If you ever cancelled direct debits on a gym membership contract or couldn’t make your utilities bill payments, you might have been contacted by Harlands debt collectors. Few people realise this, but when you sign a gym membership, it’s often the same as signing a credit agreement. You tie yourself in to use the facilities for a fixed period (usually a year), and pay this off month by month.
Contact from Harlands debt collectors can feel stressful, but once you know how to deal with them, you’ll see that you have lots of options to deal with your debt, and even write it off for good.
It’s important that you don’t ignore Harlands debt collectors, no matter how tempting. You actually have a lot of rights and your creditor (the person you owe money to) has to try to help you find a repayment solution that works for you. However, a lack of response from you could mean that your creditor – or any debt collectors they employ on their behalf – add interest and late charges to your debt, and even take you to court.
In this article, we’ll explore exactly who Harlands debt collectors are, how to deal with them in a way that suits your circumstances, and how you can get rid of your debt once and for all.
How can I deal with Harlands debt collectors?
You can deal with Harlands debt collectors by checking whether the debt they’re chasing you for is actually yours, organising a manageable debt repayment plan with them and knowing your rights against debt collectors.
You can also deal with Harlands debt collectors by communicating with them so that they don’t start court action, seeking free, expert debt advice from a charity, and, if you can’t pay your debts at all, organising an insolvency solution like an Individual Voluntary Arrangement (IVA) or Debt Management Order (DMP).
Who are Harlands Services?
Harlands Services manage the direct debits and membership contracts for a wide range of companies, largely in the health and fitness sector. As well as processing direct debits on behalf of their clients, they also deal with debt collection if payments aren’t made, or direct debits cancelled on an existing contract.
If you’ve signed up to a 12 month gym contract with Exercise4Less, for example, and you cancel your direct debit so that the payments no longer come out of your bank account, the gym will pass you onto Harlands. Harlands will contact you about the debt via letter or phone call, and try and get you to pay it.
A lot of people can get stung by signing up to long term contracts, without realising that they have done so. Most of us assume that we can cancel a gym membership any month we want, just like a Netflix subscription, but this isn’t necessarily the case and you may find yourself being chased for debts if you try to cancel early. When you sign up for a gym membership, make sure to ask if the contract can be cancelled at any time.
What if Harlands are chasing me for a debt I don’t owe?
Debt collectors can sometimes get it wrong, and accidentally contact you about someone else’s debt. Maybe you have a similar name to the debtor or you live at their previous address. Either way, you are never liable for a debt that isn’t yours.
If Harlands are chasing you for a debt that you don’t recognise, it’s a good idea to check your credit file for any records of debts, just in case you have forgotten. If you see a debt on your credit file that isn’t yours it’s not your responsibility to pay, and you can ask for it to be removed from your credit file.
If creditors contact you by phone or letter or visit you because they’re looking for a debtor who originally lived at your address, you’re not not legally obliged to prove that you currently live there. Most creditors will quickly realise that they have the wrong person once you explain, and stop contacting you. If you’re visited by bailiffs looking for someone else, don’t let them in, Send a copy of your council tax bill to the court to prove that you, and not the debtor, are living at your address to prevent them contacting you further.
Are Harlands Services a legitimate company?
Yes, Harlands Services are a legitimate debt collection company. They are registered with the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), which regulates financial services in the UK, including debt collection agencies.
However, many scammers do pretend to be legitimate debt collectors, in the hope of making quick money off their victims. If you get a call from anyone claiming to be from Harlands Services, you can check the number in our Debt Collectors and Bailiffs Phone Number Directory. This will help you find out whether Harlands Services are legitimately calling you, rather than a scammer.
Is my Harlands debt too old to be collected?
If it has been 6 years since you made any payments to or written acknowledgement of a debt to one of Harlands’ clients, you might not have to pay it. In this case, your debt is called a ‘statute barred debt’, which means that it is no longer enforceable in a court of law, although it technically still exists. However, with some debts, your ‘limitation period’ (the 6 years your creditor has to take action on your debt), only starts to run from the time your creditor sends you a default notice about the debt. If they never send you this, your debt is unlikely to become statute barred, as they could theoretically send you a default notice at any time, and start court action immediately after.
What rights do I have against Harlands debt collectors?
Debt collectors in the UK are not allowed to:
- Persistently contact you either by phone, letter or in person
- Contact you on any social media websites, for example, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.
- Contact you outside of 8am-9pm on working days, or at all on weekends and holidays.
- Let your employer, family, friends or colleagues know that you owe a debt or that they are a debt collector.
- Call you at work, unless you’ve given them express permission to do so.
- Make false allegations against you, or pretend that they have powers which they don’t
- Add more than 0.8% interest per day to the original debt.
- Add on interest or late charges which weren’t specified in the original credit agreement.
- Threaten to send you to prison (debt collectors don’t have the power to do this, and you can’t go to prison for most debts in the UK).
- Imply that legal action can be taken against you if it can’t
- Provide falsified documents or impersonate bailiffs or legal authorities.
- Use jargon or complicated language to confuse you
- Pressure you to sell your home to pay off the debts
- Pressure you to take out more credit to pay off the debt
- Try to embarrass you in public
- Operate in a way that is considered threatening or abusive.
- Enter your home without permission.
You can find the full list of your rights against debt collectors like Harlands Services in the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) handbook. If a debt collector breaches any of these
e rules rules, you can complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS), who have the power to make debt collection agencies compensate you, for example, refunding you the interest on your debt.
