be maintained by the Insolvency Service.  The Insolvency Service will notify the creditors if their debtor has applied.  The Insolvency Service will also maintain a private register of people whose debts are in a breathing space and the date a breathing space ended or was cancelled.

A Standard Breathing Space:

A standard breathing space is available to any debtor in financial difficulty. It provides the debtor legal protections from creditor action for up to 60 days. The protections include pausing most enforcement action and contact from creditors and freezing most interest and charges on their debts.

Usually, a standard breathing space will automatically end 60 days after it starts. The electronic service will automatically update the breathing space register and send a notification to all creditors and their agents, if there are any.

The breathing space can be cancelled earlier than 60 days if:

  • the debtor goes into a debt solution before the 60 days is over.
  • the debtor does not meet their obligations.
  • their adviser decides to, after the midway review or after a creditor asks for a review


There are specific eligibility criteria and before a debt adviser can start the breathing space, they must confirm that the debtor is eligible and meets all the conditions. These are that the debtor must:

  • be an individual
  • owe a qualifying debt to a creditor
  • live or usually reside in England or Wales
  • not have a debt relief order (DRO), an individual voluntary arrangement (IVA), an interim order, or be an undischarged bankrupt at the time they apply
  • not already have a breathing space or have had a standard breathing space in the last 12 months at the time they apply

The debt adviser must also be satisfied that the debtor also meets both of the following conditions:

  • the debtor cannot, or is unlikely to be able to, repay all or some of their debt
  • a breathing space is appropriate for the debtor.

What happens after a standard breathing space has ended?

After a standard breathing space has ended, the debts that were in the breathing space are still owing. They have not been written off or reduced and must still be dealt with. The purpose of the breathing space was to give the debtor the time and space to deal with their problem debt, with help from a debt adviser.

Once creditors have been notified of the end of the breathing space, they can:

  • start applying interest, fees, penalties, and charges to their debt from the date of the end of the breathing space.
  • take any action to enforce their debt, including contacting the debtor.
  • resume or commence legal proceedings against the debtor regarding the debt

Creditors cannot take or resurrect enforcement action if the debtor has already entered a debt solution, such as a debt relief order or bankruptcy. Neither can they take action if the debtor has made a formal arrangement with their creditors to deal with their debt, such as an individual voluntary arrangement.

At the end of a breathing space, creditors cannot ask for payment from the debtor for interest, fees, penalties, and charges that have accrued, or would have accrued, during the breathing space, unless a court has allowed this.

A Mental Health Crisis Breathing Space:

A mental health crisis breathing space is only available to a debtor who is receiving mental health crisis treatment. If an Approved Mental Health Professional (AMHP) certifies a debtor is in mental health crisis treatment, the debtor or someone acting on their behalf may request a mental health crisis breathing space. The mental health crisis breathing space has some stronger protections than the standard breathing space. It lasts as long as the debtor’s mental health crisis treatment, plus 30 days (no matter how long the crisis treatment lasts).

A mental health crisis breathing space lasts for as long as the client is receiving mental health crisis treatment, and another 30 days after that. The breathing space can be cancelled earlier than this if:

  • the adviser considers that the evidence form received included inaccurate, misleading, or fraudulent information.
  • the adviser decides to, after a creditor asks for a review.
  • the debtor asks their adviser to.

Applying for a Mental Health Crisis Breathing Space

The debtor must provide evidence to their debt adviser from an Approved Mental Health Professional (AMHP) that the debtor is receiving mental health crisis treatment to enable them to start a mental health crisis breathing space.

In addition to the debtor, the following people can apply to a debt adviser on behalf of a debtor for a mental health crisis breathing space:

  • any debtor receiving mental health crisis treatment
  • the debtor’s carer
  • Approved Mental Health Professionals
  • care co-ordinators appointed for the debtor
  • mental health nurses
  • social workers
  • independent mental health advocates or mental capacity advocates appointed for the debtor
  • a debtor’s representative


The debtor must still meet the same criteria and conditions for a standard breathing space, but they must also be receiving mental health crisis treatment at the time that an application is made. A debtor who has had a standard or mental health crisis breathing space in the last 12 months may be eligible for a mental health crisis breathing space.

There is no limit to how many times a debtor can enter a mental health crisis breathing space.

What happens after a mental health crisis breathing space has ended?

Once the mental health crisis breathing space is finished, creditors can start to take action again, just as they can after a standard breathing space ends. The debtor might need another period of protection from creditor enforcement action and help in dealing with their debt. In these cases, the debtor can take debt advice, and apply for a standard breathing space. A debt adviser will consider if they are eligible and it is appropriate for them.

Qualifying debts (in both cases)

Qualifying debts are any sum of money owed to you from the debtor, therefore most debts are likely to be qualifying debts, which include:

  • credit cards
  • personal loans
  • utility bill arrears
  • mortgage or rent arrears

Government debts like tax and benefit debts are all likely to qualify unless they are included in the list of excluded debts.

Qualifying debts can include any debt that the debtor had before the Breathing Space legislation came into force on 4 May 2021.

New debts incurred during a breathing space are not qualifying debts. Neither are new arrears on a secured debt that arises during a breathing space.

Are there any debts which can be excluded from a breathing space?

All personal debts and liabilities are qualifying debts, except for

  • secured debts (like mortgages, hire purchase or conditional sale agreements).
  • debts incurred from fraud or fraudulent breach of trust.
  • liabilities to pay fines imposed by a court for an offence.
  • obligations from a confiscation order
  • child maintenance or obligations under an order made in family court proceedings
  • a crisis or budgeting loan from the social fund
  • student loans
  • damages they need to pay for death or personal injury caused to someone else
  • advance payments of Universal Credit
  • council tax liabilities have not yet fallen due.

While some business debts also qualify for the breathing space, they do not qualify if the debt only relates to the business (not the debtor personally) and the debtor is VAT registered, or the debtor is a partner in a business with someone else.

An eligible non-domestic rates debt (or business rates) is a qualifying debt if all instalments for that financial year have fallen due and have not been paid. If a debtor has been served with a ‘further notice’, the remaining liability for that financial year is a qualifying debt.

What happens if I have a jointly owed debt?

The new legislation makes provision for joint debts to be included in a breathing space, even if only one person applies for a breathing space. The joint debt would become a breathing space debt, and you must apply the enforcement action to the other person (or people) who owe that debt to you. You are still able to charge the interest or fees to the other debtors, and the breathing space does not affect the other debtor’s debts and liabilities in their own names.

Can I pursue my debtor’s guarantor?

While guarantor loans can be included in a breathing space, the protections do not extend to the guarantor. The guarantor must apply for their own breathing space, if they are eligible.

What happens if I already have a court judgment or order?

Unless a court or tribunal has provided you with specific permission to continue, then the court or tribunal must make sure that any action or proceedings to enforce a court order or judgment concerning a breathing space debt, does not progress until the breathing space ends.

During a breathing space, a court must not:

  • hold a hearing.
  • make or serve an order or warrant, writ of control, writ of execution or judgment summons.
  • instruct an enforcement agent to serve an order, warrant, writ of control, writ, execution, or judgment summons.

The breathing space does not stop the court or tribunal from sending notices or correspondence to the debtor about legal actions or proceedings.

The debtor should be made aware by their adviser that existing legal proceedings might continue after the breathing space ends. The debtor should also be made aware if a time limit for a creditor’s enforcement steps or new legal claims related to a breathing space debt run out during the breathing space, that time limit is extended by another 8 weeks after the breathing space ends.

What happens if I have already commenced enforcement action:

Once a breathing space has started, neither a creditor nor anyone acting on behalf of a creditor can take any enforcement actions against the debtor.

Using a High Court Enforcement as an example; during a breathing space, an enforcement agent must not:

  • give notice to the debtor about taking control of goods.
  • visit the debtor’s home or business to take control of goods.
  • take control of goods.
  • sell goods belonging to the debtor, unless the enforcement agent took them before the breathing space started.
  • serve notice seeking possession of a property let to the debtor based on rent arrears due up to the start of the breathing space or take possession of a property let to a debtor after serving notice prior to the start of a breathing space
  • contact the debtor to discuss the enforcing a breathing space debt.

If an enforcement agent has taken control of any goods by removing them and securing them elsewhere before a breathing space started, the goods may be sold during the breathing space and the costs of the sale deducted from the proceeds. However, fees accrued during the breathing space for storage of those goods cannot be charged either during the breathing space, or after it ends.

Can I contact my debtor during a breathing space?

Generally, during a breathing space, you (or any agents you have instructed) must not contact a debtor about any collection or enforcement action for a breathing space debt. This includes asking them to pay or starting or continuing any legal action.

You, or any agent, can only contact the debtor in very specific circumstances, which include:

  • about anything not related to the breathing space debt, like ongoing liabilities or an excluded debt;
  • if the debtor asks you to talk about a breathing space debt or a debt solution;
  • to respond to a query or complaint the debtor sent you;
  • about any action or legal proceedings the court or tribunal have allowed.

Even in these circumstances, any communication you send to the debtor should be kept to an absolute minimum and should be very carefully.

During the breathing space, you can contact the debtor’s debt adviser about the debt you are owed, or to discuss a debt solution.

What happens if I do not comply with the breathing space?

There are serious consequences for anyone not applying all the breathing space protections for a debtor after you’re notified about a breathing space.

Any action you take is null and void and you may be liable for the debtor’s costs.

The debtor can complain to their debt adviser, who will contact you to remind you of your obligations. The debtor can also complain directly to you, using your complaint procedure. This might include referring their complaint to any external ombudsman, oversight body or regulatory body.

If you still do not meet your obligations, the debt adviser can tell the Insolvency Service who will remind you of your obligations.

If you have any queries about the new breathing space measures, please contact Allison Thompson on 0191 2263719 or

The Government further extends emergency legislation to protect businesses until the 30 June 2021

In an announcement on 25 March 2021, the Government further extended the temporary suspension of insolvency and other measures which are aimed at protecting businesses during the coronavirus pandemic.

The original measures introduced in 2020 saw an extension to the 31 March 2021 and now, we see a further extension to the 30 June 2021.

The measures that have been extended include:

  • statutory demands served between 1 March 2020 and 30 June 2021 may not be used to form the basis of a winding up petition;
  • winding up petitions cannot be presented between 27 April 2020 and 30 June 2021, unless it can be established that the insolvency is unrelated to the coronavirus pandemic; and
  • the moratorium preventing forfeiture of commercial leases due to the non-payment of rent has also been extended until 30 June 2021.

The measures which the Government have taken, aim to protect debtor companies against creditor action during a period when companies are continuing to be impacted financially by coronavirus.

By way of example,  this means creditors cannot rely on statutory demands to bring winding-up petitions and are prohibited from filing winding up petitions where the company’s inability to pay its debts is due to coronavirus.

This does not in itself prohibit the presentation of a winding up petition, but the petition will need to the reviewed by the Court and if the Court is satisfied that the inability of the business to pay the creditor relates to coronavirus, then the petition will be void.

A further breathing space is provided to business tenants by the extension of the moratorium preventing landlords from forfeiting commercial leases based on rent arrears which will last until 30 June 2021. The moratorium over forfeiture was due to expire on 31 March however this is also now further extended. The Government hoped that this additional time would allow tenants the opportunity to reach arrangements with their landlords over rents which would then enable businesses to continue to operate. Many landlords now find themselves with fewer options at their disposal to force payment of rents whilst this moratorium remains in place.

These latest extensions are in keeping with the other temporary measures which were extended last Autumn, including a relaxation of the personal liability that may be imposed upon directors for wrongful trading.  Whilst taking all these steps, the Government hopes to help viable businesses continue to operate through the pandemic, it raises some important questions around whether this is the ‘final extension’ and whether this is protecting good businesses or just delaying the inevitable collapse of some businesses who may be sleepwalking into financial ruin.

While it is currently speculation, the issue must be whether, on the eventual final extension of the moratorium, Government will be forced to introduce additional forms of protection by way of statute in order to lessen the impact on debtors and to prevent multiple insolvencies and business collapse, for example, requiring rather than, as at present, urging creditors to agree repayment instalments.

If you have any queries about the temporary insolvency measures please contact Allison Thompson on 0191 2263719 or in respect to any forfeiture/commercial landlord queries please contact Aimee Hubbard on 0191 2263792.

Understanding debt recovery podcasts launched

Questions around the process of recovering debts will be answered in a new podcast series launched by specialists at Sintons.

