My day starts early, walking the family dog, Buster, in our local park. It’s more than just an opportunity to listen to the lockdown frustrations of minor celebs on podcasts, it also puts the day ahead in some sort of order before starting work.
I recently wrote an article on commercial terms and conditions, and the emphasis of ensuring the risk is minimised should a client’s customer be unable or refuse to pay.
This ties in with my first work task of the day.
I’m reviewing the facility agreement between sole trader business contacts. The document was outdated due to more events and new legislation, so a new settlement agreement with updated terms and conditions needed to be drafted.
Ensuring a watertight settlement agreement is key to a recovery in the event of a default, both practically, and psychologically, for the client’s peace of mind. Of course, I always hope they are never needed for the purpose of enforcement.
Next up is the drafting of a legal action flow chart for a client in the education sector. Before joining HCR, I was largely commercial, acting for lenders, insolvency practitioners and other professional service clients. It was often a case of “don’t stop until you get our money back” when it came to instructions. Now it is refreshing to think about how we do the most process-driven tasks, and to help clients understand what happens once the recovery of their debt is in our hands.
I will doff my cap to our marketing department in producing guides or brochures that I am proud to present to our clients. We heavily rely on our non-client facing colleagues to ensure our presentation is to the best possible standard.
As the government eases restrictions, I am working in the office more, and as clients and contacts in Birmingham city centre follow suit, lunch will be a casual “walk and talk” meeting. As well as stretching our legs and discussing the market and sectors, it is nice not to be on a video call and to meet face-to-face again after so long.
Post-lunch I will check-in with the team to assess workloads and ensure all is well with them. We will run through any non-standard matters being dealt with and any new/existing client referrals or queries. I encourage my team to retain ownership of the cases being dealt with and whilst training and development is not as easy whilst remote working, it is a huge part of my role and a very worthwhile investment.
I have been asked to advise a client on the government’s recent announcement for the Debt Respite Scheme (Breathing Space Moratorium and Mental Health Crisis Moratorium) that comes into effect on 4 May 2021 (no Star Wars puns, please). The scheme gives individuals with problem debts the right to legal protection from creditors.
There are two types of breathing space being introduced; a standard breathing space where enforcement action, contact from creditors and the freezing of charges on debts are frozen for up to 60 days, and a mental health crisis breathing space, where stronger protections come into force and lasts for as long as the mental health treatment, plus 30 days.
A breathing space can only be started by an advisor who is authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) to offer debt counselling, or a local authority where they provide debt advice to residents. Debt advisors are responsible for the administration of the breathing space and the point of contact for all parties.
My client is concerned that a flood of breathing space applications will be received when the scheme launches and significantly affect the cashflow of their business. I am pointing out that an application is not a given that breathing space will be provided. If a debtor can access funds or has an income, paying debts with budgeting help may be more appropriate. Furthermore, only one standard breathing space is permitted every 12 months.
The last year has been challenging for everyone and we should all be more aware of the impacts of mental health. We try to engage with debtors to agree a temporary solution where it is identified that they are vulnerable, but there will be instances where the mental health breathing space will be welcomed by those that need it most.
There is still a fair bit of progressing matters under my responsibility to get through before I leave for home, but the end of day traffic will have calmed down a bit by then. Once I am home, it’ll be a swap from shoes for trainers and back out with Buster with my headphones on, to bookend my day.