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What is available to stop creditors taking action against the company to recover debts during the current crisis?

The government has announced a number of measures to try to protect businesses during the current period of uncertainty. However there is no outright ban on creditors being able to take legal action to recover money they are owed, though there are temporary restrictions on some forms of legal action, like winding up petitions.

However, it is important to note that these measures only relate to winding up proceedings. Creditors will still be free to commence county court claims.

The new Corporate Insolvency and Governance Act 2020 brings in a new “moratorium” procedure. Businesses in financial difficulty that are viable and can be rescued will now be able to work with an insolvency practitioner to obtain at least 20 business days’ breathing space from creditors to allow the business to formulate a plan to deal with its financial problems.

For more information on the Corporate Insolvency and Governance Act, click here

As part of the raft of measures put forward by the government over recent months, there are also restrictions on landlords taking action to evict commercial tenants who miss rent payments. Various payment holidays and forbearance have been put in place in respect of certain tax liabilities and some business rates.

If your business is going to go into an insolvency process like administration or a company voluntary arrangement, there is the ability to obtain a freeze on creditors taking action whilst those procedures are put in place. However, these sorts of moratoriums will not be available to everyone and in any event not unless an insolvency process is being instigated.

Regardless of whether a business has formal protection from creditors or not, engagement with creditors and trying to reach agreement with them to deal with the debt is therefore vital. Much of the protection measures that the Government has introduced like curbing the ability of landlords to evict a commercial tenant, do not wipe out the debt. They simply prevent action being taken or a payment becoming due for a short time. All businesses should use that time to consider how those debts can be dealt with and engage with the relevant stakeholders sooner rather than later.