How do I get my money back
July 18, 2006 7:34 AM   Subscribe

How do I get my money back from a friend?

(please note i'm in the UK if you are considering options).

6 months ago I lent a friend £900 (~$1650). This was to pay half the cost of a flight and a council tax bill which had gotten a little out of control (Non UK readers - its a mandatory annually paid tax based on house value and pays for fire/police/garbage disposal etc). At the time she promised full payment within a month - it was a purely cashflow problem, she was fully employed and still is (although has moved and changed jobs but is now a lot nearer me).

Cut to 6 months later and my requests for full repayment are being met with more increasingly bizarre excuses for non payment.

Last week I went to meet her in my lunch hour. As i got near my house i got a phone call, she claimed to have been attacked and the money stolen from her. When I found her she had a nasty wound and was bleeding, in obvious distress. My first thoughts were she did this herself, such is my current thinking about her state of mind at the moment. She hasnt exhibited any symptoms since the incident and has never mentioned it.

She owes me the money, my friend £200, and a friend of a friend, 2 months rent - £800. Thats what we know of. She recently sold her house and made around £10K. She has claimed many times that she has 'loads of cash' and is not broke.

Three of us confronted her last night and put it to her that she has been continually lying to all of us for several months and that she is in financial or personal trouble. She is due to be evicted at the end of this week if she doesnt pay her rent in full by the end of today. We gave her a very hard time - although not with shouting and screaming - expecting her to 'come clean' but she shows no sign of changing story. Its incredibly hard to break someone who is hellbent on sticking to her guns. To give an example, she told me last week that the money had been transferred, it had left her account and the bank confirmed it was on its way to mine. This was 10 days ago yet she cannot understand why it didnt happen. This was about the 4th attempt to send me the money.

She continually states that the only reason we havent been paid is generally the fault of the bank. For some reason, her very large, international (HSBC) bank is somehow deliberately not fulfilling her requests. This is obviously BS.

I want to know (bear in mind UK law) what choices I have. Can I file a civil suit against a private person? What will it cost me? How do I prove this? (She admits I owe her at least). Can I demand to her to prove she even has any money? Should I sue a friend?

My brother wants to go round and pull her fingernails out and the whole issue is keeping me up nights. I have been understanding and patient throughout. I now want to do some thing properly.
posted by daveyt to Human Relations (45 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Small claims court.
posted by Gator at 7:41 AM on July 18, 2006

I've been burned on several loans made to friends. Here's my (experienced) take on the matter:

1. Never loan money to a friend
2. If you do loan money to a friend:
a. Get something signed, in writing detailing the value of the loan and repayment terms
b. hope to get the money back, but don't expect to

I'm not familiar with UK law, but the amounts you mention are not that high, and pursuing the matter legally may not be worth it. I gave up a couple of years ago on a €1000 loan to an ex-flatmate. Lo and behold, 6 months ago he transferred €500 to my account, and said he'd get the rest to me as soon as he could.

I hope to get the last €500 back, but I don't expect to, and for me, even the €1000 amount wasn't enough to pursue through the legal system (especially without a signed, written loan agreement).
posted by syzygy at 7:44 AM on July 18, 2006

She doesn't have the money. Probably her drug dealer has most of it.

You could take her to Small Claims Court. With a judgment against her in hand, you could go after bank accounts or tangible assets of hers. However, she doesn't appear to have any of those (you missed your chance at going after her house!), so the judgment will be worthless. She doesn't have the money. If she's still employed you could possibly go after her salary, but I suspect her employment either doesn't exist or is tenuous.

The money is gone.

You need to consider now what to do. You can shun her, or try to get her into drug rehab, or you can do something foolish like assaulting her.
posted by jellicle at 7:45 AM on July 18, 2006

Firstly, I'd collect evidence that she owes you money now if you don't already have any.

