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If you’re a British Columbian struggling to see the end of your credit card payments or facing an unexpected CERB repayment bill – you’re not alone. Although BC’s first major COVID shutdowns are more than three years behind us, many consumers across the province are still trying to cope from the pandemic-induced financial rollercoaster, even as they’re presented new challenges with interest rate hikes and high inflation.

As consumers face tough financial demands, Sands & Associates, BC’s largest firm of Licensed Insolvency Trustees focused exclusively on providing debt help services to individuals, is seeing a substantial increase in the number of BC residents seeking professional debt advice and debt relief support. President of Sands & Associates, Licensed Insolvency Trustee Blair Mantin joined Global News to share more on consumers’ growing financial concerns, and what you should know if you’re a BC resident facing a debt problem.

Watch the clip here and read on to learn more about what to watch for across the province.

Carrying Consumer Debt? Here’s the Latest You Should Be Aware Of

Creditors Are Significantly Ramping Up Collection Tactics

In 2020 BC courts were closed and many creditors were extending payment deferrals to their customers.  It’s safe to say that this leniency has now passed and it’s back to ‘business as usual’. In 2023 so far, creditors seem to be taking a noticeably more aggressive approach to collections, with legal actions increasing even for relatively low account balances.

  • Individuals owing as little as $5,000 are now finding themselves being sued for payments; in previous years this was generally a risk only where a debt exceeded $20,000.
  • Local Sands & Associates Licensed Insolvency Trustees are noticing a trend of individuals seeking urgent debt help because creditors owed these smaller balances have taken them to court and obtained wage seizure orders which often make it impossible for an individual to cover their regular monthly costs of living.

What Consumers Should Know: If you are facing a wage garnishment (or the threat of one) by a creditor, a Licensed Insolvency Trustee can help you make a Consumer Proposal or alternatively file personal bankruptcy, both of which will immediately stop this creditor action. 

Learn more about Wage Garnishments and How to Stop a Creditor with a Garnishment Order

The Number of Consumers Turning to Consumer Proposals is Growing Substantially

A Consumer Proposal is a unique type of legal debt consolidation and an alternative to both personal bankruptcy and debt consolidation loans. Working with a Licensed Insolvency Trustee, an individual will make an offer to their creditors to repay the portion of their debt they can afford (often as little as 20-30 cents on the dollar), with no interest charges and no added administration costs.

The Office of the Superintendent of Bankruptcy (the Federal branch that oversees all insolvency filings) released recent statistics which illustrate how popular Consumer Proposals are becoming for cash-strapped consumers seeking to consolidate and cut their debt:

  • The number of Consumer Proposals filed in BC in February 2023 compared to February 2022 increased by a whopping 38%. (And the number of bankruptcies filed over the same period declined by 8%.)
    • A Consumer Proposal is now the option chosen by 84% of people who file formal insolvency proceedings, which is a huge jump from 62% of customers choosing this option in February of 2020
  • Overall, there was a year-over-year increase of 28% in the total number of BC residents filing formal insolvency proceedings to deal with their debts, which indicates that although many people are struggling, they are increasingly finding relief by restructuring their debts to offer partial repayment, instead of filing for bankruptcy.

What Consumers Should Know: You do not need to be delinquent on your payments to consider a debt restructuring solution like a Consumer Proposal – also, know that bankruptcy is not your only option for debt relief!

Learn more about Consumer Proposals and Whether a Consumer Proposal Could Be Right for You

Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) is Offering More Time to Pay Balances

Prior to 2020, CRA would typically accommodate a six-month payment plan for individuals to repay a balance owing in full, and it was rare for leniency to extend beyond that time, or in getting relief from penalties and interest charges. Now in 2023 CRA has extended this period to as long as 12 months in cases where they believe the six-month plan would create hardship for the individual.

  • Despite this increased repayment timeline, however, for many individuals this is still not enough, especially as another trend contributes to the significant growth in Consumer Proposals – people being pursued for a CERB overpayment, with no means to afford to repay the debt within 12 months, even if the interest and penalties are waived.

What Consumers Should Know: If you have an unmanageable balance owing to CRA a Consumer Proposal is the only means of negotiating your debt to CRA (or having it forgiven with bankruptcy). Also, if CRA has begun collections against you, other than paying the debt in full, only a Licensed Insolvency Trustee can help you with options to get them to stop.

Learn more about What Happens if You Can’t Afford Your CERB Repayment

“Buyer Beware” – Impact of Unlicensed Debt Consultants Increasing in BC

Consumer warnings are being echoed by many Licensed Insolvency Trustees as a resurging presence of unlicensed ‘debt advisory’ firms have begun attracting BC consumers. These unlicensed and largely unregulated agents typically take advantage of vulnerable consumers, collecting money from people seeking debt help these agencies simply can’t provide. Here’s how it often works:

  • An individual reaches out for help and is charged fees in the range of 1-2% of their total debt. The advisor explains how a Consumer Proposal can work to help them, and after they’ve collected their fee (often over two or three months) the consumer is eventually introduced to a Licensed Insolvency Trustee – the only professional who can actually file a Consumer Proposal.
    • This is completely unethical as every Licensed Insolvency Trustee in Canada offers a free, confidential consultation to review your financial options – and most, including Sands & Associates – will file a Consumer Proposal for you with no up-front payments whatsoever!

Despite advertising promises and even A+ BBB ratings and positive reviews, there is no such thing as ‘government debt grants’ or ‘programs’ beyond what is available to consumers by working with a Licensed Insolvency Trustee.

  • When seeking debt advice, you should always ask “Are you a Licensed Insolvency Trustee?”
  • If you’re not dealing with a Licensed Insolvency Trustee, it’s highly likely you are unnecessarily paying money that is providing no value, and you may be the victim of a growing scam in BC.

What Consumers Should Know: Licensed Insolvency Trustees are Canada’s ONLY regulated, endorsed, and qualified debt help professionals. You do not need a referral to get safe, free, and confidential advice from a Licensed Insolvency Trustee – simply contact a Licensed Insolvency Trustee local to your province. It should never cost you money to find out what your options are!

Learn about resources and options to help you become debt-free faster – book your free, confidential consultation with a non-judgmental debt expert today.