The bankruptcy register explained
There are many different terms you’ll see used when the subject of debts and insolvency is discussed. One of these terms is bankruptcy, which is sometimes used in relation to companies, but is actually a specific procedure used by individuals.
Bankruptcy is a type of insolvency that can lead to someone being recorded on a public register, searchable by anyone. It is possible to declare yourself bankrupt, and you can also be made bankrupt by your creditors. Bankruptcy writes off most debts, but also means any assets, including a house or a car, must be sold.
It is typically an option for people with serious debt problems, who cannot pay back their creditors and must use legal procedures instead. It’s an alternative that carries with it both short and long term implications for an individual’s financial wellbeing. Below, we explain what the bankruptcy register is and what happens once bankruptcy has been declared.
What is the bankruptcy register?
Although many people use the term ‘bankruptcy register’, bankruptcies are actually just one type of insolvency recorded on the Individual Insolvency Register. This register is open to the public and exists so that the general population is aware that someone is bankrupt. This is useful for landlords, creditors and employers who might wish to check if someone has an outstanding bankruptcy.
The register is maintained by the Insolvency Service and includes the name, address, date of birth, gender, occupation of the person who has been made bankrupt. It also includes details relating to the bankruptcy case, such as when it will end and the name of the insolvency practitioner who handled the case.
The register only includes details on individuals, not on companies. It can be searched online, free of charge, by anyone. However, this only applies to England and Wales - Scotland and Northern Ireland each record bankruptcies on their own registers.
Credit reference agencies also use this register when compiling credit reports, to be able supply both lenders and borrowers with a picture of someone’s creditworthiness.
What is bankruptcy court?
Because bankruptcies are an official legal procedure, they can involve a court hearing. However, it’s no longer necessary for the person declaring themselves bankrupt to attend any court proceedings. Instead your case will be assessed and you will receive notification on whether it was successful, i.e. if you qualify for bankruptcy.
The term Bankruptcy Court can refer to a court in London that handles high value cases, where a creditor has petitioned to make someone else bankrupt. If someone is owed more than £50,000 and the debtor lives in London, they might be taken to Bankruptcy Court. In all other cases, petitions to make someone bankrupt will be handled by the local county court.
Once a petition has been approved by an adjudicator, the details of the case will be added to the bankruptcy register.
What happens after bankruptcy?
Bankruptcy lasts for 12 months, at which point the individual will be discharged. The details of the case will remain on the bankruptcy register for three months after the discharge. Bankruptcies will stay on a credit report for six years and can send a signal to lenders that you have had trouble paying back debts in the past.
If you are facing bad debt problems and need advice about options, you should talk to a free service like the Debt Advisory Centre or StepChange. They offer impartial information about what to do if you’re in debt, and what specific steps you need to take.
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