Secondly, have you considered or tried working out any kind of spread payment scheme? It may be less hassle and less expensive for you if you can mutually work out some kind of monthly payment over a period than if you have to take some kind of legal action to recover the money. And if you do this, get that repayment scheme down on paper.
posted by edd at 7:46 AM on July 18, 2006

She doesn't have the money, she is getting evicted after all. She is also crazy. You are never getting any money from a crazy broke person. Chalk it up to an expensive life lesson and drop her as a friend.
posted by LarryC at 7:47 AM on July 18, 2006

Consider the money payment for a useful life lesson and let it go.

Jellicle is exactly right. She doesn't have the money and neither court cases nor pulling out fingernails is going to magically make her have the money. You have to deal with that.
posted by unSane at 7:50 AM on July 18, 2006

She doesn't have the money, she is getting evicted after all. She is also crazy. You are never getting any money from a crazy broke person. Chalk it up to an expensive life lesson and drop her as a friend.

I second that. Maybe later when she's got her brain working properly she'll realize what an ass she's been and try to make amends. Otherwise, she's got a tough, lonely life ahead of her.

But really, there are two types of people. Those who learn from the consequences of their actions and those who don't. She's the former. You should be the latter.
posted by smallerdemon at 7:52 AM on July 18, 2006

She's the former. You should be the latter.

Er... I think you've got than backwards.
posted by Robot Johnny at 7:57 AM on July 18, 2006

Your friend has a problem - drugs, gambling? Hard to say. Something is sucking her money up and she's embarassed about it.

Your only hope for getting your money back is probably helping your friend solve the underlying problem - and even then its doubtful. Getting her into rehab or whatever.

Try being her friend without mentioning the money and see if you can find out what the underlying issue is.
posted by jacquilynne at 8:01 AM on July 18, 2006

At best your friend is a pathological liar; at worst, the sky's the limit, from more serious mental problems to a serious drug habit or some combination of these things.

The money's gone. Forget about it. And as a general rule, never lend money to friends or family members with the expectation that it will be repaid. (If repayment is really important to you, as noted above, get a promissory note in writing in exchange for the loan, but good luck enforcing it.)
posted by enrevanche at 8:06 AM on July 18, 2006

I've been burned by three seperate people to the tune of about $1800 dollars in my short life as an adult. At first I thought the 400 was equivalent to a folding table, typewriter and swinging lightbulb, and was pissed. Then it became more akin to a few trips home at $600. When the last insanity kicked in, and the roommate got kicked out, it was about the cost of a 1973 Telecaster Custom. You can imagine my outrage.

Your money is gone. Inform your friends not to lend this person any money. If you see her in the pubs, insist she buy you multiple drinks everytime.
posted by jon_kill at 8:09 AM on July 18, 2006 [1 favorite]

Just tell her you're broke and you really, really need your money back immediately.
posted by onepapertiger at 8:19 AM on July 18, 2006

Another vote for your "friend" probably having a drug (or, possibly, gambling) problem. The quickly-forgotten assault is a huge red flag.

Your money is gone. Best to write it off along with your friendship.
posted by mkultra at 8:20 AM on July 18, 2006

Your "friend" is gone, replaced by someone who looks like your friend but is instead a liar.

It was an expensive lesson. I hope you do not have to relearn it. Don't loan money to friends unless you can write off the money and the friend.
posted by fenriq at 8:21 AM on July 18, 2006 [1 favorite]

While I cannot offer help in getting this money back (it is gone in my opinion), I can suggest you ask her for the wire number or routing number on her attempted wire. Or, open an account at HSBC and ask her to transfer the money into that account. It will eliminate the bs excuse she is giving although probably will just create a new excuse. If things get really nasty, i would consider contacting her employer to make sure they are aware of the type of person they have just hired.

I can offer some advice given to me by my mentor when I was just starting out in business. If someone (friend, business associate or relative) asks for a loan and you are not willing to say 'no', give them half and tell them it is a gift. You will only lose half as much and you still have a better chance of getting it or something of value back someday.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 8:24 AM on July 18, 2006

I second edd's idea. Who knows why, but my husband loans money to a loser friend a couple times a year. He always gets re-paid in full over a spread program.

Try to find out how often she gets paid from her employer. I would expect payment on payday.

