Winding up petitions are being increasingly used as an aid to business debt collection because of the serious consequences for a company if they are ignored. If you receive a winding up petition it is vital to act quickly or risk losing your business.
The Winding up process is used to force the closure of a business where there is outstanding unpaid debt. The creditor must first issue a statutory demand for the payment of their debt. Where this is not resolved within 21 days, a petition for the winding up or closure of the business can be issued.
When a winding up petition is granted by the court, the company in question will be liquidated. The directors of the company can of course challenge the petition. However, once a winding petition is issued, there will be serious consequences for the business even if the debt owed is subsequently paid or successfully challenged.
Bank account frozen
Seven days after a winding up petition is issued, notice of this will be publicised in the London Gazette. Almost without exception the banks will pick up on this and freeze the bank account of the company. This means that cash cannot be paid into the account and payments cannot be made.
In addition to its bank accounts being frozen, the company is legally prevented from selling any assets or property. As such it is extremely difficult for the company to continue to trade.
If your company receives a winding up petition, there are certain actions that you can take:
It may be possible to unfreeze the company bank account to make specific payments, for example staff wages. However, this can only be achieved with the specific agreement of the court. If the court agrees that the transaction can take place, it will issue a validation order to this effect. The cost of applying for a validation order will have to be borne by the company directors.
The implementation of a company rescue solution such as company voluntary arrangement or administration will automatically stop all current court action being taken against a company. As such a winding up petition would automatically be overturned.
If your business is in receipt of a winding up petition, the business rescue solution you will normally consider is a company voluntary arrangement. This solution will enable the directors to retain control of the management of the business unlike administration where the directors will lose control.
Unfortunately, the option of pre-pack administration or phoenixing is not available as this requires the sale of company assets and this transaction cannot be undertaken once a winding up petition has been issued without a validation order from the court.
Given the serious implications of receiving a winding up petition, the best thing is to avoid this situation all together. However, if one of your creditors issues your company with a statutory demand or you are actually in receipt of a winding up petition, it is very important that you take specialist advice as soon as possible.
There are actions you can take to prevent your business being wound up. However, these options will diminish unless you act quickly.