How can I find out whether a debtor has the money to pay my claim?

There are a number of ways in which you can find out whether a debtor is likely to have the money to pay your claim. These include the following methods:

Credit checks

Credit checks are often used as a means of finding out information about the financial position of an individual or a business. A fee is normally payable for obtaining a credit check. The amount of information available varies but may include the following:

  • The full name of a person or business and any alias or trading name they may use;
  • Their current address and any previous addresses;
  • A person’s date of birth or the date upon which a business was incorporated;
  • A summary of a company’s accounts most recently filed with Companies House;
  • Details of any County Court judgments, bankruptcies or individual voluntary arrangements;
  • Details of any loans or mortgages;
  • A credit rating or score.

Company searches

In the case of companies information can be obtained from Companies House if the company is registered with Companies House. Some information can be obtained free of charge. Other information can be obtained upon the payment of a fee. The type and amount of information available depends on the type and size of the company and when it was incorporated.

The following information is available free of charge for companies registered at Companies House:

  • Its name and registered office;
  • Its company number;
  • The status of the company, i.e. whether it is active, has been dissolved, been struck off or has been placed into liquidation or administration;
  • The date it was incorporated;
  • Its country of origin;
  • The type of company;
  • The nature of the company’s business;
  • Its accounting reference date, the date it last filed accounts with Companies House and the date upon which its next accounts are due to be filed;
  • The date on which it last filed an annual return with Companies House and the date upon which its next annual return is due to be filed;
  • Any previous names of the company.

Where available certain additional information can be obtained from Companies House upon the payment of a fee. This includes:

  • Copies of any accounts filed;
  • Details of the company’s directors and shareholders;
  • Details of any charges and mortgages.

When obtaining information from Companies House you should bear in mind that it may not be up to date. For example, a company’s financial position may have changed since their last accounts were filed.

For companies registered overseas it is usually possible to obtain information from the country in which they are registered. The type and amount of information available varies from country to country.

Land Registry searches

“Office copies”, which can be obtained from the Land Registry, confirm the owner of a property which is registered with the Land Registry. Most properties are registered with the Land Registry these days. There is a small charge for obtaining office copies.

As well as confirming the owner of a property the office copies will confirm whether there are any outstanding mortgages or charges on the property and when it was purchased. In the case of properties purchased after December 1994 the office copies will also show the price paid for the property.

The office copies will not tell you how much is outstanding on any mortgages or charges. However, they may enable you to form a view as to whether there is likely to be any equity in the property. If, for example, the property was purchased many years ago and there are no recent mortgages on the property then it is generally, although not always, safe to assume that there will be some equity in the property.

Information as to the price of neighbouring properties sold since December 1994 is freely available on the internet free of charge. This may give an indication as to what your debtor’s property may be worth. However, you should bear in mind that neighbouring properties may be in a better condition or may be of a different size.

If the office copies reveal that your debtor owns a property jointly with another person you should bear in mind that any judgment you may obtain will only be able to be enforced against the debtor’s share of the property.

Searches of the Individual Insolvency Register

A search of the Individual Insolvency Register will confirm whether an individual is bankrupt or has recently subject to a bankruptcy order. A search can be carried out on the Insolvency Service’s website free of charge.

Enquiry agents

Enquiry agents (sometimes called private detectives) may be able to find out more information about a debtor. They may, for example, be able to confirm whether a person is in employment or what assets they have. Enquiry agents charges vary depending upon the amount of work required and how readily available information is on a particular debtor.