Collecting debts from family and friends often turns sour— such debts have ruined several friendships. Unlike commercial debtors, family and friends may not be in a hurry to pay up your debt; they don’t expect you to take any serious action after all. But their failure to pay might be putting you in a severe financial crisis, and you don’t have to suffer for being kind.
The Kenyan law has set a procedure for recovery of civil debts; you could use the court process to recover personal debts through civil enforcement. It doesn’t have to reach that far though: Before rushing to court to file a debt recovery case, it is advisable to exhaust other methods of debt recovery at your disposal.
Steps to follow to recover your debt
There is no single best method of recovering a debt from close relatives and friends; what works with one debtor may not work with another. Nevertheless, the following steps have proven effective in personal debt recovery
Talk to the creditor: If the due date of the debt has passed and the debtor has not explained why they have not paid, or at least made a commitment to clear the debt at a later date, don’t feel reluctant to initiate communication. Don’t be rude —may they forgot to pay or are facing difficulties. Also, maintaining the friendship is important, so you should initially approach them in a friendly way. Make them understand the problems that their failure to pay is causing you. Ask them when they expect to clear the debt.
Be flexible and understanding: The debtor may have broken their initial promise, but they deserve your understanding —be flexible and patient with your expectations. Once you initiate communication, listen to their reasons for the delay without making premature conclusions. If possible, adjust the terms of the debt to make it easier for them.
Seek legal recourse: If the above steps are not successful and the debtors have broken several promises to pay, it is time to jump to the next level by contacting a debt recovery lawyer. Besides giving you advice on the next course of action, the lawyer will help you draft a demand letter and advise you on the cost-benefit implications of seeking legal recourse.
A demand letter is often the first step in seeking legal recourse. This is a formal document sent by a creditor to their debtors to ask for payment and notify them of their intent to take legal action. The demand letter will show your debtors that you are serious about the debt—some will pay at this point to avoid legal action. If they are still reluctant to pay, your lawyer will take the case to the courtroom.
The rules are procedures for recovery of civil debts in Kenya are described in the Debt Recovery Act. According to the act, debt recovery cases should start with the filling of a complaint by the creditor. After listening to the case, if the magistrate is convinced that the defendant owes you a particular sum of money, the court will order the debtor to pay in full or installments.
The court may also give the debtor more time to clear the debt. In case they ignore the orders, the court has enforcement mechanisms such as committing the debtor to jail, and attachment or sale of their property.