joint and several liability

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My boyfriend is being persued by the Bradford and Bingley for a shortfall debt of 22500 after 13 years. He has been in touch with his ex who has sent him copies of letters she has recieved from the Bradford and Bingley which show that they were only persuing her for 6300 which she says thay agreed in 1991 that that would be her liability on the debt. She payed 10 per month for 12 years which they reviewed every six months but never changed the payments and she payed a full and final of 2600 last year. We have offered a lump sum of 5000 which they are considering but we feel they will reject our offer. My question is are they allowed to agree different liabilities for each debtor on the same debt? I KNOW THEY CAN SETTLE FOR DIFFERENT AMOUNTS AS IT DEPENDS ON PERSONAL CIRCUMSTANCES. But can they give different liabilities? Can we use these letters in court if they turn down our offer?

-- emma gould (spedwardsgooner@yahoo.co.uk), August 29, 2004

Answers

The concept of "joint and several liability" means that either party can be held liable for the whole of the debt either jointly with the other party or on their own. On any debt, this effectively means that the party that is traced can be made to pay the whole debt, whilst the party that is NOT traced can escape by paying nothing - this does happen!!

In your stated case, they have traced the ex, she has made payments and thus, entirely on a voluntary basis on the part of the BS, her liability has been limited and now they will no longer chase her.

There is plenty of stuff on this site regarding the limitation period which, if this debt is 13 years old, your boyfriend might not have anything to pay at all!! (even if you have offered to pay outside the 12 years, it is still statute barred as the debt is still there - you just can't be forced to pay it).

Get some advice on this matter from either the CAB or a good solicitor who could negotiate a settlement through or advise if it is indeed, as I suspect, statute barred. Also, if it is not SB, then a challenge as to proof of the debt sometimes causes a reduction in the amount asked for.

As to using the letters in court - well you can, but I do not think it will do much good except to show what might amount to unfair treatment of the second debtor (your boyfriend) as against the first - but it does not alter the legal position of, in this case, several liability.

Get some advice pronto!

-- David J. Button (davidjohnbutton@supanet.com), August 30, 2004.


Hi Emma,

We were advised that once either party has made a payment they admit liability for all parties unfortunately. However, depending on whether your boyfriend has any assets (i.e. a house etc.) B&B may accept your offer - as David says they can chase for whole amount and can treat parties differently when it comes to settling. B&B are the worst building society to deal with unfortunately - believe me my husband & I know from experience!!

-- Chris (chris@anon.co.uk), August 31, 2004.


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