In such times of economic turbulence, many businesses and individuals have sought to collect debts to help them weather the current climate, but the actual process of recovering what is owed is an area which is frequently misunderstood.

To help bring clarity to the topic, Allison Thompson, head of debt recovery at Sintons, will be recording a series of Q&A podcasts, where she offers the benefits of her experience and expertise to those looking to collect a debt.

From what constitutes a debt, through to the methods of recovering it, Allison will discuss each area in depth so businesses and individuals know what lies ahead.

The debt recovery Q&A series follows the success of a similar feature with Sintons’ specialist personal injury team, where Phil Davison, head of general personal injury, answers an array of pertinent questions about the process of making a claim.

It builds on Sintons’ fast-growing use of podcasts as a means to connect with those who need advice, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic when in-person events are not possible, although people need advice more than ever.

“The process of debt recovery is something that is unknown to many people, as it is something they have never had to become involved in,” says Allison.

“However, during the pandemic, there has been a very significant rise in the numbers of people and businesses wanting to recover what is owed to them – in such times as these, that debt could be the difference between them surviving or not.

“We are absolutely committed to securing the best result for our client, and will do everything we can to make the process as efficient and quick as possible.

“Through our Q&A series, we will offer accessible advice on all aspects of the process, so clients go into it with their eyes open in the full knowledge of what may lie ahead.”

Are you falling foul of Late payments?

There has been much in the news recently about businesses experiencing problems with late payments, reflecting the financial pressures many companies are under. It’s been reported that a great deal of companies have reported late payment as a growing source of difficulty. Given the problems cited by some businesses we thought it was timely to remind you of your statutory rights under the Late Payment of Commercial Debts (Interest) Act 1998 (as amended by various subsequent regulations) (“the Act”).

Late Payment of Commercial Debts

Under the Act, unpaid suppliers of goods and/or services have a statutory right to claim interest on overdue debts as well as compensation for late payment.

Until the Act, interest on overdue debts could only be claimed where the contract specifically allowed for it or where the supplier sued for payment through the courts, save for a few limited exceptions.

The effect of the Act is to imply certain terms into contracts covered by the Act entitling creditors to interest automatically from the date payment fell due, until payment is made, with a set rate of interest of 8% above base rate and in addition to an amount referred to as compensation.  A creditor has a right to charge collection charges once an account is overdue on each and every invoice. Compensation is set at fixed rates depending on the level of the debt:

  • For debts up to £999.99, £40 is recoverable;
  • For debts from £1,000 to £9,999.99, £70 is recoverable; and
  • For debts over £10,000, £100 is recoverable.

Whilst interest is payable on the principal debt, it is not payable on the compensation amounts.

In some circumstances, it is also possible to recover ‘reasonable’ debt recovery costs, which exceed the fixed sum.

The Act applies to debts arising under most contracts for the sale of goods and/or supply of services made between businesses. Certain types of contracts, such as a consumer credit agreement are excluded.

Aims of the legislation

The Act aims to provide both a deterrent to late payers as well as adequate compensation to a creditor which should accurately reflect the cost of funding the additional credit.

When does interest begin to accrue?

Under the Act, the date from which interest begins to accrue depends on when the contract was made and, whether the contract specifies an agreed payment date. If the payment date is specified, interest generally accrues from the day after the agreed payment date. If the payment date is not specified then in respect to contracts made on or after 14 May 2013, interest starts to accrue from 30 days after the latest delivery of goods, or invoice.

It is possible to delay the start date for contracts made on or after 14 May 2013. Parties can delay the date from which interest will accrue, for example by agreeing a late payment date or adding an acceptance procedure. However, the parties’ ability to delay the start of interest is limited.

Can parties contract out of the Act?

It is possible to vary the entitlement provisions in the Act by the terms of the contract, for example by providing a later payment date or a lower interest rate. However, the contract must still provide a “substantial contractual remedy for the late payment” and if it does not a court will imply the terms of the Act. A remedy is “substantial” if it provides sufficient compensation for late payment, is fair and reasonable as against the statutory right, and serves to deter late payment. The courts will have regard to all of the relevant circumstances at the time the terms were agreed, including such matters as the importance of commercial certainty, the strength of the parties’ bargaining positions, whether the term was imposed on the other party and any inducements given to agree the term.

The courts are able to reduce or disallow part or all of the interest payable to the supplier under the Act if the interests of justice so require, having regard to the supplier’s conduct.

International reach

If the contract has an international element (e.g. it is governed by foreign law or will be performed in a foreign jurisdiction) specific rules apply to determine whether the Act will apply to that contract.


Brexit has had no direct effect on the Act as the Act preceded the EU directives that it implements.  Although the UK will be free to amend the Act to depart from those directives, this is unlikely to be a priority for the UK Government.

Know your statutory rights

Businesses of all sizes should ensure they understand the implications of the Act. As a Creditor, you should be aware of your entitlement under the Act. Debtor companies should consider reviewing their payment procedures and terms of business to avoid falling foul of the payment requirements.

* For advice on this or any other debt-related matter, please contact Allison Thompson, head of debt recovery at Sintons, on or 0191 226 3719.

‘We’re proud to have helped make Sintons the firm it is’

As Sintons celebrates its 125th anniversary, some of its team share their thoughts and experiences of being part of the firm and playing their role in its growth. From those who have been at Sintons for over 30 years to those who have joined more recently, here they discuss what makes the firm stand out in the competitive legal marketplace, while also being a great place to work.

Amanda Maskery, partner and head of NHS healthcare

“I have been at Sintons now for nearly 20 years and during that time I have progressed from trainee to partner level and more recently to head of our fast-growing NHS Healthcare team. Many of my clients have been with Sintons for years and grown with me and I think a large part of that is because we have built such strong and trusting relationships with them.

The firm has grown significantly since I first started working here – it has doubled in size.  However, the same culture, values and traditions are still imbedded which means whilst the firm changed in size, it still embraces the supportive nurturing culture you only find at Sintons which cascades from the top down.

As I began life as a trainee at Sintons, it’s fantastic to be able to support others in progressing and achieving their goals. We have a strong team and great dynamic and that is evident to our young lawyers who bring with them a refreshing approach to the Sintons culture.”

Leah Greenwell, solicitor apprentice

“Starting my career, it was important to find a firm with local roots and a reputation for providing high quality training. The first-class levels of service Sintons provide is testament to the standard of training they deliver, and there was no question which firm I wanted my career to start in.

Sintons have always focused on ensuring that my development is put first and have laid the foundations for a successful career as a solicitor. Being a full service firm has given me the opportunity to experience all areas of law and has exposed me to a variety of high value and complex work. I look forward to what the future holds for me at Sintons.

Although the marketplace is competitive, Sintons longstanding history and their presence, both locally and nationally, will always place them at the forefront.”

Anne Smith, secretary

“I started at Sintons in 1986 and this year in November will have been here for 35 years.

I still remember my first day like it was yesterday. Everyone was so friendly and welcoming, and it is still like that today – almost like a second family to me.

“I have mainly worked in private client and worked for lots of fee earners and partners. In 2000 I started working for Steve Freeman who then went on to become a Partner and Head of the Private Client Department. I have now worked for him for 21 years this year and I can honestly say it has been a pleasure and an honour to work for such a lovely man – we have a great working relationship. I also work with the rest of the Family Department and work for such lovely fee earners.

I am also very proud to say that my daughter Emma also works for Sintons in the Conveyancing Department and she also loves her job and the team she works with.

I have seen many changes over the years but one thing remains constant – Sintons is a great place to work. I have made lifelong friends here and they will remain so.”

Emelie Vardon, solicitor

“Sintons’ heritage was very important to me when choosing to join Sintons. I came here as a trainee solicitor in 2017 and making the right choice for my future career was crucial. Knowing Sintons’ reputation and history, I couldn’t have made a better decision.

This is such a great place to work with a warm and welcoming environment. Following the completion of my training contract in 2019, I joined our developing Wills, Trusts and Estate Disputes team. Under Emma Saunders’ excellent leadership and support, my first year as a qualified solicitor has been excellent groundwork for my future career in this specialist area of law.

As a full-service law firm, I consider that Sintons is well-placed in the competitive market.”

Mark Dobbin, partner and head of real estate

“I joined Sintons as a trainee in September 1997. At the time the firm consisted of about 80-90 people. We were operating from an office in Portland Terrace in Jesmond, it was like a rabbit warren for a new starter as it was multiple old terraced houses converted and joined on different floors.

The main changes have been the massive growth in size and expertise, plus multiple office moves until finally landing at the Cube. When I qualified in 1999 myself and the partner at the time (Andrew Walker) were the Sintons commercial property department. Since then we have grown significantly.

Sintons has always been and remains a great place to work, we have an excellent team in Real Estate and will continue to succeed because of the efforts of our staff.”

Pippa Aitken, senior associate

“Sintons was much smaller when I joined in 1998. It was a friendly, family firm renowned for its reputation in private client and personal injury work. There was no dedicated corporate and commercial department.

“I was the only trainee and was sent on all sorts of weird and wonderful jobs – witnessing wills, attending infant settlements and the odd trip to the bank for the accounts department!

Sintons has become a lot more sophisticated in its working procedures and there is a much faster pace of life with emails being the most popular form of communication. I have seen some great lawyers leave and some great lawyers arrive but everyone soon seems to inherit the ‘old’ Sintons sense of fun, respect and teamwork.

Sintons is in a great place going forward. Virtual working has opened up some great opportunities to spread our wings and engage with clients even better than before.”

Sarah Smith, partner and head of licensing

“The firm has almost doubled in size since I started in  2005. The range of services offered by the firm has expanded quite significantly since then too, making the firm much more attractive to commercial clients.

When I first came to Sintons, I headed up the department with Lucy Winskell (now chair of NELEP and Pro Vice-Chancellor of Northumbria University). Since her departure I have headed it up myself. In spite of that, the department has grown in its client base and the amount of work we deal with on an annual basis.

With the growth in size and services we continue to see, I think Sintons are very well placed in the market to take advantage of opportunities going forward.”

Astrid Stevenson, secretary

“I joined Sintons on 21 October, 1997, and will have been here for 25 years this year.

I think when I started there were only about 80 people working at Sintons. We were based in Portland Terrace then moved to Osborne Terrace. We didn’t have open plan working like we have now, we had little rooms with approximately 3 secretaries in each room. I shared a room with Anne Smith from the first day I arrived and we have been firm friends ever since. Fee earners all had their own office. Basically, it was like a rabbit warren.

The staffing levels were very much smaller then, as I say about 80 staff then and now we have more than double that number. The computer system (Word Perfect 5.1) and equipment were top of the range for the time, and I think that has carried on until this day, our IT department have the latest of everything and are basically top notch.

Since I started 25 years ago, the firm has changed and has always moved forward with the times.  When I started there were no female partners. Hilary Parker and Karen Simms became the first, which was a very welcome breakthrough for Sintons.

We were like one big happy family with lots of social events, which thankfully still happen to this day, keeping the ethos of Sintons going.

I think if I didn’t enjoy working here I wouldn’t be celebrating my 25th years this year at Sintons. I’ve worked for the head of dispute resolution Angus Ashman for 24 of those years, and I think we work well together because we work as a team.

This is a very nice place to work, the people are all friendly and If anyone needs help with anything there is always someone there to help. I always think we are only as good as the tools we work with and I must say Sintons do provide all the best equipment and people and it makes the job so much easier if you have things like that in place.”

Sintons’ development – reflections from the Chairman

Sintons’ chairman, Alan Dawson, is one of the firm’s longest-serving people, having joined in 1980. Here, he shares his thoughts on some of the biggest changes and advances he has seen in the past 41 years.


When I joined in 1980, we used manual typewriters, although thankfully electric typewriters had recently become available. There were no screens at that time, but over the years we added one-line screens to the typewriters, then that went up to three or four lines. It was the early 1990s before we introduced computers.

There were no colour photocopiers so all of the plans we copied were in black and white. We would have to go over them with coloured pens to make them the same as the original.

The introduction of fax in the 80s was a game changer, everything before then was done by Telex or telegram if we needed ‘instant’ communication. The only problem was that due to the paper fax machines used at that time, the print would fade – we’d go back to the file six months later and the sheet would be completely blank! We had to remember to photocopy the fax when they came in for use in our records.

With property completions, all bank-to-bank transfers involved getting an actual cheque from the bank, and then going to the office of the other solicitor in the transaction to inspect the deeds and then complete the deal. Fridays, the traditional completion day, were often spent going between solicitors’ offices in Newcastle.

