Question to Gillian Robinson, partner at Appleby: What should I do if lots of my customers owe me money and I am being chased myself? Is there any way of protecting myself legally in Jersey?
She said: ‘You should consider the basis on which you work for your customers. If possible, you should ask for at least part of the payment in advance before committing your time and materials.
‘For those who have not paid, you should follow up in writing and threaten and, if necessary, take action against them in the Petty Debts Court (if the claim is under £10,000). You do not need a lawyer for this purpose and the CAB can advise further.
‘If you owe money to creditors, you should start up a dialogue with them – try to extend their payment terms or agree payments by instalments. Creditors often would rather be paid in instalments than risk receiving nothing at all.
‘If your situation still seems unmanageable, you could consider applying for a désastre (bankruptcy) – whether you have a company or you trade on your own account. You need to show you were insolvent, ie unable to pay your debts as they fall due. You should speak to the Viscount’s department, which could advise on the procedure involving an application to the Royal Court, and you should cease trading and inform creditors so as to minimise liabilities.
‘Generally, you would have to show that you did have some realisable assets. If a désastre were granted, the Viscount would be appointed to collect in your assets, ascertain your creditors and to distribute such assets as there were among your creditors.’