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In this section we will look at what you can do if you are having difficulty with debts and managing your money.  Please click on any relevant links below for further advice.

Bailiffs and debt collectors

If you owe someone money, they may try to collect the debt using a bailiff or debt collector. If these people contact or visit you, you need to know how to deal with them, and what your rights and obligations are.

Council Tax arrears

You usually pay your Council Tax bill in instalments over 10 months. If you're having difficulty making a payment, contact your local council immediately and explain the situation - the longer you ignore a debt problem, the worse the situation becomes.

Dealing with loan sharks

The best advice for dealing with loan sharks is 'don't'. They're unlicensed moneylenders who charge very high interest rates and sometimes use threats and violence to frighten people who can't pay back their loan.

Hire purchase debt

You normally take out hire purchase (HP) or 'conditional sale' agreements when you buy cars or furniture. An HP agreement is a debt, and you don't actually own your goods until the debt is paid off. Until then, they belong to the person you bought them from (the creditor).

Mortgage arrears

If you can't meet your mortgage repayments, or you're worried you might fall behind, it's important to contact your lender as soon as possible. Lenders have procedures for tackling payment difficulties and they'll try to help. You can also get free independent advice from other organisations.

Rent arrears

If your rent is not paid, the money owed is called 'rent arrears'. Rent arrears are 'priority debts', which means the consequences of not dealing with them are serious - there is a risk of eviction.

Overdrafts and bank debt

Overdrafts and bank loans can be easy ways of borrowing money quickly. But they may cost more than you think, especially if you go overdrawn without asking your bank first. Always make sure you understand the interest rates, fees and terms involved when you borrow money.

Tax and government debt

If you've received a bill from HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) that you can't pay, it's important to contact them as soon as possible to try to come to an arrangement. If you don't, and your bill remains unpaid, HMRC will start proceedings to recover the money.

Utility debt

If you're having trouble paying utility bills, such as gas and electricity, it's important to address the problem. Utility companies (except water suppliers - see 'Water rates arrears' below) can cut off your supply. Even a phone bill is a priority if you need the phone to earn your living.

Where can I get advice on managing debt?

There are a number of agencies that provide free and impartial advice on debt issues.  Please click on the links below for more information.

Consumer Credit Counselling Service

Hartlepool Citizens Advice Bureau

National Debtline