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preschool owed money - help!

(14 Posts)
bumpybecky Mon 06-Oct-08 10:18:31

I've just taken over as treasurer of my dd's preschool and have been left in an awkward situation. One child has accumulated a rather large debt in preschool fees.

The previous treasurer set up a repayment plan in January (when the debt was just under £100) with the aim being to totally clear the debt by the end of the summer term. The parent failed to repay the sums agreed on the dates agreed and also failed to pay fees for the Spring term, so the debt got bigger shock shock.

When I started this term I agreed a new payment arrangement with the parent, aiming to repay the lot by Easter (when child starts school). The first payment due this week and parent has this morning sent a friend to say they won't be able to pay until after payday on the 28th angry

I'm at a loss to know what to do. We've had two signed dated agreements saying what they'll pay when, yet the parent has ignored both. At the moment the child is funded as over 3 yo, so the debt isn't getting any worse thankfully. If we refuse the child entry to preschool I think we have to repay fees to County Council (bad thing). We have lots of places at preschool so it's not like we can fill the space should the child leave.

I assume we can get all legal on them and issue a claim in the small claims court, but frankly I think it's throwing good money after bad (and also not sure I'm brave enough to do this! I see this family around town frequently).

Any suggestions? words of wisdom? anyone been in this situation before?

HappyMummyOfOne Mon 06-Oct-08 10:56:14

Send a recorded delivery letter stating that you will look to reclaim through the courts if the payment plan is not adhered too and give them 7 days notice. They were all to willing to use the service so they should pay for it.

Its the start of the month so assume they are paid monthly as you mention payday is next on 28th so they should have set the funds aside, especially as the debt is already very old.

On another note, cannot believe they sent a friend in to delay payment - common decency says they should have done it themselves.

Some preschools really struggle with funds as it is without parents getting care for free without paying their bills.

ADragonIs4LifeNotJustHalloween Mon 06-Oct-08 10:58:36

Is there a chance that she really doesn't have the money to pay?

DaisySteiner Mon 06-Oct-08 11:00:53

Much sympathy as I've just had exactly the same situation. I'm afraid in the end we did threaten them with the small claims court. It doesn't cost a lot to start proceedings, and you can also check before this whether an individual has any outstanding CCJs against them - if they do there's probably little chance of you getting your money back. If they currently don't have any CCJs then the very threat of it may be enough to scare them into paying.

If you really don't want to do that then you may have to decide to write the whole lot off. I don't see what else you can do if you don't want to repay the council for the funded place - and of course they can just take the child to a different pre-school, so it's not much of a threat really.

I've recently taken over as Chair of our pre-school and the very first thing I did was to change the invoicing so that all fees are paid half-termly in advance so we should never find ourselves in this situation again. If we don't get the money by the start of the half-term the child loses their place. No parent has complained and it has made administration and cash flow SO much better.

FabioAsGoodAsItGets Mon 06-Oct-08 11:01:12

There was a thread from a parent's pov recently.

Hmmm, will try to find.

DaisySteiner Mon 06-Oct-08 11:03:09

BTW we didn't even start proceedings, just warned that we were going to and that was enough.

I'm afraid I do have limited sympathy ADragon because people should not use a service if they have no means of paying. Preschool sessions are funded after 3 yo, so if you can't afford it, you just wait IMHO.

FabioAsGoodAsItGets Mon 06-Oct-08 11:06:46

Found thread, prob not related.
But a parent who didn't have the money to pay was being harrassed (as she saw it) by a nursery and was threatened with a CCJ.
She paid up.

bumpybecky Mon 06-Oct-08 11:14:14

I think at the time the debt was built up (last autumn and spring terms) the parent probably didn't have the money. However, they weren't paying fees for the summer term so should have had more cash each week (not to pay us though apparently).

The family had enough money to pay for a big family party for a Christening last month (but that £££ could have come from elsewhere).

This term the parent has started work (I've seen them at the shop in question for the last few weeks) and I was promised early last month that money would be paid this Thursday after pay day.

I think the friend is minding the child unofficially while the parent works and child isn't at preschool. The friend is deinately dropping off and collecting some days. I think the parent thinks I'll be as easy going as the last treasurer. hmm

Daisy how do we check if the individual has CCJS against them? do we need to pay a court fee to find that out?