When mobile phones were introduced, we had one mobile for the firm to use, we didn’t have one each. It was one of the brick-like phones with a huge battery, but it was a huge novelty.

Thankfully things have moved on hugely, and Sintons now has a first-rate technology and IT infrastructure, which enables us to offer a very efficient service to our clients while keeping their data fully secure.

Size of the firm

Back in 1980, we had about 36 people – now we have around 170.

We really started to grow from the mid to late 90s, and in 1998 we moved our offices from Portland Terrace in Jesmond to bigger premises in Osborne Terrace, which comprised three and a half houses next to each other with an overspill office further down the road. We imagined that would give us room to grow for the next 15 years – but within the next two or three years, it was already too small.

We came to The Cube in 2004 and at first didn’t use the top floor of our four-floor building, although within the next couple of years we had expanded into there.

Over the years, we have added many outstanding lawyers to our team, both through recruitment from other firms as well as training young people-in house. Our commitment to supporting aspiring lawyers through their training contract has been unfaltering – I joined as an articled clerk (or trainee, as it’s now known) and have progressed through the ranks.

As the firm has grown then so too has our back-office and support functions developed. We didn’t have the infrastructure we have now, so no HR, IT or marketing department.

Our accounts system was all manual, the cashier had to write everything by hand. There was one card per client, so if you had to borrow it, then they couldn’t make any more entries for that client until you returned it.

Our HR function was our office manager, who kept a record of who was off and the reasons for their absence – reading it now, some of the reasons are quite amusing!

Law firms weren’t allowed to advertise at all until the late 1980s, so the only kind of marketing we could do was through the Yellow Pages. Now, we operate at the very forefront of the sector, adopting digital way before many of our competitors, and that early investment is helping us to stay ahead in the marketplace.

Practice areas

In the 1980s when I joined, Sintons had a very significant insurance litigation practice which acted for four or five of the major national insurers. The revenue from that area of the business probably accounted for two thirds of our entire income. However, in the early 1990s, we recognised that reliance on a few large clients or a particular work stream was not the best way to develop the firm and could make us vulnerable. We therefore made concerted efforts to radically change our business model and to further grow the other practice areas we had operated in for many years, including private client, corporate and commercial and real estate, and they proved to be areas of strong development for us. They continue to be key areas of the business for us and will be central to our ongoing progress as a firm.

We also moved into claimant personal injury work, which really took off in the late 90s and early 2000s. More recently, we have developed our national reputation as specialists in catastrophic and serious personal injury work with a thriving specialist neurotrauma department which handles life-changing brain and spinal cord injury work.

National reach

In the early days, we were more of a regional firm with clients mainly across the North East, and some in the wider North. Occasionally, clients moved to elsewhere in England which helped us to reach out nationally on a small scale, but we didn’t have much of a national reach.

However, as we grew as a firm, we started to work on a more national basis and now on an international basis as well. The improvement of technology was also an important factor in enabling us to communicate with people wherever they were by phone or fax, but more recently by mobile phone, email or even video calling which has proved so important during the pandemic.

Through our efforts to grow individual areas of the business – which in many instances have demonstrated substantial growth over the course of a number of years, underpinned by the hard work of our people – we have been able to add outstanding new lawyers to the team, whether they have moved to Sintons from elsewhere or have been trained in-house.

Now, we have a number of areas of the business which are regarded in the highest terms nationally, including our healthcare team, which has grown its presence over the past 10 to 15 years to become a national leader in its field.

We continue to receive growing numbers of instructions from across the UK and wider afield in almost all areas of the business, as our capability and reputation as a firm builds further still.

Building on our heritage to create a strong future

1896 marked a year of historic new beginnings and breakthroughs.

The year that saw the first modern Olympic Games held in Athens;

The introduction of the X-ray;

The development of the first Ford vehicle, the Quadricycle.

And in such a landmark year as 1896, with events taking place which went on to change history, it is fitting that this was the year when Sintons was founded and the foundations laid for the firm that it would become.

Having been founded as Sutton Cheshire & Thompson on February 8, 1896, to serve the people of Newcastle, the firm then merged with John H. Sintons & Co in 1971 – later becoming Sintons – and has grown into one of the leading law firms in the North of England, acting for ever-increasing numbers of business and private clients both regionally and across the UK.

Over the past 125 years, Sintons has developed a reputation for the quality of its advice, and crucially, the deep and trusting relationships it builds with its clients borne out of the outstanding service it delivers to them.

There are so many momentous events and developments which have taken place over such a long period of time and the world has changed, and continues to change, beyond recognition.

However, throughout that period Sintons has been working alongside individuals, families, businesses and organisations for 125 years, adapting and changing to meet new challenges and will continue to do so for the years to come.

As a law firm for changing times, Sintons continues to evolve, as it has done since 1896, to ensure it stays at the forefront of the legal market and in the best possible position to deliver excellence to its clients.

“Over the past 125 years, we have continually shown we are innovators, we are leaders. We have never been afraid to take bold decisions,” says Christopher Welch, managing partner of Sintons.

“A great example of this is when we invested in our head office, The Cube, in 2004. We were moving to an area of the city which was largely undeveloped and were, largely, surrounded by the old Scottish and Newcastle plant. Looking around us now, this is a thriving, fast-growing and sought-after area, which is the site of huge investment from both business and academia. We had the foresight to buy into these brave future plans and the ambition to want to become part of it.

“In these changing times, we will continue to evolve and develop, as we have done throughout our history, to ensure that at all times we are delivering the very best service to all our clients while also building and investing in the firm from within.

“We have stood the test of time for 125 years and are committed to ensuring Sintons maintains the reputation and presence that has been built so carefully into the future.”

For Christopher, who joined Sintons in 2003, the main differentiator between Sintons and its competitors is its unfaltering commitment to clients.

While continuing to attract new clients nationally, the firm is rightly proud of its longstanding client base, which includes many who have been with Sintons through multiple generations of their family or business ownership.

“The firm’s absolute priority from day one has been our clients and ensuring they receive the highest standards of legal and personal service. Our reputation is built on those foundations, which were laid by our previous generations of Sintons’ lawyers, and is one we are proud to continue to develop further,” says Christopher.

“At Sintons, we care about what we do, how we do it and we never forget that the clients we are working with are depending on us for, often, some of the most momentous decisions of their lives. As a firm, we recognise both the privilege and the responsibility that goes with this, it is fundamental to how we work and to our values as a business.

“Our clients are the front, back and centre of everything we do. We’ve been there for them whenever they’ve needed us for 125 years and that will continue to be the case as we move forward.”

And building further on its reputation for leading the way in the legal marketplace, Sintons continues to innovate to stand out from the crowd.

Having carried out a full rebrand in early 2020, to give the firm a fresh yet timeless identity, Sintons continues to invest in its future.

“Our rebrand was a significant step for the firm,” says Christopher. “Our branding represents the firm that we are; bold, innovative and providing clear and confident advice to our clients – a firm that stands out from the crowd.

“The use of technology to better serve our clients has always been an essential part of our growth strategy. Our founding partners would be aghast at the thought that we were able to have virtually all our colleagues working remotely – with some as far away as the Cayman Islands and Texas – without any impact on client service.

“By investing heavily in our website and online presence, we have created a resource which is available to clients wherever they are in the UK or indeed the world, giving them immediate access to information and support in ways which weren’t available before.

“The legal sector isn’t always the first to embrace change, but we are rightfully proud of the reputation we have built for standing out in that respect. For 125 years, we have taken bold moves, we have never shied away from making investment to equip the business for the long-term, and we have shown foresight and innovation to make the firm what it is today.

“This is a landmark anniversary for us, and in uncertain times, the investment we have made for many years in our infrastructure, development of our people and strategic recruitment means we remain confident in our future and the service we can continue to provide to our clients and to the regional community of which we are a fundamental part.

“These truly are changing times – but with 125 years behind us then we must be doing something right!  We know that our business will continue to evolve, with further investments in technology and infrastructure changing how and where we work. However, as we move forward, what is clear is that Sintons will always be right there, by the side of our clients, as we have been since 1896.”

Law firm Sintons is marking its 125th anniversary

Since its foundation in 1896, Sintons has grown to become one of the leading law firms in the North of England with a client base which extends across the whole UK.

It has become known as a key advisor to businesses and individuals acting on major, complex matters, regionally, nationally and internationally.

In many of its practice areas, including business, healthcare, private client and neurotrauma, Sintons is regarded as one of the UK’s leading specialist advisors.

Sintons has built a well-deserved reputation for delivering expert legal advice and outstanding service to every client, which is at the heart of the trusting and long-lasting relationships it has built during the past 125 years.

Testament to the quality of service provided is the fact that many of the firm’s clients have been with Sintons for decades, with the firm routinely being trusted to advise multiple generations of families and business owners.

Now, in its 125th year, and despite the ongoing challenges being presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, Sintons remains confident in its future as the firm continues to develop and grow.

The firm can trace its roots back to the formation of Sutton Cheshire & Thompson on February 8, 1896, which merged with John H. Sinton & Co in 1971 to become Sinton & Co, and later Sintons.

The expansion of the amalgamated firm has seen it move offices a number of times in order to house its growing number of employees, moving from Portland Terrace in Jesmond to bigger premises in Osborne Terrace which were soon outgrown, resulting in the relocation in 2004 to its current purpose-built home, The Cube, opposite St James’ Park in Newcastle. A second site was added with the opening of a consulting office in York two years ago to help the firm service its increasing demand for work from around Yorkshire.

The move in 2004 acted as a springboard in the development of Sintons, with many people not having realised how big the firm had grown and heralded a period of strong growth across the firm as a whole, with legal talent continually added to build its expertise and capability further still.

This has been backed by continued investment in its IT infrastructure, digital offering and people, to ensure Sintons is well positioned for the future.

“We are very proud of the reputation we have built over the past 125 years, which has seen us become known on a national scale as a law firm of the highest capability which is absolutely dedicated to its clients,” says Christopher Welch, managing partner of Sintons.

“We have never been afraid to be leaders and to take bold decisions, which have frequently put us at the very forefront of the legal sector. We were, for example, building our online presence and digital business development platforms way ahead of our competitors and long before it was something that was embraced widely within the legal sector.

“Going forward, we are in a strong position, having built on the heritage and legacy of Sintons over the past 125 years to create a law firm with a national reach, regarded in the highest terms for the quality of both our legal and personal client service.

“This is a very significant milestone for us as a business, and while we reach it during some of the most challenging economic conditions in the country’s history, we remain confident in the future of Sintons.”

Annual Debt Conference 2020 Online

Sintons’ Debt Recovery team invite you to join them for their annual discussion on topical Debt Recovery related issues, with presentations from key local and national figures in the Business and Debt Recovery sector.

Please click on the play button in the bottom left corner of the below video image to start viewing.

We have also included a podcast version should you wish to listen to the conference again at your leisure, the link is also below.

Annual Debt Summit to be held online

Key local and national figures in the debt recovery sector will be addressing business owners at an event to be held later in the year.

The annual Autumn Debt Summit will bring together specialists in their field to advise on topical issues, offering support and advice to businesses as the unprecedented challenges they have to deal with continue.

Debts have risen for many businesses over the past few months, as they battled to get through the COVID-19 lockdown period and continue to be affected by ongoing restrictions.

The summit, organised by debt specialists at law firm Sintons, will offer insight based on the very latest Government guidance, offering timely and relevant support to help businesses with their cash flow and debt.

It will be held online on Thursday, November 26, from 5pm, and is expected to attract attendees from across the country.

The event marks the latest in a series of highly successful online events held by Sintons, with the firm’s lawyers and specialist guest speakers continuing to be able to share their expertise despite the social distancing restrictions that remain in place.

Allison Thompson, head of debt recovery at Sintons, said: “We are well aware of the huge challenges that face businesses and they show no signs of subsiding in the near future. Having worked with many businesses across the country over the past few months, we understand their concerns in great detail and will continue to do all we can to support them in every way we can.

“Our Autumn Debt Summit will be a valuable resource for businesses in understanding their rights and knowing what action to take and how to go about it. By bringing together some of the leading names in debt recovery, we can help attendees access the advice and insight they need. Recovering debts and maintaining cash flow in times such as these can be crucial to a business’s survival, and we will work with them to help ensure that.”

* The Autumn Debt Summit will be held on Thursday, November 26, from 5pm. It will be an online event. To register, please contact David Pritchard, head of marketing, on or 0191 226 7802

Sintons introduce new Debt Recovery pricing structure

Debt specialists at Sintons have introduced a new pricing structure, which makes it more cost-effective than ever for businesses and individuals to recover money they are owed.

