Insolvency and Bankruptcy in the UK: A Challenging Journey for Business Owners with Opportunities in Liquidation Auctions

Facing insolvency and bankruptcy can be a devastating experience for business owners in the United Kingdom. It signifies financial distress and the inability to meet financial obligations, leading to a range of challenges and uncertainties. The journey through insolvency and bankruptcy can be emotionally and financially draining, affecting not only the business but also the personal lives of business owners. However, amidst the difficulties, there are potential opportunities to be found, particularly in the realm of liquidation auctions.

Insolvency occurs when an individual or business is unable to meet its financial obligations, while bankruptcy is a formal legal process initiated when debts cannot be repaid. These situations can have profound implications for business owners, affecting their financial stability, professional reputation, and personal well-being. The journey through insolvency and bankruptcy involves navigating complex legal procedures, financial negotiations, and potential loss of control over business affairs.

One of the notable challenges faced by business owners in insolvency and bankruptcy is the financial distress that arises from mounting debts and the inability to generate sufficient income to meet obligations. This often leads to difficult decisions, such as laying off employees, selling assets, or even closing the business entirely. The emotional toll can be significant, as business owners may feel a sense of failure, stress, and uncertainty about their future prospects.

In addition to financial and emotional challenges, business owners may also face legal complexities during insolvency and bankruptcy proceedings. The process involves engaging with insolvency practitioners, creditors, and legal professionals who oversee the administration and resolution of debts. Business owners may have to undergo investigations into their financial affairs, and there may be personal liability for business debts, depending on the legal structure of the company.

Despite the hardships, there are potential opportunities to be found in the form of liquidation auctions. When a business goes into liquidation, its assets are sold to repay creditors. Liquidation auctions are conducted to sell off these assets, providing an opportunity for buyers to acquire items at potentially discounted prices. These auctions can be a treasure trove for bargain hunters, entrepreneurs, and individuals looking for deals on a wide range of items, including inventory, equipment, furniture, and more.

Participating in a liquidation auction can offer several advantages. Buyers can find quality items at lower prices compared to the retail market, as the main goal is to sell off assets quickly to generate funds. This presents an opportunity for business owners, entrepreneurs, and individuals to acquire assets that can be repurposed, resold, or used to start a new venture. Liquidation auctions also provide a platform for networking and building relationships with other industry professionals.

However, it is important to approach liquidation auctions with caution and due diligence. Buyers should thoroughly inspect the items, research their market value, and assess any potential risks associated with the purchase. Additionally, understanding the terms and conditions of the auction, including payment methods, collection arrangements, and any warranties or guarantees, is crucial to making informed buying decisions.

In conclusion, insolvency and bankruptcy can be profoundly challenging for business owners in the UK. The journey through financial distress and legal complexities can take a toll on their personal and professional lives. However, amidst these challenges, liquidation auctions offer a glimmer of opportunity. By participating in these auctions, business owners and buyers can potentially acquire quality assets at discounted prices, providing a chance for new beginnings and entrepreneurial ventures. It is important to approach such auctions with caution and thorough research to make informed purchasing decisions.

Definitions of Insolvency and Bankruptcy Terms and Expressions for England and Wales

Administration Order

  1. A court order placing a company that is, or is likely to become, insolvent under the control of an administrator following a petition by the company, its directors or a creditor. The purpose of the order is to preserve the company’s business and assets to allow a reorganisation or ensure the most advantageous realisation of its assets whilst protecting it from action by its creditors
  2. The administration of the insolvent estate of a deceased debtor
  3. County court process permitting an individual with modest debts to pay off instalments. No insolvency practitioner is involved

Authorised (or licensed) Insolvency Practitioner

The person (usually an accountant or solicitor) authorised by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) or a professional body to act as trustee, nominee, supervisor, liquidator, administrative receiver or administrator. Only such a person can hold any of these offices

Administrative Receiver

The person appointed by the holder of a floating charge debenture over a company’s assets to collect in and realise the assets of that company and to repay the indebtedness to the debenture holder

Administrative Receivership

The term applied when an insolvency practitioner is appointed as an administrative receiver


The insolvency practitioner appointed by the court to handle the affairs of a company that is the subject of an administration order

Agricultural Receivership

A special remedy to take control of the assets of a farmer under the Agricultural Credits Act 1928


Associates of individuals include family members, relatives, partners and their relatives, employees, employers, trustees in certain trust relationships, and companies which the individual controls. Associates of companies include other companies under common control


Someone against whom a bankruptcy order has been made and who has not been discharged from bankruptcy

