We all know it’s frustrating not being paid. What’s worse is that not getting paid affects your cash flow and chasing bad debts takes time that could otherwise be spent doing productive work.
If you decide that your best option for resolving the debt is to liquidate the debtor company, the process generally takes at least three months. There are a number of milestones along the way, which are outlined below.
Provided the debt is not disputed, the first step is to issue a statutory demand. The purpose of the statutory demand is to test the company’s solvency – the presumption being that, if the company is solvent and the debt is not in dispute, the company will pay the amount demanded in the statutory demand.
A company who receives a statutory demand has 10 working days from the date of service to apply to the High Court to set it aside, usually on the basis that the debt is disputed and/or the debtor company is solvent. If no setting aside application is made, the debtor company has 15 working days to pay the amount demanded in the statutory demand.
If the debtor company does not pay the amount demanded within the 15 working day timeframe, there is a legal presumption that the company is insolvent (which can be overcome if the company provides proof of solvency). The creditor can issue liquidation proceedings relying on the presumption of insolvency as the basis for its liquidation application for 30 working days from the date that the statutory demand expires.
When the liquidation proceedings are filed in the High Court, a hearing date is given. While the time between filing the application and the allocated hearing date can differ from Court to Court (if the Court is outside Auckland, Wellington, or Christchurch, the hearing date will need to coincide with the judges’ circuit sittings), the hearing date is usually between two and three months after the date of filing.
Once the processed documents are provided, they must be served on the defendant company. The application for liquidation also needs to be advertised in the paper where the company carries on business and the New Zealand Gazette. The advertising must be run at least five working days after the defendant company is served and at least five working days before the liquidation hearing date.
If the defendant company takes no steps in response to the liquidation application, the defendant company will be placed into liquidation by the High Court on the hearing date and the creditors’ nominated liquidators will be appointed. If the creditor does not produce a consent to act from its nominated liquidators at or before the hearing, the Official Assignee will be appointed as liquidator. If someone appears at the hearing on behalf of the company, the High Court can allow the proceeding to be adjourned (usually to allow time for settlement discussions or for payment of the debt to be made).
Creditors other than the creditor who brought the liquidation proceedings can appear at the liquidation hearing as either a creditor in support or in opposition to the liquidation application. If you are a creditor in support and the creditor who brought the liquidation proceedings decides to discontinue its proceeding (usually because some arrangement as to payment has been made), you can ask to be substituted as plaintiff. A substituted plaintiff can continue with the previous creditor’s liquidation application instead of having to start a new liquidation application and preserves the filing date of the application, which is used for calculating time periods for voidable, undervalue, and related party transactions.
If you are a creditor and want to discuss the liquidation process further, give our team a call on 09 303 0506. McDonald Vague’s directors are Accredited Insolvency Practitioners (AIPs) and Chartered Accountants. We also have three non-director AIPs and our professional staff are members of RITANZ.
If you want more information on what to consider when choosing an insolvency practitioner, Keaton has written a helpful article: Picking an Insolvency Practitioner.