The team is now operating a ‘no recovery, no fee’ service for its Letter Before Action, the initial letter of demand to the debtor, which removes any financial risk to the client for early-stage instructions.

Sintons, rated as one of the leading debt recovery teams in the North of England, has removed the fixed fees which were previously charged for this service in response to the widespread and growing issues of debt faced by so many people, particularly in light of the ongoing impact of COVID-19.

The law firm has introduced a number of support measures for businesses throughout the pandemic, to help them negotiate the unprecedented times which have caused financial hardship for so many, and its new debt pricing approach extends that even further.

Allison Thompson, head of the debt recovery team at Sintons, said: “Having worked with significant numbers of businesses and individuals over the past few months, we are well aware of the fact debts are on the rise, but resources are tight, so it may be that people feel they cannot pursue what they are entitled to. By removing our initial fixed fees and replacing them with a ‘no recovery, no fee’ model, we hope that those who are owed money can now proceed, confident there will be no financial risk to them for the Letter Before Action to be sent.

“As one of the most highly rated debt teams in the region, our experience and expertise is well known, and our standards of client service for each and every case we deal with are unrivalled. We as a firm are committed to supporting the business community in every way we can, particularly during these very difficult times, and we will continue to find new ways in which we can provide solutions to the issues we know people are facing.”

COVID-19 Q&A | Sintons | Debt Recovery

During these unprecedented times, where the situation is changing on a daily basis, we are aware that individuals and business owners will have many questions and uncertainties about how these developments impact on them.

Here, through a series of Q&A with expert lawyers from across our firm, Sintons hopes to be able to answer some of those pressing questions, and provide some certainty and clarity for people who are unsure how to proceed.

Q – My business is owed money by a customer and despite numerous approaches, we have not been paid. I had always considered legal action as a last resort, but at what point do you think that should become an option?

A – Unpaid invoices should be chased without any hesitation.  As soon as an invoice falls outside of your payment terms you should be contacting the debtor to request payment.  You can provide for an additional time to pay subject to negotiation but always remember that any additional delay may impact your chances of recovery.  If you are considering legal action there are specific pre-action protcols which must be followed before commencing formal legal action therefore it is imperative this process be commenced as soon as possible to provide the best chance of recovering the debt.

Q – I am owed money by a friend. I have recently lost my job and need this money to be repaid so I can support my family. My friend will not respond to me and I feel desperate. What can I do to quickly get this money back?

A – Whenever you loan money always ensure that the terms of the loan are clear for both parties.  Never loan money without a clear understanding of when repayment of the loan is expected.  Even in the cases where it is a loan between friends on good faith, we would suggest you confirm the terms of the loan agreement in writing (email will suffice).  Before commencing any formal legal action to recover the loan, ask your friend whether they are in a position to repay the loan in full, and if not, whether they are able to commit to repay the loan by way of instalment payments.  Where possible have any proposal and exchange between yourselves in writing (text or email).  Any written response from your friend accepting the debt, will assist you if formal proceedings are necessary at a later stage.  It is natural to want to maintain the friendship if possible but, all too often we see friendships end abruptly in these situations.

Ultimately, successful recovery depends on your friends’ personal financial circumstances and their ability to repay the loan.  If their own financial position is precarious and they have no means to pay, then you are unlikely to recovery the loan.  However, it is not unusual to see cases where the friend has the ability to pay but chooses to delay repayment for whatever reason.  Do not delay in demanding repayment and maintain correspondence with your friend.  If you feel that there is no more that you can to do recover the loan, then you should seek legal advice.  In these situations, our experience is that the ‘creditor who shouts loudest gets paid first’!

COVID-19 Q&A | Sintons | Debt Recovery

During these unprecedented times, where the situation is changing on a daily basis, we are aware that individuals and business owners will have many questions and uncertainties about how these developments impact on them.

Here, through a series of Q&A with expert lawyers from across our firm, Sintons hopes to be able to answer some of those pressing questions, and provide some certainty and clarity for people who are unsure how to proceed.

Q – I run a business and am owed money by a company I have heard is struggling. How do I collect my debts quickly to recover what I am owed?

Enforce your payment terms strictly. Devise a step by step plan as part of your credit control and you can always include a telephone call a few days before, to prompt payment by reminding them that payment is due.

Consider whether your customer is someone you want to continue to do business with or someone with whom you have a long-standing relationship. If so, it may be worth taking the time to make a phone call and understand what is happening in their business before sending payment demands. Consider agreeing a repayment plan with the customer to repay the invoice.

If you have not been paid on time, then you do need to act quickly. Adhere strictly to your payment demand process and keep a careful note of all correspondence and telephone conversations with the debtor. You can send more than one payment demand, but always remember that with each demand, you are providing the debtor with more time to avoid payment.

For all your efforts, there will always be a customer who either can’t pay or is simply delaying payments to manage their own cashflow. Determining which your customer is, is the key in acting appropriately.

Q – I have a great relationship with one of my clients but they have not paid my most recent invoice. It is now several months overdue. I hope to continue to work with them, but need to be paid for what I have done. How can I go about claiming a debt while retaining a relationship?

A – Maintain communication with your clients – it is critical to maintain a good working relationship at any time but particularly now.  Take time to make a phone call to understand their position in the current situation and what impact the Coronavirus is having on them.

You will have genuine clients who still want to do business with you, even though they have unpaid invoices.  In that situation, consider agreeing a payment plan for their unpaid invoices and any further goods supply on a pre-payment basis.    Paying you a fixed monthly sum will possibly assist the client to better manage their cashflow and it will ensure you get paid!

In these difficult times it may be useful to review credit limits and where possible, payment arrangements for all your clients.  Depending on what sector you and your clients operate in, consider whether you can review your payment terms to payments on account, payment on delivery, or offer instalment payment plans for goods.   Further steps can be considered to prompt payment of your invoice on the due date ie,  a gentle reminder by way of an email or a phone call a few days before payment is due just to remind your client that the payment date is looming.  Most clients would not be offended by such a call and would usually welcome the reminder.

* For advice on this or any other debt-related matter, please contact Allison Thompson, head of debt recovery at Sintons, on or 0191 226 3719.

Recovering debts amid the coronavirus pandemic

Allison Thompson, head of debt recovery at Sintons, shares her top tips for collecting debt during unprecedented times.

Even before lockdown hit the UK on March 23, the economic conditions had been difficult for some time. Against a backdrop of many months of Brexit negotiations and updates, now we faced yet more challenges for business as countless were forced to scale back or shut down completely.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced various steps and measures which have been taken to support and minimise the financial effects of the coronavirus on UK businesses, but despite this, many will undoubtedly face financial hardship and possible collapse.

These are exceptional, unprecedented times and we are frequently asked whether it is appropriate for a business to continue to collect their debts in the ‘normal’ fashion.

It is likely to be the case that some businesses will be unable to repay their debts in full at the moment, but it is vital that companies take the necessary steps to shield their cash flow, sooner rather than later, and businesses should not be discouraged from acting as they usually would.

The global economy has slowed down and we may be heading for an economic recession. Cases of debt recovery may increase, but sadly with that, insolvent debtors will also increase. It  is vitally important to take the necessary steps to get to the front of the queue of creditors.

Here are some of Sintons’ top tips:

Attempt to resolve any disputes as soon as possible: It will save everyone time and money in the long run. There is a chance that your debtor will still have some reserves to pay you now, rather than in a few months.

Demand a written payment plan: Your credit control process is important and especially now during the current coronavirus situation. Ask your debtor to send you a proposal on how they intend to pay. If you then find yourself in the unfortunate position of having to consider using the legal route to recover the debt, it helps to have an acknowledgment of the debt.

Stay in touch: Financial developments in the past few weeks have been so rapid that the creditworthiness of many businesses have completely changed. It is therefore important that you remain in contact with your debtor, and carefully monitor your debtor’s situation on a daily or weekly basis.

Consider demanding additional securities: If your debtor is unable to meet its payment agreement, it is worth investigating whether they can provide you with securities. A guarantee from the director or board of directors, or even
a form of security from a third-party, may be possible.

Force majeure: Your customers may seek to rely on a force majeure clause in the contract to evade payment. Coronavirus is undoubtedly presenting businesses with unique and new challenges, however debtors are not able to rely on a force majeure clause as a matter of right, and it is important that you seek legal advice when confronted with this from your customer.

Contact Allison at or 0191 226 3719.

High Court Enforcements

Head of Debt Recovery at Sintons Allison Thompson and guest speaker Neil Jinks, Director of Stakeholder Relations at Just recently recorded a podcast on ‘High Court Enforcements’.

Click on the image below to listen to the podcast.

Changes to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

On Friday evening (29 May), the Chancellor announced a number of changes to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (the “Scheme”) which will take effect over the coming months. The full details of the changes are yet to be published, but here is a summary of the main changes:

  • from 1 August employers will be required to start paying national insurance and pension contributions;
  • from 1 September the Government will only reimburse 70% of salary (maximum of £2,190), with employers having to top up the remaining 10% (or more depending on what is agreed with an employee);
  • from 1 October the Government will only reimburse 60% of salary (maximum of £1,875), with employers having to top up the remaining 20% (or more depending on what is agreed with an employee);
  • the Scheme will close to new entrants from 30 June, meaning that the final date by which an employer can furlough an employee for the first time will be 10 June, in order for the current 3 week furlough period to be completed by 30 June;
  • part-time working will be allowed under the Scheme from 1 July, brought forward from August as originally intended; and
  • the Scheme will close on 31 October 2020.

In terms of part time working, HM Treasury has confirmed that from 1 July, employers will be able to bring employees on furlough leave back to work for any amount of time and any shift pattern. Employers will be able to claim under the Scheme for any of an employee’s normal hours not worked, whilst having to pay any full hours worked together with the tax and NI contributions on those payments. To be eligible for a continued grant under the Scheme, employers will have to agree a new flexible furloughing arrangement with their employees and confirm this agreement in writing.

Further guidance on flexible furloughing and how employers should calculate claims is due to be published on 12 June.

You can find the full details published so far here.

If you have any questions in relation to the content of this article please contact a member of the Employment Team.

Ask the Experts weekly Q&A with Sintons’ Employment Team – episode 5

Ask the Experts weekly Q&A from Sintons’ Employment Team – episode 5 – with Keith Land and Ailsa Hobson.

These sessions have come about due to the employment team here at Sintons having been inundated with COVID-19 and furlough questions following the introduction of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and the ever changing government guidance.

The team has also been giving some thought as to what work may look like following the relaxation of the current restrictions.

So, In order to give you an opportunity to share in some of that wisdom, the team have opened themselves up to these Q&A sessions which are going to last until the end of May. During these short, bite sized sessions, members of the employment team will answer three questions, although it will actually be four today, (either COVID-19 related or not) that you haven’t either quite got to the bottom of or that your employees persistently ask you.

Please click on the image below to watch the session.

Interest on overdue invoices

Allison Thompson, Head of Debt Recovery at Sintons recorded a podcast that concentrates on ‘interest on overdue invoices’.

Click on the icon below to listen to the podcast.

Ask the Experts weekly Q&A from Sintons’ Employment Team – episode 4

Ask the Experts weekly Q&A from Sintons’ Employment Team – episode 4 – with Keith Land and Ailsa Hobson.

These sessions have come about due to the employment team here at Sintons having been inundated with COVID-19 and furlough questions following the introduction of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and the ever changing government guidance.

The team has also been giving some thought as to what work may look like following the relaxation of the current restrictions.

So, In order to give you an opportunity to share in some of that wisdom, the team have opened themselves up to these Q&A sessions which are going to last until the end of May. During these short, bite sized sessions, members of the employment team will answer three questions, although it will actually be four today, (either COVID-19 related or not) that you haven’t either quite got to the bottom of or that your employees persistently ask you.

Please click on the image below to watch the session.

Sintons’ Employment Seminar – Managing the End of Furlough

Sintons’ Employment team, in partnership with Reed HR, have recorded the following complimentary online employment law seminar.

This seminar focuses on how to manage the end of furlough & potential restructuring.

Please click on the play button in the bottom left corner of the below image to start viewing.

To follow the full size slides the team are using throughout the presentation, please click here prior to commencing watching.


Ask the Experts weekly Q&A from Sintons’ Employment Team – episode 3

Ask the Experts weekly Q&A from Sintons’ Employment Team – episode 3 – with Keith Land and Catherine Hope.

