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What to do about letters from creditors

Letters are the main way most creditors will contact you about your debts, and if you miss payments you’ll find you get lots of them.

You should always open and read letters from creditors as soon as you get them.

Some of them don’t need you to take any action, but others are important as they could be about what your creditor is going to do to collect repayments.

What types of debt letter can I get?

If your payments are up to date you’ll get regular statements showing how much you owe and how much you’ve paid. For most common types of debt, your creditors are legally obliged to send a statement at least once a year.

If you miss payments, you’ll get reminder letters or emails, and sometimes texts. You’ll also get phone calls asking you to bring the payments up to date.

The letters are sometimes sympathetic and offer help at first, but can feel more threatening if you don’t bring your payments up to date.

Your account will often be passed to your creditor’s collection department after a few reminder letters. Collection letters will be worded more harshly, sometimes threatening to take court action or send debt collectors to your home.

You may get a default notice then letters from debt collection agencies which will also threaten to take further action if you still don’t pay.

Eventually your creditors may want to take you to court. If this happens, you’ll first get a 'letter of claim' through the post. If this happens, contact us straight away for help. If you don't respond to the letter of claim, you may receive court forms.

What should I do with letters from creditors?

Anything important your creditors need to tell you will always come in writing, so you should open your letters straight away and read them.

Some important letters such as court forms have a deadline to respond, so if you don’t open them straight away you may find you’re too late to reply.

Hang on to all letters from your creditors in case you need them in future. It’s a good idea to keep them together in date order in one place, and a ring binder is ideal for this.

Letters are often written in a way that makes it seem like court action is just around the corner unless you pay immediately. This puts you under pressure to pay. We’ve seen thousands of these from creditors so we know the ways they use to get this reaction. Some common tactics include:

  • Mentioning court action, bankruptcy, enforcement agents, sheriff officers or bailiffs. If you read carefully, you’ll often find they’re saying these ‘might or ‘could’ happen, not that they will happen.
  • Giving you very short timescales to reply
  • Using legal language or sending letters using a name that sounds like a solicitors

But your creditors are not allowed to:

  • Lie or mislead you about what can happen if you don’t pay
  • Send you letters which are designed to look like court forms
  • Send letters addressed to ‘the occupier’ or tell other people about your debt

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Can I stop letters from my creditors?

You can ask your creditors for breathing space, so they stop calling or writing to you while you deal with your debts.

You cannot stop creditor contact completely, as some letters have to be sent to you by law so you can see what is happening with your debt, for example such as regular statements.

But if you think any letters you get are misleading, you can make a complaint to the creditor.

Can I send creditor letters to StepChange Debt Charity?

There’s always a risk of letters getting lost or delayed if you forward them to us, so instead of sending them to us, contact us if you’re worried or confused by creditor letters we’ll explain what they mean and what you need to do.

We can also give you free and impartial debt advice so that you can get your situation back on track. You can use our online debt advice tool.