Bankruptcy Order

The court order making an individual bankrupt (this replaces the concept of the receiving order and adjudication of bankruptcy in the old Act cases)


Insurance cover needed by a person who acts as an insolvency practitioner


The appropriation of real or personal property for the discharge of a debt without giving the creditor any property in, or possession of, the subject of security

Charging Order

Court order placing restrictions on the disposal of certain assets, such as property or securities, given after judgement and gives priority of payment over other creditors

Company Directors Disqualification Act (1986)

Consolidation Act on the disqualification of directors

Company Voluntary Arrangement (CVA)

A voluntary agreement for a company is a procedure whereby a plan of reorganisation or composition in satisfaction of debts, is put forward to creditors and shareholders. There is limited involvement by the court and the scheme is under the control of a supervisor


An agreement between debtor and his creditors whereby the compounding creditors agree with the debtor between themselves to accept from the debtor payment of less than the amounts due to them in full satisfaction of their claim

Compulsory Liquidation

The placing of a company into liquidation as a result of an application to the court, usually by a creditor

Connected Persons

Directors or shadow directors and their associates, and associates of the company


Shareholder, every person liable to contribute to the assets of a company in the event of it being wound up

Court-Appointed Receiver

A person, not necessarily a licensed insolvency practitioner, appointed to take charge of assets usually where they are subject to some legal dispute. Not strictly an insolvency process, the procedure may be used other than for a limited company, e.g. to settle a partnership dispute

Creditors’ Commitee

A creditors’ committee is formed to represent the interests of all creditors in supervising the activities of an administrator or trustee in bankruptcy, or receiving reports from an administrative receiver

Creditors’ Voluntary Liquidation (CVL)

Relates to an insolvent company. It is commenced by resolution of the shareholders, but is under the effective control of creditors, who can choose the liquidator, liquidation committee


A document stating the terms of a loan, usually to a company. Debentures may be secured on part or all of a company’s assets, or they may be unsecured. Often also referred to as a floating charge and the lender is often referred to as the debenture holder

Deed Of Arrangement

Method for an individual (not a company) to come to terms with creditors short of formal bankruptcy, it has now been almost completely replaced by Individual Voluntary Arrangements

Disqualification Of Directors

A director found to have conducted the affairs of an insolvent company in an “unfit” manner may be disqualified, on application to the court by the DTI, from holding any management position in a company for between 2 and 15 years

Extortionate Credit Transaction

An extortionate credit transaction is a transaction by which credit is provided on terms that are exorbitant or grossly unfair compared with the risk accepted by the creditor. Such a transaction may be challenged by an administrator, a liquidator or a trustee in bankruptcy

Fixed Charge

A fixed charge is a form of security granted over specific assets, preventing the debtor dealing with those assets without the consent of the secured creditor. It gives the secured creditor a first claim on the proceeds of sale, and the creditor can usually appoint a receiver to realise the assets in the event of default

Floating Charge

A floating charge is a form of security granted to a creditor over general assets of a company which may change from time to time in the normal course of business (e.g. stock). The company can continue to use the assets in its business until an event of default occurs and the charge crystallises. If this happens, the secured creditor can realise the assets to recover his debt, usually by appointing an administrative receiver, and obtain the net proceeds of sale subject to the prior claims of the preferential creditors (e.g. Customs & Excise or Inland Revenue)

Fraudulent Trading

Where a company has carried on business with intent to defraud creditors, or for any fraudulent purpose. It is a criminal offence and those involved can be made personally liable for the company’s liabilities

Going Concern

Basis on which insolvency practitioners prefer to sell a business. Effectively it means the business continues, jobs are saved, and a higher price is obtained


A legal commitment to repay a debt if the original borrower fails to do so. Directors may give guarantees to banks in return for the bank giving finance to their companies. Companies in a group may guarantee each others loans

Individual Voluntary Arrangement (IVA)

A voluntary arrangement for an individual is a procedure whereby the person comes to an arrangement with his creditors in how their debt will be discharged. Such a scheme requires the approval of the court and is under the control of a supervisor


The state of not being able to pay one’s debts as they fall due or having an excess of liabilities over assets

Insolvency Act 1986 (IA 1986)

Primary legislation governing insolvency law and practice. Nevertheless, many other statues and statutory instruments are also relevant

Insolvent Liquidation

A company goes into insolvent liquidation if it goes into liquidation at a time when assets are insufficient for the payment of its debts and other liabilities and the expenses of liquidation

Insolvency Practitioner (IP)