These sessions have come about due to the employment team here at Sintons having been inundated with COVID-19 and furlough questions following the introduction of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and the ever changing government guidance.

The team has also been giving some thought as to what work may look like following the relaxation of the current restrictions.

So, In order to give you an opportunity to share in some of that wisdom, the team have opened themselves up to these Q&A sessions which are going to last until the end of May. During these short, bite sized sessions, members of the employment team will answer three questions, although it will actually be four today, (either COVID-19 related or not) that you haven’t either quite got to the bottom of or that your employees persistently ask you.

Please click the image below to listen.

Meet the Teams | COVID-19 | Sintons | Debt Recovery

Businesses and individuals are being supported in collecting debts by specialists at law firm Sintons, in what can often be crucial interventions in ensuring their financial sustainability.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses of all sizes – from significant employers to sole traders – are seeking to recover debts as a priority, as many battle to keep cash flow going to ensure they make it through the uncertain weeks and months ahead.

While debts are often proving difficult to recover at present, with many debtors seeking to protect their own financial position, the specialist debt recovery team at Sintons has been working with businesses across the North East to help them find a solution.

The growing team, which is recommended by Legal 500 for its expertise and ability to handle high volumes of cases, has a long track record of collecting debts for its clients in an efficient and prompt manner.

As a firm, Sintons remains open for business as usual, and while the debt team are home-based in accordance with Government advice, they remain contactable and are making use of technology, including videoconferencing, to help deliver the outstanding personal service for which it is renowned.

Allison Thompson, head of debt recovery at Sintons, said: “This is a hugely challenging time for businesses and for many, as part of their plans to get through the next few months, they are looking to recover what they are owed. This can be a difficult process at any time, but the current economic conditions mean that many debtors may try and put off paying for as long as possible.

“Our team are highly experienced and we do a great job for our clients. We collect debts but are always mindful of additional circumstances, such as trying to preserve relationships if the debt is with a longstanding or important client. We are assisting many businesses at present to collect what could well be funds that are crucial to them getting through these difficult times ahead, and we would urge any business owner in such a situation to get in touch.”

Ask the Experts weekly Q&A with Sintons’ Employment Team – episode 2

Ask the Experts weekly Q&A from Sintons’ Employment Team – episode 2 – with Keith Land and Angela Carver

These sessions have come about due to the employment team here at Sintons having been inundated with COVID-19 and furlough questions following the introduction of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and the ever changing government guidance.

The team has also been giving some thought as to what work may look like following the relaxation of the current restrictions.

So, In order to give you an opportunity to share in some of that wisdom, the team have opened themselves up to these Q&A sessions which are going to last until the end of May. During these short, bite sized sessions, members of the employment team will answer three questions, although it will actually be four today, (either COVID-19 related or not) that you haven’t either quite got to the bottom of or that your employees persistently ask you.

Please click the image below to listen.

Ask the Experts weekly Q&A with Sintons’ Employment Team – episode 1

Ask the Experts weekly Q&A from Sintons’ Employment Team – episode 1  – with Keith Land and Ailsa Hobson.

These sessions have come about due to the employment team here at Sintons having been inundated with COVID-19 and furlough questions following the introduction of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and the ever changing government guidance.

The team has also been giving some thought as to what work may look like following the relaxation of the current restrictions.

So, In order to give you an opportunity to share in some of that wisdom, the team have opened themselves up to these Q&A sessions which are going to last until the end of May. During these short, bite sized sessions, members of the employment team will answer three questions, although it will actually be four today, (either COVID-19 related or not) that you haven’t either quite got to the bottom of or that your employees persistently ask you.

Please click the image below to listen.

COVID-19 Q&A | Sintons | Corporate

During these unprecedented times, where the situation is changing on a daily basis, we are aware that individuals and business owners will have many questions and uncertainties about how these developments impact on them.

Here, through a series of Q&A with expert lawyers from across our firm, Sintons hopes to be able to answer some of those pressing questions, and provide some certainty and clarity for people who are unsure how to proceed.

We will bring you a question and answer per day for the next few weeks.

Q – I am looking into buying a business I know is struggling – would you suggest now is a good time to make such a purchase? Can I still access funding, will my bank lend?

A – Buying a struggling business referred to as ‘distressed’ or ‘accelerated sales opportunities’ can have its advantages and be for the commercial benefit of a similar or competitive business. It is, however, vital that any potential buyer takes legal advice to avoid risks and protect their position as much as possible.

One of the advantages of purchasing a distressed business it that the purchase price is usually discounted to reflect the risks being assumed by a buyer and this can be attractive to potential buyers who are prepared to take a punt. The reason for the reduced price is that any prospective buyer will be expected to take on any commercial risk associated with the business and assets. The principal ‘caveat emptor’, meaning ‘buyer beware’, applies, as any potential buyer will be buying the assets ‘as seen’, subject to any defects (including defects in title, physical condition or claims by third parties).

Another advantage is the time scales (and therefore the associated costs) in purchasing a distressed business. Because of the lack of available cash to fund the trading of a business (and the risk for an administrator in trading a business whilst insolvent) the sale process is usually accelerated and takes between 5-10 days from an offer being accepted to completion, compared to solvent acquisitions which can take months. Time is of the essence and therefore any potential buyer needs to take a commercial view on the transaction and rely on pragmatic due diligence which focuses on the key issues at a very high level. Such a high level review will reduce the professional fees associated with an acquisition.

A combination of sound commercial judgement and legal knowledge is needed to understand the opportunities and risks for the buyer. The key risks are:

  1. Commercial risk – as noted above the risk is always with the buyer in an insolvent acquisition
  2. Ongoing contracts – sellers will want buyers to assume responsibility for performing ongoing contracts, even if loss making. Poorly/unreasonably drafted arrangements may fix the buyer with responsibility for historic product/service warranties.
  3. No warranties or title covenants will be given in relation to the business and/or assets. This approach is in complete contrast to a purchase from a solvent seller where the buyer can expect the seller to warrant that it owns the assets, they are in good order and that there are no unexpected liabilities and where a buyer can bring an action against the seller if the warranties are untrue
  4. Employees – the Transfer or Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 2006 could apply which could mean employees transfer to the buyer, which means the seller’s obligations and liabilities associated with these employees will transfer and become the legal responsibility  of the buyer
  5. Retention of title clauses over the stock – many suppliers incorporate retention of title clauses into their terms and conditions of supply. The effect of this is that a buyer may pay good money to a distressed seller to purchase the stock only to find that the seller has no rights in it, as the supplier has not been paid and they have a retention over the stock.

We are being told that the banks are still open for business but would anticipate that it will take longer than usual to access funding which may present difficulties if you need an accelerated completion.

* For any advice on this matter or any other acquisition or insolvency purchase matters, please contact Matt Collen or Emma Pern in the corporate team at Sintons on or For assistance or advice with any banking or finance matters, please contact Jane Meikle, head of banking at Sintons, on

COVID-19 Q&A | Sintons | Employment Law

During these unprecedented times, where the situation is changing on a daily basis, we are aware that individuals and business owners will have many questions and uncertainties about how these developments impact on them.

Here, through a series of Q&A with expert lawyers from across our firm, Sintons hopes to be able to answer some of those pressing questions, and provide some certainty and clarity for people who are unsure how to proceed.

We will bring you a question and answer per day for the next few weeks.

Q – I have put some of my employees on furlough leave but still cannot see a way through the days and weeks ahead. What other options do I have available at this time? I am keen to protect as many jobs as possible but the financials just aren’t working.

A – Making use of the Government’s Job Retention Scheme is a good first step as this is a scheme open to all employers. However, if further steps are required to help your organisation adapt to the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic there are other options to consider:

  • Lay off and short-time working

If you have a contractual right to do so, you can lay off some employees or place them on short-time working. Broadly, laying off employees means that you provide them with no work (and no pay, other than a minimal statutory payment) for a period while retaining them as employees. Short-time working means providing employees with less work (and less pay) for a period while retaining them as employees. Unlike dismissal, it is a temporary solution to the problem of less work. If employees are laid off or placed on short-time working (or subject to a mixture of the two) for four or more consecutive weeks, or a total of six weeks in any period of 13 weeks, they can apply for a statutory redundancy payment (subject to the normal eligibility criteria).

  • Reducing headcount and temporary stoppages

If you have not already taken such steps, measures which might help delay redundancies include restricting recruitment, withdrawing job offers, deferring new joiners and reducing non-permanent staff. You could also consider adopting temporary stoppage arrangements, such as, sabbaticals, unpaid leave or requiring employees to use up parts of their contractual or statutory holiday entitlement.

  • Varying terms and conditions

You may seek to vary contractual terms, for example reducing hours or pay. If so, you should first check employees’ contractual terms to see if these allow for any flexibility. If express terms do not permit variation, you should seek consent. Express agreement is the simplest way of changing terms and conditions. If employees refuse to accept a change, then the next step would be to terminate and re-engage on the new terms. For employees who have two or more years’ service this will amount to a dismissal for the purposes of unfair dismissal and therefore the normal rules in relation to a potentially fair reason and fair procedure will apply. If it impacts 20 or more employees, the mass redundancy legislation will apply and you should first seek advice.

  • Redundancy

If redundancies are necessary then you must be satisfied that the statutory definition of redundancy is met. You will then need to ensure you follow a fair procedure which will involve consultation with individual employees where employees have two or more years’ continuous service. If selecting from a pool of employees, you will also need to ensure selection is fair and involves the fair application of objective selection criteria.

If you are proposing to make large scale redundancies of 20+ employees within a period of 90 days or less, certain statutory rules in relation to collective consultation will apply. In brief this will include the requirement to consult with representatives of the affected employees for 30 or 45 days (minimum) and to notify the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

On a final note, there is other support available for employers struggling with the economic consequences of COVID-19 which include, among other things, 12 month business rates holidays for businesses in certain sectors, and a business interruption loan scheme. You should keep up to date with developments and whether they apply to you via the website.

Furlough leave and holiday – update

The Government Job Retention Scheme guidance (the “Guidance”) (specifically the guidance for employees) has been amended to confirm that employees can take holiday whilst on furlough leave. The section of the Guidance for employers has not been updated in this manner, as yet.

The Guidance confirms that if holiday is taken during furlough leave employees will be entitled to their normal remuneration and employers will therefore need to top up the 80% Government grant payments to ensure this. Employers can refuse holiday requests if business needs require this, e.g. they may not be in a position to be able to pay any additional amounts.

In terms of bank holidays, the Guidance states that if employees usually work these then employers can agree that these are included in the Government grant payment. If employees usually take these as holidays, employers will either need to top up their pay to their usual holiday pay or give them a day of holiday in lieu.

The Guidance remains silent on whether employers can compel employees to take annual leave while on furlough leave, therefore reducing holiday entitlement whilst making use of the Government’s grant. Views are divided as to whether employers can do this and we would therefore advise that employers seek legal advice before taking such a step.

The Guidance confirms that furloughed employees will continue to accrue annual leave as per their employment contract. Employers can agree to vary holiday entitlement as part of a furlough leave agreement, as many have done, but this only relates to any enhanced entitlement over and above the statutory minimum of 5.6 weeks per annum.

Please note that the Government has confirmed that it will be keeping the policy on holiday pay during furlough leave under review, so a close eye should be kept on this for any further updates. It may, therefore, be prudent to take a cautious approach at this time (bank holidays only, for example). That way, if the Guidance changes for any reason, you are not over-exposed. The full Guidance can be found here.

If you have any questions or would like to discuss anything covered in this update please contact us.

COVID-19 Q&A | Sintons | Commercial Real Estate

During these unprecedented times, where the situation is changing on a daily basis, we are aware that individuals and business owners will have many questions and uncertainties about how these developments impact on them.

Here, through a series of Q&A with expert lawyers from across our firm, Sintons hopes to be able to answer some of those pressing questions, and provide some certainty and clarity for people who are unsure how to proceed.

We will bring you a question and answer per day for the next few weeks.

Q – I entered into a commercial lease prior to Coronavirus but now I am struggling to keep up with its terms. What can I do?

A – The Government has introduced, as part of the Coronavirus Act 2020 (“the Act”), a suspension of the forfeiture provisions in commercial leases, to assist tenants during the economic uncertainty of the pandemic. So what does that, in practical terms, mean? 