What can Harlands debt collectors do
Harlands debt collectors have the right to:
- Contact you by phone call, letter or email about your debt
- Come to your door to discuss your debt (however, you are under no obligation to answer the door or let them in)
- Contact your friends, family and employer only to ask for your contact details (as noted above, they cannot say who they are or reveal – implicitly or explicitly – that you owe a debt).
- Add on interest and late charges to your debt, as specified in your original contract or credit agreement.
Can Harlands debt collectors enter my home and take my belongings?
Harlands debt collectors have absolutely no right to enter your home without your permission, or remove any of your belongings. If a debt collector claims they have the right to take any of your possessions, they are lying and in breach of FCA rules. Make a note of the situation, and complain first to the debt collection agency, and then to the Financial Ombudsman.
An important thing to remember is that debt collectors are not the same as bailiffs. Bailiffs (sometimes called enforcement agents) do have the right to remove some of your goods in specific circumstances, but they can only be ordered by a court, and even after court action, you will have the opportunity to work out a repayment plan for your debt or enter an insolvency solution like an Individual Voluntary Arrangement (IVA), before bailiff action.
Even if bailiffs do visit after you ignore a court order to pay your debt, they are not allowed to take essential household goods, or tools or vehicles you need for work (unless these can be replaced with cheaper versions) and children’s toys and belongings. In most cases, bailiffs can also only take things from inside your home if you let them in or if they come through an unlocked door, so make sure all doors and windows are locked. If a bailiff is physically threatening you, call 999.
What will happen if I ignore Harlands debt collectors?
If you continue to ignore Harlands debt collectors, they can eventually take you to court over your unpaid debt. Harlands will have to give you a lot of warning and opportunities to pay before court action, but if you don’t respond to any court documents you receive, they may be able to get a default judgement against you. You may receive a County Court Judgement (CCJ), which is a court order to pay your debt. This comes in the form of a letter and will include information about:
- how much you owe
- how to pay (in full or in instalments)
- the deadline for paying
- who you have to pay
If you don’t pay the amount ordered by the CCJ, whether that’s in full or in instalments, Harlands debt collectors can apply for a court order to take money from you in the following ways:
- Third Party Debt Order. This is an order for your bank to pay money straight to the person you owe, in this case, Harlands. On receiving this order, your bank or building society to freeze the money in your account, and you may be charged a fee for this. You’ll then get a form called an N349 Interim third party debt order which will inform you that the money in your account has been frozen. This order will tell you to attend your local County Court hearing centre. Here, the judge will decide whether to make a Final Third Party Debt Order. If the Final Third Party Debt Order goes through, your bank or building society will have to pay Harlands the frozen money. Your bank is only allowed to freeze the amount of money in your account at the time of the Third Party Debt Order. Any money paid into your account after this cannot be frozen, and you can take it out. You can also receive deposits of money while your bank account is frozen, although you can’t make payments or transfers.
- Attachment of Earnings. This is a court order which tells your employer to take money straight from your salary to pay off your debt. This money goes straight to the court and is paid to Harlands until your debt is cleared.
- Bailiff action. The court can send bailiffs to your home to remove valuable goods to pay the debt. Bailiffs may also charge you fees.
- Charging order. This secures the debt against your home, and means that if you continue not to pay your debt, Harlands have the right to force you to sell your home, and use the money from the sale to repay the debt you owe them.
How can I deal with debt to Harlands?
If you’ve carefully checked that the debt is yours, that it is not statute barred and that any interest and late fees added are fair, the easiest way to deal with your debt is to pay it, if you can afford to.
However, if you can’t afford to pay the debt, you have lots of options. A good idea is to contact a debt charity like StepChange, Christians Against Poverty or National Debtline, as they can communicate with debt collection companies on your behalf. They also offer free debt management plans, where they will negotiate with your creditors to reduce or freeze interest rates and late payment fees, and manage your payments to the companies you owe money to. This takes a lot of the stress off your shoulders, and allows you to focus on getting debt free, one step at a time.
Sometimes, there is no way that you can pay back the full amount of your debt, because doing so would push you into financial hardship. The UK government has formal insolvency solutions to help you write off all or some of your debts. These are:
Individual Voluntary Arrangement (IVA)
An IVA is a government approved debt help scheme, which supports you if you are really struggling to pay your debt. With an IVA, you can pay back a small percentage of your total debt, and get the rest of it cleared. At the end of the IVA (which runs for 5-6 years), no matter how much money you have left to pay back, the debt is written off. Although an IVA will affect your credit score for its duration, it will eventually drop off your credit record after it is discharged (ended). You will make small, monthly payments towards your debt, based only on what you can afford. At IVA Advice, we offer free, expert advice on IVAs, so if you think an IVA might be the right solution, feel free to give us a call.
Debt Relief Order (DRO)
A Debt Relief Order (DRO) is available if you don’t own any valuable assets, and you have less than £50 in disposable income. You can’t enter into a DRO if you own your own home, as this is seen as something you can sell to pay your debts. A DRO gives you legal protection against your creditors (they are no longer allowed to contact you about the debt) and writes off your debt after around 12 months. If you have a CCJ, it can be included in a DRO, so you won’t have to pay the money that it orders you to.
While bankruptcy does write off your debt, it has a serious effect on your life and credit rating. You can’t be the director of a limited company during your bankruptcy, so it can affect your career if you manage a business. However, your bankruptcy will be removed from your credit file six years after it has ended. Bankruptcy will clear your debt after around 12 months, although you may have to sell assets to pay off your creditors. Always seek free debt advice before you decide to go bankrupt, as there may be options you can explore to avoid this.