Your friend reminds me of a pathetic ex-friend. It seems that she doesn't have a conscience, and is a blatant liar. If you ever get the money back, distance yourself from this person.
posted by LoriFLA at 8:24 AM on July 18, 2006

Yes, something's going on with her and your money is gone. Keep in mind that if you pursue her over it 1) you probably won't get it back; 2) you'll make her life worse than it already is; 3) there will be no real sense of satisfaction given those first two.

I would suggest moving on if you possibly can. It's better to be the better person when you're unlikely to become the person with the money.
posted by OmieWise at 8:28 AM on July 18, 2006

Small claims court, definitely. Maybe other people here are doing pretty well financially, but £900 is a fair chunk of change, and seems like too large of an amount to simply write off.

You're trying to be patient and reasonable with a liar and a manipulator. Don't be a chump. So you go to court. Sure, you may never see the money, but at least you'd have a court decision in your favor should she ever get her shit together.
posted by Gamblor at 8:30 AM on July 18, 2006

You're not getting your money anytime soon. Though when she cleans up (2-3 years if she isn't completely crazy) she'll probably feel incredibly guilty and offer to repay you.
posted by geoff. at 8:30 AM on July 18, 2006

no cash != drugs problem. Jesus, are you all Sun readers or something?

Was she a "good" friend? If so then you should know what problems she might have and that should have impacted on your decision to loan her money.

Lending money to friends is tricky, but, as their friend you should know them enough to decide if they are good for a sub or not. Bad call on your part.

Legally, Small claims is the way to go.... good luck with that.

Not so legal, but just as effective if this person does have a gambling/drugs/shopping/alcohol/expensive chocolate addiction... get a couple of heavies (not your brother unless he is a stranger to your friend). That way, next time she complains about being "robbed" at least you know she isn't lying.
posted by twistedonion at 8:54 AM on July 18, 2006

More information about going to small claims court in the UK, including information on court fees. You'd want to contact your local county courthouse.
posted by Gator at 8:55 AM on July 18, 2006

Turn up on her doorstep together on the first Saturday of the month. Walk her to a cash machine and have her withdraw her full daily allowance. Don't give her any advance warning that this is going to happen. Split the money between you.

I don't actually expect this to work, as you can't use force, but in your position I'd enjoy twisting the knife a little and making her come up with more outlandish excuses. Really, it's the only satisfation you're going to get here.

(Personally, I'd just assume she's up to her ears in debt and putting "friends" to the bottom of the pile, rather than it being a drugs problem.)
posted by Leon at 8:58 AM on July 18, 2006

no cash != drugs problem. Jesus, are you all Sun readers or something?

It's not the no cash thing. It's the lying and excuses and pretending everything's okay when it isn't. Also, the probably faked assault.
posted by jacquilynne at 9:02 AM on July 18, 2006

Go to your friend and get her to write out and sign an IOU on which it's stated how much she owes you, how long she's owed it to you, and the terms of a payment plan for her to pay it back. Take another friend or even two with you as witnesses.

Then, if she doesn't honour the payment plan, you have evidence to take to small claims court if you should decide you want to do that.
posted by orange swan at 9:02 AM on July 18, 2006

I do know that HSBC seems to take longer than they should for interbank transfers in the U.S.

But she's probably lying to you.
posted by oaf at 9:21 AM on July 18, 2006

What's more important, your money or your friendship?
posted by Tacos Are Pretty Great at 9:21 AM on July 18, 2006

Almost all previous answers have been 'forget the money and the friend and walk away'. Over 900 quid? That seems pretty shallow.

She might be crazy, drunk, on drugs or some bizarre combination, but why write her off over such a small amount, especially if she's been your friend? Maybe she needs help. Might respond to some TLC which isn't motivated by getting your money back. Think before sending the message 'your friendship is worth less to me than 900 pounds.'

And quit losing sleep, it's only money.
posted by BorgLove at 9:30 AM on July 18, 2006

It's not the no cash thing. It's the lying and excuses and pretending everything's okay when it isn't. Also, the probably faked assault.