Forfeiture is a standard clause in commercial leases which enables landlords to bring leases to an end when tenants haven’t paid rent, have breached obligations in the lease and also, usually, as a result of insolvency.  The detail behind the Act provides that if a rent payment is missed, forfeiture action is suspended until 30 June 2020 (that includes any forfeiture proceedings that are currently underway via the courts) but that date may be extended by the Government, if required. Once the period has expired the suspension will fall away and a tenant may then be at risk of being forced out of its premises if a rent payment is missed. Forfeiture for breach of the tenant’s covenants in the lease and insolvency are not affected by the Act – it is only for rent.

The intention behind the legislation is to give tenants a window of time to try and make some sense of the way forward, without the additional pressure that its landlord may take the premises from under its feet. However the Act only suspends the forfeiture power, it doesn’t side step the obligation to pay the rent  – that will still remain.

The steps being taken the Government’s steps are important but the indication is that many landlords are taking a pragmatic approach, speaking to tenants and offering rent free periods or other concessions. Landlords are very much aware that vacant accommodation may not bode well, in the post lock down economic climate. As well as, potentially, struggling to find new tenants on the same terms having to bear the cost of business rates, insurance  and security costs is something many landlords would rather avoid. Having to take reduced rental income and working with tenants may transpire to be, commercially, the more beneficial option than ending up with voids for, potentially, many months to come.  

If changes to the occupational arrangement are agreed they could be evidenced by way of a side letter, which would be a personal arrangement between the parties and the lease itself would remain unchanged.  One point to check is vat, particularly if a vat invoice for the higher rent has already been issued. The simple solution may be to issue a credit note to cancel any vat liability, keeping accounting records in order. The alternative, if the concession is to last in the long term, is to formally vary the lease. However, due to legal technicalities, care needs to be taken as, from a tenant’s perspective, that could result in additional expenditure in the form of stamp duty liability.

So, overall, the Act is welcome to provide a degree of breathing space to tenants who are unable or struggling to pay rent in these uncertain times and the market, going forward, needs to be carefully monitored for both landlords and tenants. Communication between the parties and maintaining an open dialogue seems to be key to try, from both sides perspective, to come out of this crisis as unscathed as possible.

For further advice on this or any other commercial real estate related matter, please contact Louise Kelly, on or 0191 226 7807.

COVID-19 Q&A | Sintons | Banking & Finance

During these unprecedented times, where the situation is changing on a daily basis, we are aware that individuals and business owners will have many questions and uncertainties about how these developments impact on them.

Here, through a series of Q&A with expert lawyers from across our firm, Sintons hopes to be able to answer some of those pressing questions, and provide some certainty and clarity for people who are unsure how to proceed.

We will bring you a question and answer per day for the next few weeks.

Q – My business has a loan from a bank with regular repayments being made. I am worried that in the current economic circumstances, the business won’t be able to make the repayments. What should I do?

A – Find a copy of your loan agreement and review the document. If you don’t have a copy, ask your bank for one or, if a solicitor acted on your behalf, ask them for a copy of the signed document.

Speak to your banker and explain the problems the business is currently facing so that they can work with you to discuss the options available.

Loan agreements contain many different terms and it will probably not just be the repayment obligations that need to be reviewed. Other clauses which the business may have problems complying with are:

Financial Covenants – these are financial calculations which are calculated on a regular basis (monthly/quarterly depending on the terms of your loan agreement). If cash flow in the business has dramatically reduced and you have a financial covenant that monitors cash flow you will need to speak to your bank about an immediate or future covenant breach.

Loan to Value – the value of any property you own which has been provided to the bank as security against the amount of your debt. This is an ongoing covenant and one which in the current climate is likely to be breached with property values falling.

Undertakings – statements that are repeated on set dates in accordance with the loan agreement. These statements, subject to the exact wording, have to be “true and correct” when made and repeated. It may be that some of the statement are no longer true and correct in the current climate.

Material Adverse Effect or Material Adverse Change (MAC) – MAC provisions typically allow for a lender to call an event of default in situations where the borrower’s position is substantially deteriorated from the date that they entered into the loan agreement. The provisions tend to be heavily negotiated so it is important you understand the MAC clause applicable to your business. From our discussions with all the major banks the clear feeling is, for these lenders, not to rely on MAC clauses but work together with their customers however all borrowers should be mindful of these clauses if the time comes when your lender can no longer continue to support the business.

Cessation of Trading – the majority of loan agreements contain an event of default if the borrower ceases or threatens to cease trading. If you have had to do so as a result of the Governments instructions you will need to discuss this with the bank.

Abandonment – if your loan is to finance a development it is likely to contain a clause whereby an event of default occurs if the development is abandoned for more than a set period of days. The earlier you discuss matters with your lender generally speaking the more favourable they will be to working with you and the business.

Tenant Breaches – if your loan agreement is dependent upon rent from tenants you will need to look carefully at the covenants regarding the income from these tenants not just in terms of financial covenants but also if the loan agreement contains any clauses regarding key tenants and their own financial status, occupancy levels, tenant breaches.

The above are just some of the clauses that are most likely to be relevant and ones which you will need to discuss with your bank. We can help you to identify the relevant clauses, discuss the same with your bank and propose amendments or temporary waivers to ensure your business remains viable and functioning during the pandemic and thereafter.

COVID-19 Q&A | Sintons | Debt

During these unprecedented times, where the situation is changing on a daily basis, we are aware that individuals and business owners will have many questions and uncertainties about how these developments impact on them.

Here, through a series of Q&A with expert lawyers from across our firm, Sintons hopes to be able to answer some of those pressing questions, and provide some certainty and clarity for people who are unsure how to proceed.

We will bring you a question and answer per day for the next few weeks.

Q – I am a freelancer and have unpaid invoices which the companies involved claim they cannot afford to pay in the current climate. What are my rights?

A – Whilst we accept that these are unprecedented times, your right to be paid for the work you have done has not changed. If your customer is simply delaying paying you to manage their own cashflow, then they should be encouraged to make paying your invoice their priority.

The Government has announced a range of financial support for business and individuals through the COVID-19 crisis. If your debtor is genuinely struggling, they should be directed to this support and if they are not accessing that support then you will want to know why.

You do have some protection and Government guidelines stipulate that a customer must pay you within 30 days or receipt of goods/services, unless you agreed other payment terms.

Whilst you may be able to recover a debt relatively easily if there is little dispute of fact, occasionally you may be left with no other option than to escalate the situation and take legal action.

* For advice on this or any other debt-related matter, please contact Allison Thompson, head of debt recovery at Sintons, on or 0191 226 3719.

County Court Judgment

County Court Judgments are entered by the Register of Judgments and it will remain on the debtor’s credit record for 6 years from the date of Judgment. Judgments can have a detrimental effect on the debtor’s credit and can affect their ability to get a mortgage, credit card or bank account.

There are two types of Judgment that can be requested. Judgment in Default can be requested by a Claimant if they do not receive a response from the debtor to the claim. Judgment can be requested online or via form N225 to the County Court Money Claims Centre depending on the method used when issuing the claim. Daily interest from the date of issue can be added to the Request for Judgment if interest was originally claimed for.

If the debtor admits the amount in full, a part admission is accepted, or instalments are agreed Judgment on Admission can be entered using the same format.

If the Judgment amount is paid in full within one month the debtor can apply to have the Judgment removed from their records by writing to the Court with proof of payment. If it is paid in full after the one-month period, the debtor can request that the Judgment be marked as ‘satisfied’ to show that this has been paid.

Once a Judgment has been entered a debtor can apply to have this set aside if they believe they do not owe the debt or Judgment should not have been entered. This is common where people have moved address or have been away and have not received the claim form.

A Judgment will be set aside if:

  • The claim has been incorrectly served on the debtor i.e. an incorrect address has been used;
  • An Acknowledgement of Service or defence was filed or the whole of the claim was satisfied before Judgment was entered;
  • The Defendant has a real prospect of successfully defending the claim;
  • It appears to the Court there is some good reason why the Judgment should be set aside; or
  • The Court considers that the debtor should be allowed to defend the claim.

When considering whether the Judgment should be set aside the Court will look at the promptness of the debtor in making the application. Within their application a debtor must show that they have a case with a real prospect of success and explain why no response was made to the original claim.

Unless it is agreed between the parties that the Judgment be set aside, the application will proceed to a hearing.

A debtor may also apply to the Court to vary the Judgment. If Judgment in Default is made and the whole amount is payable immediately a debtor can apply to vary this to be payable by instalments or can vary the instalment amount stated within a Judgment on Admission.

Once Judgment has been received a Claimant can proceed with enforcement action; this action can be brought within 6 years of the date of Judgment. In some circumstances a Judgment can be enforced beyond the 6 years limitation period however, this can only achieve with permission of the Court. Forms of enforcement will be discussed in future articles.

Amy Carlton is a Debt Recovery Manager at Sintons. To speak to Amy about any debt-related matter, contact her on 0191 226 7878 or

Potential Responses to a County Court claim

Once the Court has received a claim form, they will seal the claim and serve this on the debtor along with a Notice of Issue and response pack. At the same time, they will send the Notice of Issue to the Claimant which will highlight the date the claim was issued, the date the claim was served on the debtor and the date the debtor needs to respond by.

Once the debtor has received the claim they can respond in several ways:

      1. The debtor does not respond to the claim

If a Claimant does not receive any response from the debtor by the response date, they can enter Judgment in Default. This will be discussed in further detail later.

      2. The debtor admits the amount owed in full

The debtor can make a full admission within 14 days of service of the claim form. In this situation the Claimant can either accept the offer informally and receive payment or they can enter Judgment on Admission, which will be discussed in a later article.

If the debtor has admitted the whole amount but the Claimant does not accept the instalments they have proposed, they can ask the Court to do a Determination of Means. The Court will review the debtor’s financial situation and the reasons why the Claimant does not accept the instalment sum and determine the instalment amount the debtor should pay. This will lead to a Judgment being entered against the debtor, it is worth noting however that the Court may not award the amount the Claimant has requested and can potentially be lower than the amount the debtor originally offered.

      3. The debtor can file a part admission

If the debtor only admits part of the debt the Claimant will receive notice identifying how much is admitted. A Notice of Response must be filed with the Court and debtor, either accepting or rejecting the offer, within 14 days after the Claimant has been served the part admittance, if this is not received the claim will be Stayed. If the Claimant rejects the offer, then the claim will proceed to a hearing however if the amount is accepted the claim will be settled and Judgment on Admission can be entered for this sum.

      4. The debtor can serve an Acknowledgement of Service

The debtor has up until 14 days after the service of the claim form to file an Acknowledgement of Service. By filing an Acknowledgement of Service this allows the debtor 28 days from the date of service to respond to the claim rather than the usual 14.

      5. The debtor can file a defence and/or counterclaim

The debtor has 14 days after the date of service, or 28 days if an Acknowledgment of Service has been filed, to file a defence and/or counterclaim. If the parties agree, it is possible to have a further extension of up to 28 days for service of the defence. If either of these are entered, then the claim will be proceeding to a hearing and the matter has become a disputed action.

Amy Carlton is a Debt Recovery Manager at Sintons. To speak to Amy about any debt-related matter, contact her on 0191 226 7878 or

Common Issues relating to County Court claims

What happens if the claim is Stayed?

A claim will be Stayed if 6 months has expired from the time a defence or admission should have been filed or a Judgment entered. This means the claim will have effectively be put on hold by the Court. A common situation in which this occurs is when a Claimant has been accepting instalments from a debtor but hasn’t entered Judgment and the debtor has then defaulted on payments.

An application to lift the Stay must be made to Court using form N244 and including a Court fee of £100. The form must include details of why the claim was Stayed and why the Stay should be lifted; it is at the Courts discretion to lift the Stay

What to do if you have an out of jurisdiction claim

If you have contractual terms with a debtor that are based in the jurisdiction of the English Legal System, but the debtor does not reside in England or Wales then the claim is out of jurisdiction and Practice Direction 6B must be complied with. click here for more details.

The Claim itself can be completed as usual and sent to the Court to be sealed however it is the responsibly of the Claimant to serve the claim form on the Defendant and file a Certificate of Service (form N215) with the Court once this has been served. The Court fee remains the same.

What to do if you reach settlement before the claim has been allocated

If you have received payment in full or reached a full and final settlement or agreement before the claim has been allocated to a Court, you can file a Notice of Discontinue using form N279 with the Court and request that the claim be vacated. The claim will then be withdrawn by the Court and will not be continued. If you are accepting instalments Judgment on Admission can be entered.

