I left the UAE five years ago, initially for a holiday to visit family, but then my mother became sick and I decided to stay in my home country to take care of her.
At the time, I had a personal loan and credit card with a UAE bank and owed a total of about Dh20,000 ($5,445) on them.
I haven’t paid anything towards the loan or credit card for the past five years but suspect that with interest and late penalty charges, that amount will be a lot more now.
I also have not had any communication with the bank regarding my debts.
However, I am becoming increasingly concerned that there might be a police case against me or the debt has been passed on to a collection agency in my home country and they could contact me and make my life difficult.
Is there a way to work this out with the bank and pay off the loan and credit card from my home country? What steps should I take to resolve this issue? AR, UK
Debt panellist 1: Jaya Ratnani, managing partner at Freed Financial Services
Being in debt is not a pleasant situation. While your current situation may seem complicated, there are ways to deal with it.
While you say you haven't had contact with the bank, it is possible that the bank has allocated the case to an overseas collection agency, which will visit your home and call your family.
You must not avoid the calls and should be honest and explain your situation to the bank so the best solution can be reached.
Based on your circumstances, the best possible solution is to get in touch with the bank and request for a settlement plan. You should make a formal written request explaining your situation and the reasons that led you to leave the country.
In scenarios where the borrower has limited means to pay a debt, the bank can consider settling it with a lower amount than what is owed.
You must request a waiver of the accrued interest, which banks typically apply, especially when the debt has been unpaid for a long period of time.
The discount offered is proportionate to the number of payments in which you can settle your outstanding debt.
If you can make a single payment, there is a possibility to obtain a higher discount.
If you do not have the means to arrange a lump sum amount, then the settlement can be done through a payment plan. However, the discount would be lower.
I urge that you get in touch with the bank and make a request as early as possible.
Unpaid debt over a long period can turn into a monstrous sum due to the interest and penalties that keep getting added.
Debt panellist 2: Alison Soltani, founder of Leap Savvy Savers
When someone misses three to six instalments of debt payments, they are considered to have defaulted, and the bank can file a legal case against them.
Debts are then usually passed to debt collection agencies, which will endeavour to track you down overseas.
Debt collection agencies have been known to track down debtors many years after they have left the UAE. Therefore, you are doing the right thing in making contact with the bank and paying off the debt.
There may also be a police case against you, which would be actioned if you entered the UAE.
The first step is to contact the bank and check the total amount that you owe.
The total has likely increased significantly with late payment fees and interest.
Watch: Understanding your finances
Understanding your finances
If you do not have access to your UAE account through internet banking, the best method would be to call the bank to discuss your issue, while also pledging your good intentions to pay the debt off.
You could offer a deal to pay off a lump sum and have part of the interest and fees forgiven.
It is often helpful to hire a lawyer to negotiate with the bank on your behalf. When considering a settlement, a bank will take into account your payment history, your current earning capacity and whether you have any other defaulting accusations filed against you.
Alternatively, you could propose a reasonable payment plan, but it would be worth saving up and offering at least a partial lump sum repayment.
The bank will be wary of a customer who has defaulted long term on their debt.
Once the negotiated terms are finalised, request it in writing. This can be evidence in case a debt collection agency contacts you.
In the future, it would be prudent to keep in contact with the bank and attempt to pay back loans and credit cards in a timely manner.
If you needed to access your credit history or obtain a reference or police clearance certificate for any reason, this may not be possible — and could prove to be a barrier in gaining employment or purchasing property, for example.
Debt panellist 3: R Sivaram, executive vice president and head of retail banking products at Emirates NBD
Making consistent and timely payments of credit card dues and loans is essential for preserving a favourable credit score and financial standing, which ultimately leads to long-term financial security and greater prospects for obtaining credit in the future.
Therefore, it is important to make regular payments and communicate with your lender if you are facing difficulties, as they may be able to offer you alternatives such as restructuring or refinancing your loan.
Your first step should be to get in touch with the bank’s collection team and explain your circumstances, while expressing your willingness to make payments and repay your dues.
The bank can provide you with information on your total outstanding balance, including any interest, relevant fees and charges.
In this situation, many banks can offer discounted restructuring plans that can be settled gradually over a specific period.
If there are any legal disputes associated with your name, the bank will be able to verify them. Once the payment is received by the bank, they should be able to resolve the pending issue and clear your credit report.
By fulfilling your legal obligation, you can protect your financial future and maintain a positive credit history. It is commendable that you are reaching out for assistance and taking charge.
The Debt Panel is a weekly column to help readers tackle their debts more effectively. If you have a question for the panel, write to firstname.lastname@example.org