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Bankruptcy and the Law

Bankruptcy and the LawThe law governing Bankruptcy in England and Wales is primarily the Insolvency Act of 1986. However major amendments were introduced by the Enterprise Act of 2002.

  • The Insolvency Act 1986 & Enterprise Act 2002
  • The affect on a Pension Fund
  • The Publication of Bankruptcy
  • Discharge (Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013)

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The information given on this page relates to going bankrupt in England or Wales. The rules and laws in Northern Ireland and Scotland are different.

The Insolvency Act 1986 and Enterprise Act 2002

The Insolvency Act (1986) is the foundation of bankruptcy law in England and Wales. It defines who can go bankrupt and the type of debt that can be included. It also prescribes what will happen to an individual’s assets.

However major changes to bankruptcy law were introduced with the Enterprise Act (2002). The Act reduced the standard length of bankruptcy from 2-3 years to just 12 months. After this time the bankrupt person is automatically discharged.

In addition the Official Receiver must now act to release the equity from a bankrupt person’s property within 3 years. If they have not taken appropriate action by that time the beneficial interest is automatically returned to individual.

Bankruptcy and the Welfare Reform & Pensions Act 1999

The Welfare Reform & Pensions Act 1999 (introduced 29th May 2000) saw a fundamental change to the way that an individual’s pension fund could be affect by Bankruptcy. If you went bankrupt before this date your pension fund was included as part of your assets and was then available to the Official Receiver. However  as a result of this Act pension funds became exempt from Bankruptcy.

This means that if you go bankrupt now your pension fund is protected. This is currently the case even if you reach the age of 55 while you are Bankrupt.

Publication of Bankruptcy in the local newspaper

In April 2009 the rules surrounding the publication of bankruptcy in England and Wales were changed. As a result the Official Receiver no longer has to advertise bankruptcy in the local newspaper. They still have the option to do so if they feel it is appropriate but this is rare.

Nevertheless Bankruptcy should not regarded as a private procedure. A bankrupt person’s details are still recorded in the Insolvency Register which is publicly accessible via the internet. The details if each bankruptcy are also registered in the London Gazette.

All bankruptcies in Northern Ireland are still advertised in the Friday edition of the Belfast Telegraph.

Paying towards debts after Bankruptcy

On the 1st December 2010 the rules surrounding how much a bankrupt person has to pay towards their debt was changed. Prior to that date if you had disposable income of up to £100 you would be able to keep that money. If your disposable income was greater than £100 you would have had to make a payment towards your debt based on a percentage of your disposable income.

Since 1st December 2010 the Official Receiver must now insist you pay 100% of your disposable income towards your debts. This is in the form of an Income Payment Agreement (IPA). As a result you are likely to have to start paying an IPA even if your disposable income is less than £50 a month.

Buying back the beneficial interest in a Property

In January 2011 the rules changed about how a bankrupt person can buy back the beneficial interest in their property. Previously if you owned a property with equity of £5000 or less you could offer the Official Receiver (OR) an amount of less than the value of the equity. If the equity was less than £1000 the beneficial interest could have been bought back for just £1.

However since January 2011 if there is equity in your property you will have to offer an amount equal to the value of the equity to buy back your beneficial interest. An offer of anything less will be rejected by the OR.

If after 2 years and 3 months if you have not bought back your beneficial interest and the equity in the property is less than £1000 the OR must simply hand it back to you for nothing. However if the equity is more than £1000 then your beneficial interest can only be bought back by paying an amount equal to the equity at that time.

Early Discharge from Bankruptcy

The most recent change to the rules governing bankruptcy was introduced on the 1st October 2013 by the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013 (section 73 and Part 3 of Schedule 21).

Before this Act the Official Receiver (OR) had to option to discharge an individual early from their bankruptcy. The OR may have finished their investigation into the individual’s affairs and concluded that there was no reasonable prospect of them ever being able to pay anything towards their debts. At this point they could have been immediately discharged.

However the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013 has closed the door on this early discharge option. Now everyone who is declared bankrupt must remain so for 12 months and cannot be given an early discharge.

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