A Full and Final Settlement (F&F) happens when a creditor agrees:
- to accept less than the whole debt amount to clear it (“full”), and
- that thay won’t take action to recover the rest (“final”).
This is sometimes called a “partial settlement” and sometimes a “short settlement”.
A creditor may write to you to suggest a F&F – this usually happens if you have defaulted on the debt or are in a debt management plan. Or you can offer a F&F to a creditor.
You propose a Full & Final settlement
If you have, or might be able to obtain, a lump sum, then you can write to your creditors and offer a F&F. The lump sum could come from:
- some compensation that you get, for example a PPI claim or a payday loan refund;
- a redundancy payment (make sure you will still have enough money to live on and pay the mortgage until you find another job);
- selling some assets, possibly even your house;
- an inheritance;
- it might be offered by a relative (do consider if your relative can really afford this – if your situation is close to hopeless, then it may be better to go bankrupt rather than take money from a relative); or
- if you are over 55, you might consider taking money from your pension if you can get your creditors to agree a low enough settlement.
You can just make an offer to one creditor if you want – if you are trying to end a Debt Management Plan it can be great to start getting the number of debts down, and of course getting rid of one debt means you can then repay more to the others, so this isn’t being unfair.
A full and final offer is more likely to be accepted if you have already defaulted on your debts. The longer you have been paying little or nothing towards them, the lower offer your creditors may be prepared to accept. If you have been paying token payments for more than a year and a relation offers you half the amount you owe, then there is a good chance your might be interested. But if you have just lost your job, are young and healthy and have only missed a month’s payment, then your creditors are unlikely to to accept 50%, but you may be able to persuade them with 90%.
National Debtline has a sample letter that you can use. It is a good idea to add in an explanation about where the money is coming from, for example if you are being offered it by someone else so you do not have the money in your account eg “I have been offered £3,000 by my sister if this will help me clear my debt with you, which is currently about £4,650. ” or “I am reluctant to take money from my pension, so I will only do this if you agree to accept this offer.”
Enclosing an income and expenditure sheet with your letter will make the point to the creditor that if they don’t accept this offer it will take a very long while to repay the debt.
That sample letter asks the creditor to confirm in writing that the money will be accepted as a Full & Final Settlement and also that they will not sell the remaining debt. You need to insist on this. If a creditor calls you up and agrees to your offer, do not pay the money without written agreement. Unscrupulous creditors have been known to just take the money, reduce the debt then continue to chase for the rest of it – this is unlikely but it’s not worth the risk!
If you are in a debt management plan
You can approach your creditors direct, in which case the above applies. But if you ask your debt management company to do this for you, you should ask to see confirmation in writing from each creditor that the amount is being accepted as an F&F before you pay it.
How low an offer will your creditors accept?
This is a really hard question to answer because it depends a lot on your circumstances. An offer may be rejected because it is too low, but if you give the creditor more information it’s possible that they could be persuaded if you can give them more information.
You have to put yourself in the mind of the creditor and try to work out what they will think – for more details read What to do if a Full & Final Offer Is Rejected.
It isn’t good tactics to always start with a really low offer such as 10% if all the indications are that they won’t accept that. Your letter may just be binned if it isn’t somewhere close.
Realistically, a secured creditor is extremely unlikely to accept a low F&F if there is any equity in your property. And they are uncommon on debts where there is a CCJ.
Your creditor proposes a F&F
If you have been in a DMP for a while, or have not been paying anything, then you may receive a letter offering you a Full & Final settlement. Of course often in this situation you have no money to do this… but if the offer is a good one it may be worthwhile taking a hard look at your situation (see the list of possible money sources above) to see if you have any options.
At this point it may be a good idea to negotiate, but there is no point in wasting everyone’s time. If they have offered you a 60% settlement, then it’s worth seeing if they will accept 50%, but not 10%.
Read their letter closely – is it clear that they are definitely writing off the remainder of the debt? If you are unsure, get them to clarify this in writing.
Keep the correspondence
99 times out of a hundred, you will never hear anything about the debt again after a F&F. However just in case something goes wrong – perhaps your debt which is closed gets accidentally included in a lot of debts the creditor is selling to a debt collection agency – you should keep the correspondence from the creditor confirming that your payment was a Full and Final settlement. If you ever get any letters about the debt again, send them a copy of the F&F letter – see Had a debt letter after a partial settlement? for details.
Keep these letters for at least six years, after which the debt would become statute barred anyway.
Your credit record
A F&F will usually result in the debt being marked as “partially settled” on your credit file rather than “settled”. This is discussed in more detail in How partial settlements affect your credit rating.
You may decide this isn’t important for you. Your credit rating is usually poor or dreadful if your are likely to get a F&F, and it’s sensible to decide that clearing your debts is your top priority. Whilst it would be lovely to get rid of the debts and improve your credit record at the same time, that probably isn’t going to happen,
If the debt has been defaulted it will drop off your credit file six years after the default date – making a Full and Final settlement will not affect this, the debt will still disappear.
If you are in a DMP and now have a lump sump – perhaps from a PPI claim or an inheritance – using this to settle as much as possible of your debts is usually a good idea, see Will settling my DMP partially harm my credit record for a more in depth look.
Pros Clears a chunk of your debts, leaving you in a better position to clear the rest faster.
Cons Your creditors don’t have to accept. You shouldn’t leave yourself short of money you need for living on. The debt will be marked as ‘partially settled’ on your credit file.
Debt Camel says Often you don’t have the money for a F&F, so they tend to be rare, but they are good options when they work for you.
A possible alternative if you have a large lump sum
If you have a large lump sum, for example you have been made redundant or had an inheritance, then it may be worth looking at a single payment IVA. This has the advantage that if it is accepted, it is binding on all your creditors.