I recently had two clients (let’s call them Jason and Peter) who were both offered a settlement deal by their debtors. Contractors Debt Recovery had made adjudication applications on behalf of both of them, and the offers had been received once the debtors had read the case against them. It was clear that they could not produce any valid reasons not to pay my clients.
One client received a letter from the debtor’s solicitor offering full payment within 14 days on the condition that the application be withdrawn. The other client received a phone message from his debtor offering to ‘work it out’.
I discussed the matter with both clients.
Jason wanted me to withdraw the adjudication application as he felt he was sure he would get his money within the 14 days. I was not so confident, but as the letter came from a solicitor it held a bit more water. So Jason agreed to the deal.
Peter asked me if he should call his debtor back, but he really didn’t feel like talking to him. I advised Peter to fax his debtor a request to put anything he had to say in writing. He did so, and sure enough Peter also got a written offer to pay the whole amount on the condition that the application be withdrawn.
I advised Peter to prepare a letter outlining the conditions under which he would accept the offer, which of course included a ‘no payment, no withdrawal’ rule.
Peter got his money. Jason is still waiting, and faces starting the payment claim process from scratch, or commencing winding up the debtor.
Why the different outcomes? The difference lies in control and power. Peter maintained his position of power and controlled the manner in which he accepted the offer. Jason relinquished his power, and didn’t control the process.
When you get an offer from a debtor to pay, you need to follow these 6 steps.
WHY – should you accept the offer? Are there other pressing reasons why you would entertain an offer? Perhaps there are other business or personal reasons that are best served if you settle quickly for as much as you can get. This is really for you to decide.
If the offer is an insult, then you will probably want to keep the pressure on. As a general rule, if you’re not being offered at least 70% of what you are owed, it’s a joke of an offer and I’d keep fighting. Your debtor clearly wants to avoid a fight if he can, which is why he’s made an offer in the first place, so keep going. But this is open to each individual circumstance.
WHO – is making the offer? Don’t negotiate with someone who is not authorized to make payment offers. Often you will strike a deal with someone who has been playing with you, just to see how low you will go. Then when you accept the offer, you are told that that person was never authorized to make offers. This can happen if your debtor is a large company where you might be dealing with project or site managers. Are you sure these guys can make settlement offers on behalf of the company?
So if you are not sure if the offer is coming from a senior enough person, ask them for written confirmation that they are duly authorized to negotiate a payment settlement on behalf of the company. Advise them that you will only consider an offer once you have such confirmation in writing.
WHAT – are they willing to pay for? This is the business end of the deal. How much are they offering? Often you will have a gut reaction to the number once you see it. Go with that most of the time. If an offer is reasonable it is generally better to accept it and save yourself the time, stress, and cost of a much harder fight.