A statutory demand (“SD”) is a formal written request for payment of a debt, typically issued by a creditor to a debtor. This legal document serves as a precursor to more severe actions, such as winding up proceedings or bankruptcy. Understanding the key aspects of a SD is crucial for both creditors seeking repayment and debtors facing potential legal consequences.

1. Purpose and legal basis

A SD is governed by specific legal provisions, depending on the jurisdiction. In many common law countries, including the United Kingdom, it is regulated by insolvency laws. The purpose of a SD is to provide a clear and formal notice to the debtor regarding an outstanding debt. It serves as a last chance for the debtor to settle the debt before more serious legal actions are initiated.

2. Requirements for issuing

Certain criteria must be met before issuing a SD. The debt must be undisputed, and the amount owed should be at or above the statutory minimum. The demand must be in writing, clearly specify the debt details, and include a demand for payment within a specific time frame, typically 21 days.

3. Responding to a SD

Upon receiving a SD, the debtor has three primary options: pay the debt, negotiate a settlement with the creditor, or apply to set aside the demand. If the debtor fails to respond or disputes the demand without valid grounds, the creditor may proceed with legal action.

4. Consequences of non-compliance

Failure to comply with a SD can have severe consequences. It may provide the creditor with the right to initiate winding up proceedings against a company or bankruptcy proceedings against an individual debtor. These legal actions can lead to the forced liquidation of assets to satisfy the outstanding debt. Time limits apply and must be adhered to.

5. Setting aside a SD

Debtors have the option to apply to set aside a SD if they believe there are grounds to challenge its validity. Common reasons include disputing the debt, procedural errors in the demand, or a genuine dispute over the amount owed. The court will assess the merits of the application and decide whether to set aside the demand. Once again, time limits apply.

6. Importance of legal advice

Given the serious implications of SDs, seeking legal advice is crucial for both creditors and debtors. Creditors should ensure their demands meet all legal requirements, while debtors facing a demand should consult with legal professionals to explore their options and potential defences. If the SD is handled incorrectly at the outset, this can be extremely costly for the parties involved.

SDs play a vital role in debt recovery and insolvency proceedings. For creditors, issuing a SD is a strategic step toward recovering a debt, while debtors must carefully consider their response and, if necessary, seek legal advice to navigate the potential legal consequences. Understanding the legal framework surrounding SDs is essential for maintaining transparency and fairness in debt recovery processes.

If you have questions about the use of statutory demands, from the perspective of a creditor or debtor, please contact Matthew Hennessy-Gibbs and Ben Crowley.

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This article is for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. It should not be used as a substitute for legal advice relating to your particular circumstances. Please note that the law may have changed since the date of this article.