Person authorised by one of the chartered accountancy bodies, the Law Societies, The Insolvency Practitioners Association or the Department of Trade. The only person who may act as office holder in an insolvency proceeding

Insolvency Rules

The Insolvency Rules 1986, as amended, provide the detailed working procedures for the provisions of the Insolvency Act 1986

Insolvency Rules (IA 1986)

The Insolvency Rules 1986, as amended, these Rules apply where the Act applies. Where the old Act continues to apply so do the Bankruptcy Rules 1952 and the Companies (Winding Up) Rules 1949. There are separate rules dealing with insolvent partnerships, insolvent deceased’s estates and deeds of arrangement

Interim Order

An individual who intends to propose a voluntary arrangement to his creditors may apply to the court for an interim order which, if granted, precludes bankruptcy and other legal proceedings whilst the order is in force

Investor’s Compensation Scheme

A statutory scheme operated by the SIB (Securities and Investments Board) to give individual investors up to £48,000 protection if an authorised investment business collapses


Recognition of a debt by a court2. Decision given by a court at the conclusion of a trial

Law Of Property Act 1925 (LPA)

Governs transactions in law and property. Contains statutory powers of receivers appointed under a fixed charge

LPA Receiver

Law of Property Act 1925 receiver: a person (not necessarily an insolvency practitioner) appointed to take charge of a mortgaged property by a lender whose loan is in default, usually with a view to sale or to collect rental income for the lender. Common in the case of failure of a property developer, whose borrowings will largely be secured on specific properties


Right to retain possession of assets or documents until settlement of a debt


The procedure whereby the assets of a company (or partnership) are gathered in and realised, the liabilities met and surplus, if any, distributed to members

Liquidation Committee

Committee of creditors who receive information from the liquidator and sanction some of his actions


The person appointed to deal with the assets and liabilities of the company or partnership once the resolution to wind up has been passed or a compulsory winding up order has been made

Mareva Injunction

Court order preventing the disposal of assets


Shareholder of a company

Members’ Voluntary Liquidation (MVL)

A solvent liquidation where the shareholders appoint the liquidator to realise assets and settle all the company’s debts in full within 12 months


Breach of duty in relation to the funds or property of a company by its directors or managers


A transfer of an interest in land or other property by way of security, redeemable upon performing the condition of paying a given sum of money


The person chosen by the individual or corporate debtor to report on the debtor’s proposals for an IVA or CVA

Office Holder

A person who is required to be a qualified insolvency practitioner to hold the following posts, of a liquidator, provisional liquidator, administrator , administrative receiver, supervisor of a voluntary arrangement, or trustee in bankruptcy

Official Receiver (OR)

The civil servant employed by the DTI to head the regional offices whose responsibilities cover bankruptcies and compulsory liquidations

Onerous Property

The term onerous property in the context of a liquidation or bankruptcy, applies to unprofitable contracts and to property that is unsaleable or not easily saleable or that might give rise to a continuing liability. Such property can be disclaimed by a liquidator or a trustee in bankruptcy


A written application to the court for relief or remedy

Policyholders Protection Act 1975

An act which established Policyholders Protection Board to provide compensation to the public in the event of the liquidation of an insurance company. The Board will make payment in full of liabilities under certain policies of compulsory insurance and 90 per cent of liability to provide policyholders under other general and investment type policies. Compensation is restricted to individual policyholders or partnerships; corporate policyholders are not protected


A payment or other transaction in the six month to two year period preceding a liquidation, administration or bankruptcy, which places a creditor or a person connected with the insolvent, respectively, in a better position than they would have been otherwise. A liquidator, administrator or trustee in bankruptcy may recover any sums which are found to be preferences

Preferential Creditor

Defined in Schedule 6 of The Insolvency Act 1986. Has priority when funds are distributed by a liquidator, administrative receiver or trustee in bankruptcy

Proof Of Debt

The document submitted in an insolvency to establish a creditor’s claim. It may be informal (e.g. by letter) or in a prescribed form (in bankruptcy and compulsory liquidations)


A creditor who claims is referred to as “proving” for his debt, and the document by which he seeks to establish his claim is his “proof”

Provisional Liquidator

The person appointed by the court to deal with the affairs of the company until a compulsory winding up order


The authority given by a creditor or member to another person (proxy holder) to attend a meeting and speak and vote at a meeting on behalf of the creditor (principal) or member


A person who is authorised to attend a meeting on behalf of someone else


The person appointed by the court for some specific purpose or the person appointed by a mortgage to exercise his rights over the charges property under the Law of Property Act 1925 (not to be confused with the Official Receiver or Administrative Receiver


