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22/08/2019

Wage Arrestment (Earnings Arrestment) – All You Need To Know

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Whether you can pay your electricity bills, or you've built up an unaffordable amount of council tax debt, there are tools creditors can use to force you to repay outstanding debt. One of these tools is wage arrestment.

 

Whether you can pay your electricity bills, or you’ve built up an unaffordable amount of council tax debt, there are tools creditors can use to force you to repay outstanding debt. One of these tools is wage arrestment.

In this articles we’ll explain what wage arrestments are, how they allow creditors to recover money owed in personal debts, and the debt solutions that could help you put a stop to an earnings order.

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What is a wage arrestment (earnings arrestment)?

The full and correct title of wage arrestment is an Earnings Arrestment Order (EAO).

Wage arrestment is used to collect one complete debt and is a continuous process until the total debt amount has been repaid.

An Earnings Arrestment Order (more commonly known as wage arrestment and is practised throughout Scotland) is a form of ‘diligence’ taken against you by one or more of your creditors. Your creditor must have already taken previous action to recoup the debt, including administering a charge for the payment.

What happens if I’m served an earnings arrestment to recover debts?

Once the correct conditions have been met, the creditor will be granted an appropriate court order. Sheriff officers will carry out the action to recoup the debt from your wages, often via direct access to your bank account.

Your employer will be instructed to deduct the owed money directly from your daily, weekly or monthly wage, and can even deduct money from your Statutory Sick Pay (SSP), which still counts as income.

Some areas of your wages are protected from wage arrestment. You may need to discuss this with your employer or seek professional advice. For example, payments toward a disablement pension or allowance are protected from wage arrestment.

Areas where wage arrestment cannot be applied

All workers may have part of their wages arrested unless they are:

  • Serving members of the armed forces
  • Self-employed
  • Unemployed
  • If the arrestment isn’t legal
  • If the amount is for less than £50

The correct process for a wage arrestment

There are stringent conditions for applying wage arrestment. If at any step of the process the rules haven’t been followed correctly, then you have the right to argue against the arrestment.

Your creditor must have issued you with a Debt Advice and Information Pack (DAIP).

Your creditor must follow the legal guidelines of how much they can arrest from your wages. The amount they are allowed to collect will depend on how much you earn.

Can a wage arrestment be used to recover council tax debt?

Because council tax debt is a priority debt, your local authority will go through a series of steps before deciding to arrest your wages, including applying to the sheriff court for a summary warrant (after which you may receive a visit from a sheriff officer).

If your local authority receives a summary warrant and you still refuse to repay council tax arrears, they can then progress to deducting money from your net earnings.

A wage arrestment can be issued by the council or local government in the once the following circumstances:

  • If a creditor has taken you to court and obtained a court order to retrieve the debt.
  • If council tax or Inland Revenue tax debts have accrued, they can serve a summary warrant and are entitled to arrest your wages.
  • If you have taken out a loan with a credit union or signed a lease with a landlord where the agreement included the process of summary diligence.
    This happens when the debt is registered for execution with the court and is only applicable to credit unions and not typical consumer debts such as personal loans, overdrafts and credit cards.
  • The Child Support Agency or Child Maintenance Service can action a Deductions from Earnings Order for arrears of child support.
  • The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) can action a Direct Earning Attachment (DEA) for overpayment of benefits.

Can you have more than one wage arrestment (earnings arrestment)?

Yes. You can have a second or even a third wage arrestment served against you. This is known as a conjoined earning arrestment.

If you owe more than one person or creditor, as long as they follow the correct procedure, they are each entitled to apply for an Earnings Arrestment Order against you to receive what they are owed.

This doesn’t mean that you will pay more. The rules that dictate how much can be taken from your wages are dependent on how much you earn. Your employer will pass the money that is deducted from your wages to the sheriff clerk, and they will divide the money between your creditors.

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Yvonne, Wishaw

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Can a creditor arrest my wages (earnings arrestment)?

A creditor can only make you repay your debt through earnings arrestment if they’ve followed the correct procedure and have given you ample opportunity to repay the debt by your own means.

If you have failed to adhere to the conditions of your loan agreement, credit facility or in the repayment of outstanding utility charges or taxes, then your creditor is within their rights to apply to the court to serve a charge for payment or charge to pay.

You will also receive the Debt Advice and Information Package (DAIP) explaining your rights. The DAIP advises debtors to seek financial advice in how to repay their debts.

At this point, the creditor will send an instruction to your employer, and they will carry out the earnings arrestment in line with the legal conditions.

How to stop a wage arrestment (earnings arrestment)

Renegotiate with your creditor

If you act quickly on the threat of debt collection, court action or a wage arrestment action warning, then you may be able to renegotiate preferential terms with your creditor.

There are a variety of methods to renegotiating the debt. You should always seek professional advice for the best ways to manage your unique debt issues with a debt management company for full and free advice.

Statutory Moratoriums

If you have had a Charge for Payment served against you and are at risk of wage arrestment, then you could register for a statutory moratorium.

A statutory moratorium will allow you 6 weeks of protection against a wage arrestment and any form of legal debt recovery.

This protection allows you the time to seek advice relating to your financial issues and the best ways to react to any debt recovery action.

Time to Pays

You may also be in a position to apply for another prevention against a wage arrestment, called a time to pays.

A time to pays can offer 2 opportunities:

  1. A time to pay direction
    A time to pay direction can be applied for directly after the court action is raised against you. The application will be included in the court paperwork.
  2. A time to pay order
    The second opportunity you may have to apply for a time to pays, is only available after a Charge for Payment has been served. This is called a time to pay order.

Debt Arrangement Scheme

If the debt being pursued is already part of an existing repayment programme as part of the Debt Arrangement Scheme, then you cannot have your wages arrested for the same debt to be repaid.

If, after entering into a wage arrestment action, you enter into a new Debt Arrangement Scheme to manage your debt problems, then your earning arrestment order will be lifted immediately.

A Debt Arrangement Scheme has many advantages over a time to pays; it offers the opportunity to freeze the interest charged on your debts and allows you to manage multiple debts at the same time.

You could write off up to 70% of your unsecured debt today

Sequestration and Protected Trust Deeds

Sequestration (Bankruptcy in Scotland) and Protected Trust Deeds will also prevent an Earnings Arrestment Order being served against you.

As with a Debt Arrangement Scheme, if you enter into either of these agreements after your wages have been arrested, they will lift the arrestment as soon as they have been approved.

Professional debt advice

If you think a Debt Arrangement Scheme could be for you or would like to learn more about how it could help you, you should seek appropriate advice.

A professional debt management company may be able to offer you debt counselling, help you work up payment plan if you owe money to more than one creditor, or give you more information about formal debt solutions that turn your unaffordable debts into a serious of manageable monthly payments.

 

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