Agreed, but I don't think the assault was faked. I think the poster isn't the only person she owes money to, if you follow my meaning.

twistedonion, if you've ever had a friend with a serious drug problem, you'd recognize this behavior immediately. And you might not want to go around advocating assault on AskMe...
posted by mkultra at 9:30 AM on July 18, 2006

Um, all the accusations of drugs etc. are a wee bit overblown, but your friend does have a problem. This is not uncommon. Life is hard and lots of people have problems. What's awful about this situation is your behavior as a friend. If you're really her friend and you don't really need this money then you should simply forgive the debt. As long as you keep letting money stand between you, your friend can't open up to you and she can't get the help she needs from her friends. So for god's sakes stop badgering her about the money. Everytime you force her to come up with another ridiculous excuse it's another pebble on the heart. Instead you should insist that your friend come clean about what's really going on. If she isn't honest with you then there's nothing you can do for her. Make it clear to her that you don't care about the money but you do care about her. If she refuses to be honest with you, if she refuses your offer s of help, at that point you may consider writing her off as you tried your best.
posted by nixerman at 10:00 AM on July 18, 2006

What's awful about this situation is your behavior as a friend.

What an asshole thing to say. Don't listen to that person. (I was going to suggest you give your friend his e-mail address and let her bum money off him, but for some reason he doesn't provide one.) Listen to everybody else, people who have their heads screwed on straight. You're probably not going to get your money back; try the installment thing, but don't put much faith in it. And (one more time): don't lend significant amounts of money to friends unless you're pretty damn sure they're good for it and good at paying back. It's a good way to lose both money and friends.
posted by languagehat at 10:09 AM on July 18, 2006

why write her off over such a small amount

This is not a small amount. It's a month's salary for some people after tax. If it was £90 I might agree with you, but £900 is an awful lot to lose. I second the suggestions about the Small Claims Court but agree with others that even then you are unlikely to get it back. I think the choice is yours about whether you cut her out of your life or try to help her - but she clearly has a problem, whether or not it's drug/gambling related. That may be a separate AskMe question, though...
posted by greycap at 10:17 AM on July 18, 2006

In her mind the debt probably seems insurmountable and because she's over committed on her ability to repay then she feels like anything less than the total paid all at once would be bad.

You should try to convince her that a payment plan is the only way to settle this problem. Of course you'll have to invest a lot of time in walking her through paying you each week or month... she sounds like she has a whole host problems any of which could get in the way of a trip to the bank. Perhaps you can go to the bank with her each month?

I'd also leave the other friends out of it unless you can all come together in some sort of agreement on a payment plan and terms.
posted by wfrgms at 10:46 AM on July 18, 2006

There's an old bit of wisdom that says if you lend someone $50 and never see them again it was the best 50 you ever spent. It doesn't scale as well as I'd like but $1500 isn't all that much money. You could expend a bunch of time and effort collecting the money through being persistant and possibly going to court: however; I think you'd find that on an hourly basis your renumeration would be less than that of a parking meter.
posted by Mitheral at 11:49 AM on July 18, 2006 [1 favorite]

For everyone saying that skipping out on £900 isn't that big a deal, I'd like you all to to be my bookies.
posted by Gamblor at 12:00 PM on July 18, 2006

Tell her you need the money and you'd hate to do it, but you're going to have to take her to court if she doesn't pay by [date]. And then do it. If it takes you 50 hours (unlikely) to get this money back via legal means thats still almost 20gbp/hr, better than many people make in their real jobs.

Don't give up on your cash. If you bought some merchandise that was crap no one would be telling you to "chalk it up to a lesson learned." Friendship is a reciprical relationship, and it doesn't seem like she's been much of a friend to you or anyone else in this situation, so to me, the question "What's worth more, your friend or your money?" has an obvious answer.

Get the judgement (written documentation helps but is not the only evidence that will be accepted by the court) and then get your money. Someday she will have a job or some assests if she doesn't have one now. The judgement will allow you to recover your money from those funds.

