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Can business debt make you lose your home?

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If your business has taken a downturn and you’re struggling to repay your liabilities, you may worry you could lose your home to business debt. However, business debt, its effects on your personal finances and whether you could lose your home will depend on several factors.

It’s important to remember there are exceptions to the general rule. Contact us for free advice and clarification if you’re unsure how your business debt may affect you personally.

Are you a sole trader or in a limited company?

Who shoulders responsibility for repaying a business’ debts depends on how your business legally operates.

Limited companies offer limited liability protection, shielding the owners from personal liability. While this protection encompasses most circumstances, there are exceptions to the rule. These exceptions often revolve around personally guaranteed loans, or the failure to fulfil your responsibilities as a director.

Sole traders don’t qualify for limited liability, as in the eyes of the law, they and their businesses are one and the same.

If you have a limited company, are there any personal guarantees?

If you have taken out a personal guarantee for the company (to a bank, landlord, supplier, etc.), it bypasses the company’s limited liability. Consequently, you are held personally liable for that portion of the debt if the company fails to meet its financial obligations.

If you are unable to pay the guarantee or agree to a repayment programme, it could result in bankruptcy, and potentially the loss of your home.

Has the company engaged in wrongful trading?

If the company becomes insolvent, and as director, you allow it to continue trading, worsening your creditors’ position, you risk accusations of wrongful trading. Doing so would also remove the limited liability protection, and you may be held accountable for the debts accumulated during the insolvent period.

Should this happen, an appointed Insolvency Practitioner may pursue you personally, and if there is equity in your home, this may need to be realised either by way of a sale or remortgage.

More on wrongful trading

How to relieve debt in a limited company

A limited company is a separate legal entity to its directors and shareholders. This separation includes the business’ finances from your personal finances. Consequently, the most you can lose is the amount you have invested in the company. The same applies to a Limited Liability Partnership (LLP), which operates like a traditional partnership, but with added limited liability protection.

More help for company debt

Company Voluntary Arrangements (CVA)

A Company Voluntary Arrangement (CVA) is a formal repayment arrangement for insolvent companies. They use income and expenditure figures, and business projections to compound all unsecured creditor debt into one affordable monthly sum. The amount is repaid over around five years. It allows the business to continue trading with a view of returning to profit. Our insolvency practitioners have a wealth of experience in collating and proposing CVAs, giving you the optimum chance of getting a plan approved by creditors.

More on Company Voluntary Arrangements

Time to Pay Arrangements

Time to Pay Arrangements (TTPs) are ideal for those with debts to HMRC due to short-term financial issues. These arrangements generally last 6 or 12 months, allowing the company to gradually repay tax arrears, easing cash flow pressures.

Contact us today for more info on TTPs, and to assess whether one is right for your business.

More on Time to Pay Arrangements

Refinancing

Refinancing can offer an injection of cash; perhaps to finance growth or cover a cash flow shortage caused by a bad debt. We can advise you on the right commercial financing, whether that is debtor finance such as factoring, a commercial mortgage or refinancing assets, or a combination of facilities.

We can help find you the right finance agreement from the right lender with the best rates, completely free of charge.

Some commercial finance options

Liquidation

Occasionally, repayment plans and refinancing just aren’t workable options for a company, and the only way forward is to liquidate.

Should this happen, and you, as director, have personally guaranteed a loan, a liquidation means that business debt doesn’t end with the company. Instead, it falls to you to repay the debt.

More on personal liability when closing a limited company

Business Debt Loss of Home

How can sole traders avoid personal liability?

If you’re a self-employed sole trader, the law considers you and your business the same entity. Consequently, your personal debt and business debt are considered one and the same. Because your business is not a separate entity, you remain responsible for all debt incurred – both personal and business-related.

Failing to repay your sole trader business or personal debt may prompt your creditors to push you into bankruptcy, and you could lose your home or have to seek a way to refinance the property to release any equity.

In a traditional partnership, all partners are jointly liable for the partnership’s debts. If the partnership business runs into financial difficulty, it could result in bankruptcy.

Individual Voluntary Arrangement (IVA)

An Individual Voluntary Arrangement (IVA) is similar to a CVA, designed for individuals and sole traders. They allow an individual to compound their debt into one affordable monthly sum to repay creditors. They generally last five years and can be a viable alternative to bankruptcy, often protecting an individual’s home, depending on its equity.

More information on IVAs

Bankruptcy

In some cases, if you are called upon to repay a sizable debt and have limited or no income, the only option available may be bankruptcy.

Most people consider bankruptcy a last resort and assume it automatically means you will lose your home, but this isn’t always the case. For example, where there is little or no equity in the property, there may be a chance of retaining it.

In the UK, bankruptcy only applies to individuals and sole traders. UK limited companies cannot ‘go bankrupt’ if they’re insolvent and would close via a Creditors Voluntary Liquidation (CVL).
More on bankruptcy

In summary

If your business runs into debt, there is a chance of losing your home. Operating as a sole trader or part of a partnership means that you don’t have limited liability. This means there is no difference between personal and business debt. If you operate as a limited company, you have the protection of limited liability, which means any personal assets cannot be claimed if the company goes into liquidation. If you have limited liability protection, the only way personal assets could be seized is if any personal guarantees have been signed, or if you’re found guilty of wrongful trading.

How we can help

If your business is experiencing financial problems and you’re unsure whether you’re personally liable, it’s important to take advice as early as possible. Depending on the company’s circumstances, we can offer several solutions. These can help your company survive and potentially avoid any personal liabilities. We can offer impartial advice, help you find the best possible solution for your business and offer a free consultation with no obligation.

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Authored by Lisa Hogg

Lisa Hogg

Director & Licensed Insolvency Practitioner

Beverley Horton Christopher Callaghan Stephen Hall

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