What to do if you reach settlement after the claim has been allocated

If you reach a settlement agreement or receive payment in full after the claim has been allocated to a hearing, then a Consent Order will need to be filed with the Court. This will state how much the settlement is for and the terms of the settlement. This needs to be signed by both parties and be accompanied by a £100 Court fee.

What to do if you have arranged an instalment arrangement after the claim has been allocated

If an instalment arrangement has been agreed after the claim has been allocated to a hearing a Tomlin Order will need to be filed with the Court, which both parties need to sign, along with a £100 Court fee. This should detail the total amount owed, how much the instalments are for and when these are to be paid; it should also request that the claim be stayed and outline in the Schedule what will happen if the instalments are defaulted on.

An alternative to a Tomlin Order is writing to the Court and informing them that the parties are in a payment arrangement however, if the debtor defaults on payment, then proceedings will need to be reissued to reclaim the remaining balance. The benefit of a Tomlin Order is that if the debtor defaults on payment then Judgment can be requested straight away.

Amy Carlton is a Debt Recovery Manager at Sintons. To speak to Amy about any debt-related matter, contact her on 0191 226 7878 or

The Commerciality of a County Court claim

Before commencing with a County Court claim particular consideration should be had to the commerciality of this approach. Whilst the main goal of any recovery action is to recover the amount due, the costs of achieving this may outweigh the amount owed.

The following points should be considered:

  1. Further costs and disbursements

Entering a claim will involve legal fees and disbursements. A Claimant can enter the claim themselves via the Money Claim Online, but a Court fee will still need to be paid for the claim to be issued. For a list of the Court fees please see Proceeding with a claim the basics. Whilst the Court fee will be added to the amount outstanding and therefore payable by the debtor, if the amount owed is recovered, this fee will need to be paid by the Claimant initially.

  1. Will the debtor enter a defence?

Has the debtor indicated a dispute relating to the amount? If they have then it is likely that the debtor will enter a defence once the claim has been issued. Dealing with a defence is a costly process which will involve further legal fees, disbursements and potentially Counsel’s fees if the claim proceeds to a hearing. The hearing will be dealt with on the Judge’s discretion so there is always a risk involved and it is never a guarantee who will win. The time factor must also be considered as well as the need to attend the hearing as a witness.

  1. Track allocation

If a claim is defended or a counterclaim entered the claim will be allocated to a track to be dealt with.

  • The small claims track is for claims of a value not more that £10,000;
  • The fast track is for claims with a value of not more than £25,000; and
  • The multi-track is for any claims over £25,000.

Each of these tracks have different processes regarding the steps to take before a hearing and differing rule relating to costs. In the Small Claims there is no order as to costs which means that regardless of which party wins each party pays their own costs.  Although the Court can use its discretion and award court fees and witness expenses.

With the fast track and multi-track, the principle of the loser pays the winners costs is applied. This however is determined on the Courts discretion and there is no guarantee that the Court will award the winner their full costs.

  1. Chances of Recovery

Does the debtor have the means to be able to repay this debt? If the answer is no then it may not be commercially viable to pursue this; even if you enter Judgment or win at a hearing, there is no guarantee that you will recover the money.

Given the above it is very important, particularly when a defence is likely to be entered, to review the likely costs that will be incurred. In some situations, it is more commercially viable to enter into negotiation with the debtor with a view to attempt settlement or write the debt off.

Amy Carlton is a Debt Recovery Manager at Sintons. To speak to Amy about any debt-related matter, contact her on 0191 226 7878 or

New head of debt recovery for Sintons

A well-known and highly experienced debt recovery specialist has joined law firm Sintons to lead its fast-growing debt team.

Allison Thompson has worked in the North East legal sector for over 30 years, holding prominent positions in debt recovery work at law firms and as head of her own dedicated business.

Allison, a former Mayor of Gateshead, now moves to Sintons as its new head of debt recovery, leading a specialist and growing team which receives instructions from across the UK through its developing reputation and profile.

The team – which has seen a three-fold increase in fee income over the past two years – was praised by Legal 500 2019 for its work both in volume and one-off high-value debt recovery work, and its ability to take multiple simultaneous instructions on a national basis while delivering an outstanding client service.

The debt team is part of Sintons’ wider dispute resolution department, which won Team of the Year at the Northern Law Awards 2019 in recognition of its legal capability and commitment to its clients, alongside the strong and continuing growth seen within the team.

Allison’s strong experience will add further to Sintons’ debt offering, and she will combine her role in co-ordinating and heading the team with handling client work, overseeing matters including issuing demand letters, County Court claims and bulk enforcement, alongside insolvency matters such as statutory demands, bankruptcy petitions and winding up petitions.

Angus Ashman, partner and head of dispute resolution at Sintons, said: “Our debt team has made highly significant advances in the recent past, and we now regularly receive instructions from across the UK, many of which are achieved through recommendation and referral.

“We are delighted to announce the arrival of Allison to head our debt recovery unit, whose experience and standing within the debt community sets her apart in the regional market. She joins us at a time of continuing strong growth, with further recruitment planned to help us keep pace with our growing caseload, and we are confident her appointment will help the team reach new levels of potential.”

Proceeding with a County Court claim: the basics

If a debtor does not respond to a Letter Before Action or raises a dispute with which the claimant does not agree, a County Court claim can be issued. There are several important factors to consider before entering a claim regarding the commerciality of the action which will be dealt with in a later article.

Like the Letter Before Action, it is important that the correct debtor is identified on the claim form, please see ‘Identifying the Debtorfor more information on this.

The claim form can be completed online via the Money Claim Online, click here or submitted by paper using form N1, but either way you must comply with section 7 of the Civil Procedure Rules. Any claim form must be accompanied by a court fee. However, the fees vary depending on which method is being used.

The court fees are listed below:

Claim AmountPaper feeOnline fee
Up to £300    £35   £25
£300.01 to £500    £50   £35
£500.01 to £1,000    £70   £60
£1,000.01 to £1,500    £80   £70
£1,500.01 to £3,000    £115   £105
£3,000.01 to £5,000    £205   £185
£5,000.01 to £10,000    £455   £410
£10,000.01 to £100,000    5% of the claim   4.5% of the claim
£100,000.01 to £200,000    5% of the claim   You cannot make a claim online
More than £200,000    £10,000

The court fee will be added to the outstanding amount owed, so if a debtor admits the claim after the claim form is issued by the court the debtor will also be liable to pay this amount. However, the claimant must pay the fee initially otherwise the court will not issue the claim.

As well as a court fee the claim must be accompanied by particulars of claim. The particulars of claim should detail the amount owed, what the debt is for and include a claim for interest if it is an individual debtor, sole trader or company, plus compensation if the debtor is a company. This section should comply with section 16 of the Civil Procedure Rules (and its accompanying Practice Direction), which in particular requires the Claimant to include a concise statement of the facts on which it wishes to rely.  Key documents should be attached to the particulars of claim, for example the contract or documents constituting the agreement on which the debt is based, invoices and statements of accounts.

Where a paper claim form is used the claim should be sent to the County Court Money Claims Centre (CCMCC) County Court Money Claims Centre, PO Box 527, Salford, M5 0BY where it will be issued. Once a claim has been issued the court will send a Notice of Issue with the date the claim was issued, the date the claim was served on the debtor and the date by which the debtor must respond.

Amy Carlton is a debt recovery manager at law firm Sintons. To speak to Amy about any debt-related matter, contact her on 0191 226 3649 or

Debt team praised for capability by Legal 500 2019

The fast-growing specialist debt team at Sintons wins praise from Legal 500 2019 for its experience and expertise.

The team is hailed for its work both in volume and one-off high-value debt recovery work, enabling the firm to take multiple simultaneous instructions on a national basis while delivering an outstanding client service.

Its investment in an in-house debt recovery IT system – part of Sintons’ overall and ongoing commitment to investing in outstanding internal technology – wins praise from the legal guide, saying it enables “the team to react quickly to client instructions”.

Legal 500 also hails Sintons for its development of a niche in assisting energy brokers with debt collection issues.

The debt team has seen strong levels of growth in recent months, with new strategic appointments being made and increasing levels of instructions received from across the UK.

Led by Angus Ashman, a highly respected name in litigation and debt work, the department is targeting further significant development.

Mark Quigley, managing partner of Sintons, said: “Our debt recovery service has developed over the past few years to become a key name in this sector, and has seen particularly strong growth in the more recent past to now be hailed by Legal 500 as one of the leaders in its field in the North of England. This is a very well-deserved endorsement of the work of the team and their ongoing efforts to grow even further. With instructions now coming regularly from across the UK, our debt team has huge potential.”

Letter Before Action to a company

The Pre-Action protocol for debt claims does not apply to business to business debt so reference must be given to the Practice Direction on Pre-Action Conduct and Protocols.

This applies to disputes where no pre-action protocol applies such as business to business debts.

The objectives of this protocol are similar to the Pre-Action protocol for debt claims in that it aims to settle the issues without proceedings, reduce the costs of dispute and understand each other’s position. Our article about sending a Letter Before Action to an Individual can be found here.

In a Letter Before Action to a company you must provide concise details of the claim; the basis on which the claim is made, a summary of the facts, what you want from the debtor and how much is outstanding. The debtor should be given at least 14 days to respond to the letter and should be sent documents relating to the amount owed i.e invoices, statement of account and contract.

What can be added to a company debt?

Compensation under the Late Payment of Commercial Debts Regulations 2013 can be added to the outstanding amount. This gives you the right to charge collection costs once an account is overdue and can be applied on every invoice that becomes overdue.

The charges are as follows:

Debts up to £999.99 – £40

Debts from £1,000 to £9,999.99 – £70

Debts £10,000 and above – £100

Interest under the Late Payment of Commercial Debts (Interest) Act 1998 can also be added to the debt. If the contract was made on or after 7 August 2002 between any business supplier and any business purchaser interest is payable from the date the payment became due. The contract must relate to the sale of goods or supply of service and the rate of 8% above the current base rate will be applied.

If the debt became due from 2013 to 3rd August 2016 the base rate is 0.50;

If the debt because due from 4th August 2016 to 1st November 2017 the base rate is 0.25;

If the debt became due from 2nd November 2017 to 1st August 2018 the base rate is 0.50; and

If the payment became due from 2 August 2018 to present the base rate is 0.75.

The Pre-Action protocol for debt claims and a Letter Before Action to an Individual

Whether you, as a business, or your solicitor are sending a Letter Before Action or a Letter Before Claim to an individual or sole trader, compliance must be had to the Pre-Action protocol for debt claims. You can review the Protocol here.

If this Pre-Action protocol is not followed this can be detrimental to any future claim as the Court may impose sanctions on any party that fails to comply. Note that the Pre-Action protocol does not apply to business to business debts unless the debtor is a sole trader.

The protocol aims to promote early communication between the parties, enable the parties to resolve the dispute in a cost-effective way without the need for court proceedings and encourages the parties to act reasonably and in a proportionate manner.

The Letter Before Action must include the following information:

  • The amount of the debt
  • Whether interest or other charges are accruing
  • Where the debt arises from an oral agreement:
    • Who made the agreement;
    • What was agreed;
    • When and where the agreement was made.
  • Where the debt arises from a written agreement:
    • The date of the agreement;
    • The parties to the agreement.
  • Where the debt has been assigned, the details of the original debt and creditor, when it was assigned and to whom it was assigned.
  • If regular instalments are currently being offered by or on behalf of the debtor, or are being paid, an explanation as to why the offer or current instalments being paid are not acceptable and the reason why a court claim is being considered.
  • Details of how the debt can be paid
  • Details of how to proceed if the debtor wishes to discuss payment options
  • The address to which the completed Reply form should be sent

The following documents must be included with the Letter Before Action:

  • Up to date statement of account for the debt including details of any interest and other additional charges added;
  • A copy of the agreement made with the debtor.
  • A copy of the Information and Reply form which can be found at Annex 1 to the Debt Protocol
  • A financial statement form which is provided at Annex 2

An individual and sole trader must be given 30 days to respond to the Letter Before Action. If they do not reply within this time frame, then you may proceed with a county court claim.

Interest can be added to the debt from the date it became due to the date of the Letter Before Action. Unless the interest is defined within the contract that you have with the debtor, then this is in accordance with s69 County Courts Act 1984 at the statutory interest rate of 8%.

What to do if your debtor is in Insolvency Proceedings or dissolved?

It may come to light after your Pre-action profiling that your debtor is insolvent, currently in insolvency proceedings or dissolved. If this is the case the traditional debt recovery route with a Letter Before Action is not appropriate.