DaisySteiner Mon 06-Oct-08 11:41:25

You can search here It doesn't cost very much, only about £8 iirc.

DaisySteiner Mon 06-Oct-08 11:43:46

Have just seen that they've just had a christening, so presumably there's another small child who will go to preschool at some point? I would make it very clear to them that you will not be accepting this child until the debt is paid off...

I know I do sound a bit harsh, but over the years we have had SO many problems with non-paying parents and ended up with the whole preschool (and 3 people's jobs!) being under threat, partly because of this.

bumpybecky Mon 06-Oct-08 13:41:55

We're going to have a look at the preschool info pack and see about changing the wording so we state fees are due in advance so we don't end up like this again.

The parent came to collect at lunchtime and I had a quick chat. I think that the parent genuine wants to pay (don't want to give any more details, as it's personal). I've suggested payments more frequently but for less (we had agreed fairly large monthly payments). Hopefully something will be paid by end of next week and then weekly from then on.

Fingers crossed we get somewhere without having to get all official and legal!

bumpybecky Mon 06-Oct-08 13:42:16

sorry - meant to add...

thanks for all the help

Charlene1 Wed 29-Oct-08 03:08:33

Fabio - I think you are referring to my thread here about nursery fees!!! Yes, I was harassed and humiliated by my nursery and they took court action with no warning, written or verbal. I couldn't meet their demands for payment - when I offered them small amounts, they refused it. I had to explain personal stuff to the manager about why I couldn't pay, and it was degrading and embarassing, so I kept avoiding her so I didn't have to explain things like "sorry, I needed money for prescriptions/other debts/bills etc", or explaining why I haven't got a cheque book in front of other parents!
I paid it all in one go, including their court costs as soon as I could. I paid because I had promised to as soon as I could, not because they threatened me.
In fact a CCJ is more likely to make someone NOT pay - as I could have gone to court and gone down the "£1 a week offer" quite legitimately due to our income - but I didn't because I am not spiteful.
I have not yet heard from the courts if I have a CCJ or not after all that, even though I paid before the court date deadline and the nursery dropped action.

Bumpybecky - it's nice that you gave them a chance to sort it out without courts, as it's the kids that suffer most in cases like this - if the parent who had no money in the first place, has to pay court costs on top, then they have to take it from food budgets or go with no heat/light to meet the payment. Obviously if the parent has just started work then maybe she has to wait for her wages to come through and she would have had expenses like commuting/clothes/lunches to pay for in order to go to work. With us, sometimes DP has to go away for work and pay all the hotel/petrol upfront and he doesn't get it back until 3 months later, so it cripples us budget wise - but he can't say no he isn't going cos we can't afford it - so then other things don't get paid!!!!

Most people are decent and don't intend to fleece nurseries - it's just unfortunate that circumstances change sometimes, so you genuinely don't have any money.

Daisy - I am horrified to think that they could also have been snooping through my credit file as well looking for CCJ's and stuff, knowing even more personal stuff about me shock

Bumpybecky - if you can, maybe you can put a policy in your pack about what happens to people who don't pay - then if people are just trying it on, they can't say they didn't agree to the terms. And if you accept whatever payments are offered, no matter how small, then at least it reduces the bill. A lot of people do stick their head in the sand when it comes to debt, and threats make it worse when you have no idea how you are going to pay someone - you just hope you can pay in the end, but then you avoid the company/person threatening you - who then thinks you are doing it on purpose when you aren't - you just can't deal with the pressure and shame. Sending their friend in was probably cos they couldn't face you.
You could set up arrangements with parents and review them regularly - that way both you and they have a chance to clear bills sooner - say every 2 months to see if they can afford anything on top of normal payments.
What happened with me was because I dealt with it all through the manager and not the accounts department directly - I am sure I could have sorted it without the hassle I had, but she told me NOT to contact them!!! So they only heard her opinions and recommendations - which obviously was court action, although god knows why they didn't send me a letter or ring me themselves!!!
Good luck getting it sorted anyway!

DaisymooSteiner Wed 29-Oct-08 10:01:00

No, the link I added isn't to search someone's credit reference file, just to see if there are outstanding CCJs.

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