Many people who go under debt counselling later report that they were shocked to discover the full legal consequences. Picture: 123RF/ANTONIO GUILLEM
Many people who go under debt counselling later report that they were shocked to discover the full legal consequences. Picture: 123RF/ANTONIO GUILLEM

Q: I’m a sole proprietor. If I were to go under debt counselling, what does it mean for my business? A debt counsellor told me that debt counselling is for natural people only. She said that when an individual goes under debt counselling, their commercial capabilities aren’t impaired in the way they are when you’re under debt administration. A sole proprietor can still operate, and debt counselling should not prevent me from being able to access credit for my business, she said. Is this true? — Name withheld

A: Stephan van der Merwe, a senior attorney at the Stellenbosch Law Clinic, responds:

It is concerning that a debt counsellor would give such advice, and this illustrates why many consumers who go under debt counselling later report that they are shocked to find out the full legal consequences.

While it is correct that debt counselling is only an option available to natural people, there is in law no difference between a sole proprietor’s private and business identities. A sole proprietorship has no legal personality in which to access credit.

Limitations on the sole proprietor’s ability to gain access to credit will definitely affect their business, as they will also be unable to access credit in their capacity as a sole proprietor. They will need to seek a sponsor or surety who is able to secure credit on behalf of the business.

• Send your questions to money@arena.africa

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