The purpose of this article is not to advise on the different insolvency routes but advise on the process if you find your debtor is already involved in one.

If a Company if dissolved or has been struck off, you cannot commence action to pursue your debt. You can make an application under s1029 Companies House 2006 to restore the Company, but this may not be commercially viable; it is likely that as the company has been dissolved or struck off, they have no assets to their name which can be used for payment.

With a company the Insolvency states are:

  • Administration
  • Company Voluntary Arrangements (CVA)
  • Receivership
  • Liquidation (Winding Up)

With an individual the insolvency states are:

  • Bankruptcy
  • Debt relief Orders
  • Debt Management Plan
  • Individual Voluntary Arrangements (IVA)

If the debtor is involved with any of the above, you or your solicitor will have to contact the Insolvency Practitioner or appointed person instructed to deal with the Insolvency and indicate that you would like to be involved with the process.

Details of who the Insolvency Practitioners are for Administration, Receivership, Liquidation and Bankruptcy can be found on the London Gazette under Insolvency Notices.

As you are a creditor of the debtor you should receive notice of the CVA, IVA, debt relief order and debt management plan. If you don’t receive this and any correspondence is sent to the debtor chasing the debt you should receive notification, then.

With Administration, Receivership, Liquidation and Bankruptcy once you have indicated your intention to be a part of the process you will be sent a Proof of Debt form for you or your solicitor to complete. This will evidence how much is owed to you plus the interest, if you have any security over the debt and will need to include proof of the debt i.e an invoice.

All the above routes will take time to complete and it is unlikely that you will receive the whole amount of your debt back, the amount you receive depends on the assets the debtor has. For more information on this process or how to initiate any of these process for yourself or against a debtor please contact the office.

Amy Carlton is a debt recovery manager at law firm Sintons. To speak to Amy about any debt-related matter, contact her on 0191 226 3649 or

Identifying the Debtor

Identifying the correct parties to an action is important to avoid proceedings being struck out or amended. It is equally important to proceed with action against the Debtor in their proper capacity.

It is likely most debtors will fall under the following categories: Sole Trader, Individual, Partnerships, Limited Liability Partnerships or Companies, so who exactly are you suing?

  • Sole Traders will be sued as an individual, as such the Pre-Action protocol for debt claims must be followed when sending a Letter Before Action and 30 days has to be given for a response. Under CPR Practice Direction 16.2.6(b) the full name of the individual along with the trading name must be given.
  • Action can be brought against individuals within their own name followed by the words ‘trading as [business name]’. Again, the Pre-Action protocol for debt claims must be followed, and 30 days given to respond.
  • With Partnerships partners of the business are jointly and severally liable for the firm’s debts. This means you can choose all or specific partners to sue. The alleged partners carrying out business in the Jurisdiction of England and Wales at the time the debt arose may be sued in the business name. It must be noted that liability only arises with those partners who were members of the partnership when the debt arose. Please note that the Pre-Action protocol for protocol for debt claims does not apply to Partnerships as they will be sued as a company, the procedure to follow will be addressed later.
  • Limited Liability Partnerships must be sued in its corporate name and must end in ‘limited liability partnership’. LLP’s will be sued as a company.
  • Registered companies will be sued under their registered name. . As the debt is owed by a company the Pre-Action Protocol for debt claims does not apply.

Now you have identified the debtor, you or your solicitor should carry out pre-action profiling on the debtor and their assets.

Before commencing action against a company, a check should always be done on Companies House to determine the company’s registered office address, if the company is still active and its filing history. Companies House will state if the company is listed for strike off, has insolvency proceedings being made against it or if they have changed their name or address.

With an individual or sole trader, if contact has not been made for a long period of time or you believe circumstances have changed it may be worth pursuing a trace or a pre-sue report from a tracing agent to determine the current address and situation of the debtor.

Pre-action profiling is important as it can save you time and fees in the future as you can determine from the outset if the debt is worth pursuing.

Amy Carlton is a debt recovery manager at law firm Sintons. To speak to Amy about any debt-related matter, contact her on 0191 226 3649 or

At What Point Should a Solicitor be Instructed

A debt action can be brought within 6 years of the debt becoming due. If it is not brought within this period then limitation has expired, and any action will be barred. There are different stages when your debt action can be passed to a solicitor however you must check your terms and conditions to check that the debt has become due within your payment terms.

  1. When the invoice/payment become due – you have sent the debtor an invoice and this is still due after the payment terms. As soon as the payment terms have expired you can send the invoice to us and we can send a Letter Before Action (LBA).
  2. After you have sent a chaser letter – you can send a letter to the debtor yourself chasing the overdue payment and within the letter threaten that if they don’t respond, within a certain timeframe you will pass the matter to a solicitor. If you receive no response to the letter you can pass the invoice to us and we will send an LBA. This is a good idea if you wish to maintain the relationship with the debtor.
  3. You can send a Letter Before Action to the debtor yourself, but this must comply with the pre-action protocol. A link can be here and will be discussed later. If you have sent an LBA and you received no response, then the matter can be passed to us to proceed with legal action e.g. a County Court claim or Insolvency proceedings.
  4. If proceedings have already been issued or Judgment has already been entered against the debtor these can be passed to us to continue with action, including commencing enforcement action, if Judgment has already been entered.

Things to think about before sending the matter to a solicitor:

  • Who is the debt against? Do you have all the relevant information for the debtor?
  • Is there a dispute or a reason for non-payment?
  • Do you have all the relevant documents?
  • What are the prospects of recovery and is it commercially viable to pursue this?
  • Are you within limitation?

Documents to send over to your solicitor:

  • Invoice and/or statement of account;
  • Contract/agreement with the debtor;
  • Account opening form;
  • Any correspondence you have had with the debtor regarding the outstanding amount; and
  • Any disputes the debtor has raised in relation to the outstanding amount.

Amy Carlton is a debt recovery manager at law firm Sintons. To speak to Amy about any debt-related matter, contact her on 0191 226 3649 or

Continued growth for Sintons Debt Recovery team

The specialist debt recovery team at Sintons is continuing to grow on the back of new client wins from across the world and a three-fold increase in fee income over the past two years.

The team, from its base in Newcastle, acts for companies and individuals across the UK and internationally, offering specialist advice on matters of all complexities to clients ranging from multi-national corporates to sole traders, with new instructions continually being received on the strength of its reputation.

As a result of the significant increase in workload, the department’s turnover has tripled and three debt recovery managers –  Amy Carlton, Caitlyn Elliott and Jill Galbraith – have also been appointed in the recent past, with further recruitment planned.

The team is recognised as one of the leading debt advisors in the North East, with partner and head of department Angus Ashman – hailed by Legal 500 for his “open and honest manner, exceptional dedication and outstanding knowledge” – having been a go-to advisor in this area for over 20 years.

The significant growth in the debt team comes at a time of development for Sintons as a whole, with its Strategy for Growth underpinning the progress and recruitment across all areas of the business. The firm was the winner of five accolades at the Northern Law Awards 2019, including the overall Law Firm of the Year and Litigation and Dispute Resolution Team of the Year, of which the debt department is part.

Mark Quigley, managing partner of Sintons, said: “Our debt team has done an outstanding job in the recent past of building on the expertise we already had here to create a specialist team which is winning work around the world. Under the expert leadership of Angus Ashman, a very highly respected name in this field, we are building a dynamic team whose capability is becoming widely recognised. Our reputation proceeds us in many cases, with a sizeable amount of our caseload coming from recommendation and referral.

“The growth of the debt team comes at an exciting time for Sintons a whole, with our Strategy for Growth now delivering the strong levels of development, underpinned by strategic recruitment, we set out to achieve. Our success at the Northern Law Awards was indicative of the excellent work and commitment we are seeing throughout the firm, and our debt team is a prime example of the results that are being achieved.”

The Process of Debt Recovery

Being faced with collecting a debt is far from an ideal situation and one which many people are unsure how to handle or are unclear about how the process works. At Sintons, we pride ourselves on resolving debt matters quickly and efficiently, and act on behalf of clients ranging from private individuals and sole traders through to large corporate businesses.

The process of debt collection is often something people have never had to deal with before, so are not sure of what it entails and at what point to act. Here, we briefly outline several stages, with different considerations at each one, as a rough guide to proceedings, so people faced with collecting debt know what is likely to be ahead.

Identifying the debt – you will need to establish who the debt is against, what the debt is for and at what address is the debtor based. Other points to consider at this stage are whether the debt is disputed and do you need a trace to find the debtor?

Pre-Action Protocol for debt claims – the first stage is sending a Letter Before Action (LBA), before sending this you must consider what information you need to include in the letter and how much time you need to give the debtor to respond.

What are you entitled to? – there are a number of financial considerations on this point:

  • Interest: the statutory rate that individuals have to pay on unpaid debts is 8% and for companies and larger businesses the interest payable is a fixed percentage above base rate, which is currently 8.75% both of which are calculated from the due date of the invoice
  • Compensation: if dealing with a company statutory rates can be added to the debt.

Claims – if the debtor hasn’t responded to the LBA, the next step will be to enter a County Court claim. Before doing this, you have to consider whether the debt is going to be disputed as well as whether you have enough evidence, and especially whether it is going to be worthwhile commercially, that is, has the debtor got money or assets from which to make a recovery of your debt. There are fixed costs and court fees attached to this process, so that must be factored in.

Judgment – what is a Judgment and what does this mean for the debtor? Securing a County Court Judgment (CCJ) means the creditor is then entitled to use various mechanisms to recover the money owed to them. However, an application can be made for this to be set aside in certain circumstances by the debtor, such as if they did not have an opportunity to put in their defence.

Enforcement – there are a number of ways of collecting the debt you are owed from the assets the debtor has, with options for recovery including the involvement of High Court Enforcement Officers, Third Party Debt Orders, Attachment of Earnings, Charging Orders and an order to obtain financial information from the debtor. In the event of insolvency, a winding up petition or bankruptcy may be used.

While this is the general process, it is very common for unexpected events to occur along the way. For anything you are unsure about, it is important to seek specialist advice, to ensure your matter is brought to as swift a conclusion as possible.

Amy Carlton is a debt recovery manager at law firm Sintons. To speak to Amy about any debt-related matter, contact her on 0191 226 3649 or

Cost Free Debt Recovery

At Sintons we have unique charging model for our clients to enable them to collect their debts in a cost effective if not cost neutral manner.

Current government legislation enables you to charge compensation and interest on each overdue invoice owed by a business debtor. The legislation enables you to pursue your debts for “free”.

The Law

The Late Payment of Commercial Debt Regulations (Interest) 1998 and 2013 allow you to charge interest at a rate of 8% above the Bank of England’s base (currently 0.5%). In addition the legislation also allows you to claim compensation on each outstanding invoice. The current thresholds of the compensation levels are:

Level of debt                   Compensation

£0.00 – £999.99                 £40.00

£1,000.00 – £9,999.99       £70.00

£10,000.00 +                     £100.00

The key wording of the act is that each invoice is classed as a “qualifying debt”, that is a contract for the supply for goods and services legislation. If your invoices are for goods and/or services supplied to a business then this a qualifying debt that will attract interest and compensation in accordance the Late Payment of Commercial Debt Regulations (Interest) 1998 and 2013.

The Cost Neutral Model

Our charging model is based around our interpretation of the Late Payment of Commercial Debt Regulations (Interest) Act 1998 and 2013. When we are instructed to pursue a debtor for overdue sums we do two things:

  • We add interest on each of your outstanding invoices at 8% above the Bank of England base rate; &
  • We add compensation to each overdue invoice in accordance with the thresholds above (this could be £40.00, £70.00 or £100.00).

We then send the letter before action to your debtors at no charge to you. Once the letter before action has been sent your debtor has 14 days to respond. In our experience within that time frame your debtor would normally arrange for payment of the debt, interest and compensation.

Upon payment being received we will send you your debt and interest and retain the compensation recovered as our fee. It is that simple.

The catch – what catch?

There is no catch! We will not charge you for the recovery of your debt until the compensation has been paid. The only thing we ask of you as a condition of our acting for you on this basis is that, in the event that the debtor makes payment of the debt only and not the interest and compensation, the debtor’s account remains on stop until the compensation is paid and that you contact us should the debtor make payment direct.

To find out how we can help you with your current debtors please contact us. – See more at:
To find out how we can help you with your current debtors please contact us. – See more at:

To find out how we can help you with your current debtors please contact us.