If you're worried about her starving, you can provide some necessities for her, but that's almost certainly not where your cash went and that's probably not where the cash she's using now is going.
posted by jaysus chris at 12:16 PM on July 18, 2006

Don't ever lend or borrow with friends. I had one "friend" say, hey, I'll pay for your dinner now if you'll pay our way into the club tonight. We didn't end up going, but she didn't ask for the money and I assumed I'd just pay her way next time. Three or four days later, she calls me and tells me that because she didn't get her $20 from me, she bounced a check and I should pay both the overdraft fee and bounced check fee. I gave her the $20 I owed her and lost a friend because I wouldn't pay any more.

Just last month I babysat for a friend's kids. She felt "my services were inadequate" for some unknown reason (I didn't clean the whole house, which I never agreed to do!), and paid me half what she owed me.

Never ever deal with money with friends, at least not without a signed, dated, and notarized contract.
posted by IndigoRain at 4:50 PM on July 18, 2006

You can take her to court for about £30, and you can do it online. My approach, if I was going to be her friend, would be to do so, but mentally write off the debt (then if you get it back, it's a bonus). Then find her and say, "I have taken you to court, so you know how serious a matter this is, and so that you find it more difficult to get credit elsewhere. However, it's glaringly obvious that you must be in financial trouble, so, as a friend, I am not going to enforce the judgement. In return, as a friend, I need to know which combination of drugs, gambling, and extortion you're in trouble with, then we can get you some help."
posted by cogat at 6:37 PM on July 18, 2006

All I really have to add is that I've learnt that you never 'lend' money to a friend. All you can do it give them money, any maybe you'll get it back.

If you expect to get the money back, you're setting yourself up for disappointment.

One friend in particular doesn't like being 'given' money and insists thats its a loan - if she wants to look at it that way that thats fine with me, but I don't expect to get the money back.
posted by cornflake at 12:08 AM on July 19, 2006

As others have said, obtaining a county court small claims judgment is a relatively simple operation. The judgment can be enforced, if she is working, by an Attachment of Earnings order, where the court will order her employers to pay £X per month direct to you, or, if you have her bank account details, by a Garnishee order, where the court can order the bank to pay you from her account.
posted by essexjan at 1:28 AM on July 19, 2006

twistedonion, if you've ever had a friend with a serious drug problem, you'd recognize this behavior immediately. And you might not want to go around advocating assault on AskMe...

Oh, I have known plenty, still do in fact. If it's a "friend" then daveyt will know what her main problems in life are. You don't usually have heroin addicts as friends and not know it. That sort of behaviour can be equally applied to Gamblers, Alcoholics, shopping addicts etc etc etc. If you don't know their problems then they aren't a friend, merely an aquaintance, and if that's the case with this story then DavyT is a fool for lending the money.

As for advocating force - no I didn't. A couple of scary mates banging on a door can be just enough to make someone realise they have crossed a line. Personally, I'd never do it but seeing as the posters brother wants to rip the girls nails out I'm simply advising that would be a bad idea. The "robbed" bit was a lame attempt at humour, I admit.
posted by twistedonion at 1:59 AM on July 19, 2006

Wow, fascinating range of reponses. I have however an update, and a possible change to Human Nature itself. She has paid, I believe, her rent. A sum of £800. This is slightly more hopeful than before for my cash. We shall see.
posted by daveyt at 5:09 AM on July 19, 2006

Slightly, perhaps. On the other hand, if she doesn't pay her rent she's out on the street; if she doesn't pay you, nothing happens except an AskMe thread. I wouldn't get your hopes up too high. But please keep upodating!
posted by languagehat at 6:02 AM on July 19, 2006

I'm sorry.
posted by JamesMessick at 1:32 PM on July 20, 2006

She's the former. You should be the latter.

Er... I think you've got than backwards.

HA! You are correct sir. :) She's the latter, you should be the former. Danke Robot Johnny!
posted by smallerdemon at 3:00 PM on July 21, 2006

If anyones still watching... i got a cheque for the full amount (+ some interest today). 2 days before I know whether its a bouncy bouncy one though.
posted by daveyt at 10:10 AM on July 31, 2006

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