The general term applied when a person is a appointed as a receiver or administrative receiver over certain assets

Recognised Professional Body (RPB)

An organisation approved by the Secretary of State as being able to authorise its members to act as insolvency practitioners. A body may be recognised if it regulates the practice of a profession and maintains and enforces rules for securing that such of its members as are permitted by or under the rules to act as insolvency practitioners-(a) are fit and proper persons so to act, and(b) meet acceptable requirements as to education and practical training and experience

Reservation Of Title Or Retention Of Title Agreement

An agreement for the sale of goods to a company, being an agreement:(a) which does not constitute a charge on the goods, but(b) under which, if the seller is not paid and the company is wound up, the seller will have priority over all other creditors of the company in respect to the goods or any property representing the goods

Secured Creditor

A creditor with specific rights over some or all his debtor’s assets in the event of insolvency. In essence he is paid first from the secured assets


A charge or mortgage over assets taken to secure payment of a debt. If the debt is not paid, the lender has a right to sell the charged assets. Security documents can be very complex. The commonest example is a mortgage over a property

Shadow Director

A person who is not formally appointed as a director, but in accordance with whose directions or instructions the directors of a company are accustomed to act. However, a person is not a shadow director merely because the directors act on advice given by him in a professional capacity

Special Manager

A special manager is a person appointed by the Court in a compulsory liquidation or bankruptcy to assist the liquidator, official receiver or trustee in managing the insolvent’s business. He does not need to be an insolvency practitioner

Statutory Demand

A formal notice requiring payment of a debt exceeding £750 within 21 days, in default of which bankruptcy or liquidation proceedings may be commenced without further notice


The person appointed to supervise the implementation of the debtor’s proposals for an IVA or CVA once approved by creditors (and members)

Transaction At An Undervalue

A transaction at an undervalue can describe either a gift or a transaction in which the consideration received is significantly less than that given. In certain circumstances such a transaction can be challenged by an administrator, a liquidator or a trustee in bankruptcy

Trustee in bankruptcy

The authorised insolvency practitioner appointed to deal with the estate of the bankrupt Or under a deed of arrangement – the authorised insolvency practitioner appointed to deal with the estate of the person who entered into the deed

Unsecured Creditor

Strictly, any creditor who does not hold security.

Question 1: What is insolvency?

Insolvency refers to a financial state where an individual or organization is unable to pay off their debts when they are due. It signifies a lack of liquidity and the inability to meet financial obligations.

Question 2: What are the common causes of insolvency?

Insolvency can be caused by various factors, including excessive debt, poor cash flow management, economic downturns, significant financial losses, legal disputes, or mismanagement of finances.

Question 3: What is the difference between insolvency and bankruptcy?

Insolvency is a broader term that refers to the inability to pay debts, while bankruptcy is a legal process that is initiated when an individual or business is unable to repay their debts and seeks legal protection and financial restructuring.

Question 4: What are the consequences of insolvency?

The consequences of insolvency can include legal actions by creditors, asset seizures, loss of business or personal assets, damage to credit scores, and potential closure of businesses or personal bankruptcy.

Question 5: What are the options for dealing with insolvency?

Options for dealing with insolvency include negotiating with creditors for a repayment plan, entering into debt restructuring or consolidation agreements, seeking informal arrangements, or filing for formal insolvency processes such as administration, liquidation, or bankruptcy.

Question 6: What is the role of an insolvency practitioner?

An insolvency practitioner is a licensed professional who specializes in managing insolvency cases. They act as administrators, liquidators, or trustees and are responsible for overseeing the insolvency process, protecting the interests of creditors, and maximizing returns to stakeholders.

Question 7: Can a company continue trading while insolvent?

In some cases, a company may continue trading while insolvent under certain legal procedures, such as administration or company voluntary arrangements (CVAs). However, it is crucial to seek professional advice to ensure compliance with relevant laws and regulations.

Question 8: What are the alternatives to insolvency?

Alternatives to insolvency include debt restructuring, negotiation with creditors for extended payment terms or reduced debt amounts, seeking additional financing, implementing cost-cutting measures, or exploring business turnaround strategies.

Question 9: How long does the insolvency process typically take?

The duration of the insolvency process can vary depending on the complexity of the case, the chosen insolvency procedure, and the cooperation of all parties involved. It can range from several months to several years.

Question 10: Can personal insolvency affect my future financial prospects?

Personal insolvency can have long-term implications for your financial prospects. It can impact your creditworthiness, making it challenging to obtain loans or credit in the future. It is important to seek professional advice and take steps to rebuild your financial standing after insolvency.