The Consequences of Defaulting on an SBA Loan

Meow Technologies, Inc.

Meow Technologies, Inc.

The High Cost of Defaulting on an SBA Loan

Getting an SBA-backed loan can provide critical funding to start or grow a small business. However, failing to repay the loan can lead to severe financial consequences. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll cover the causes and impacts of SBA loan default as well as tips to avoid it.


What Triggers SBA Loan Default?

Before we dive into the implications of default, it’s important to understand what causes a borrower to reach this point in the first place. There are four primary triggers of SBA loan default:


Missed Payments

The most straightforward cause of default is when a business repeatedly fails to make loan payments on time. After 90 days of no payment, a lender will generally consider the loan in default.

Business Failure

If a business shuts down or files for bankruptcy, the company will likely default on outstanding SBA loans. Without revenue or assets, it’s impossible to meet repayment obligations.

Poor Financial Planning

Neglecting to budget appropriately or set aside funds to service debt can leave a business unable to afford loan payments over time. Poor planning is a common contributor to default.

Unanticipated Circumstances

Whether it’s a lawsuit, natural disaster, or family emergency, unexpected events can rapidly deteriorate a business’s financial standing and ability to repay loans.

While the exact cause may vary, the end result is the same – missed payments precipitating loan default.


Consequences of SBA Loan Default

When an SBA-backed loan defaults, triggering a series of events that can devastate business finances and personal credit for years. Let’s review some of the most common consequences:

Collateral Liquidation

Most SBA loans require borrowers to pledge business or personal assets as collateral to secure the loan. If you default, the lender will seize and sell these assets to recoup losses. This could include equipment, property, or vehicles.

Personal Guarantee Enforcement

In addition to collateral requirements, SBA loans generally make any owner with at least 20% equity sign a personal guarantee. This leaves their personal assets vulnerable if the business defaults. The lender can – and likely will – go after personal bank accounts, investments, and real estate to collect on the debt.

Credit Score Impacts

Missed business loan payments will damage both business and personal credit scores. Default reporting can slash 100 points or more off your score. Poor credit makes accessing financing difficult and expensive for years.

Legal Action

When a lender cannot collect by seizing collateral or enforcing guarantees, they may file a lawsuit against the borrowers. This allows them to attempt to garnish wages or levy bank accounts. Defending a lawsuit is expensive and emotionally taxing.

Wage Garnishment

As mentioned regarding lawsuits, lenders can obtain court orders to garnish a portion of your wages to repay defaulted debt. Up to 25% of your take-home pay may get automatically redirected to the lender until the balance is settled.

Treasury Department Collection

If the lender’s collection efforts fail, the SBA will reimburse them for the guaranteed portion of the loan then directly pursue the borrowers. This can involve garnishing tax refunds, Social Security benefits, or other federal payments. The government can also impose involuntary wage garnishment or file lawsuits. Unlike other creditors, there is no statute of limitations on federal loan collections.

As this breakdown illustrates, the ramifications of SBA loan default can devastate small business owners financially for years or decades. However, taking proactive steps can help prevent this worst-case scenario.



Tips to Avoid SBA Loan Default

While paying off an SBA loan may seem difficult at times, default should only be a last resort. Business owners have options to avoid this damaging outcome:

Careful Financial Planning

Constructing a detailed budget, tracking cash flow diligently, and reserving funds for loan payments minimizes the risk of falling behind. Continuously monitoring your finances helps spot potential issues early.

Communicate with Lenders

If you anticipate missing payments, immediately speak to your lender. They want to avoid default as much as you do, so they may agree to cut interest rates, reduce payments, or defer payments temporarily to help you get back on track.


Loan Term Adjustments

You can also formally request the lender modify the original repayment terms. Extending the loan duration lowers monthly payments to a more affordable level. Just keep in mind that reducing payments also increases total interest paid over the life of the loan.

Refinancing

If your financial struggles stem from excessive interest rates or fees, refinancing with a different SBA lender can provide relief. Just be sure to shop around for the best possible terms and closely compare offers. Refinancing with a predatory lender will only worsen issues.

Debt Consolidation

Using a separate loan to pay off multiple existing debts helps simplify finances into a single monthly payment. Consolidating high-interest debt onto an SBA loan may free up cash flow to keep payments current.

Professional Guidance

Don’t hesitate to enlist the help of a small business CPA or attorney that specializes in SBA lending. Their expert advice can prove invaluable in negotiating with lenders or mapping an effective debt repayment strategy tailored to your situation.

While no business owner wants to wind up in default, you have options to change course before it’s too late.


Alternatives to Default

If you’ve already defaulted or are on the brink of it, you may feel hopeless – but alternatives still exist besides simply waiting for the consequences to unfold:

Operational Changes – Making strategic business adjustments could rapidly boost revenue, enabling you to resume loan payments. For example, you may consider expanding hours, hiring staff, pursuing new markets, raising prices, or securing new supply channels.

Sell Assets – Liquidating excess inventory, equipment, vehicles, or even entire business units supplies cash to reinstate loans and avoid default. Although selling assets isn’t ideal, it beats destroying your finances and credit through default.

Settlements/Compromise Offers – After thorough financial vetting, the SBA may agree to accept partial repayment of defaulted loans as full settlement. While you’d still sustain damage from missed payments already, settlements can resolve defaults before involvement from the Treasury Department.

The takeaway is that sitting idle guarantees things will only get worse. But taking action – however difficult – at least gives you a fighting chance at financial recovery.


The Bottom Line


SBA loans provide invaluable funding for countless small businesses nationwide. However, borrowers must remain vigilant regarding repayment to avoid catastrophic default.

While an unexpected crisis could topple even the most prepared business owner, focusing on strong financial management day-to-day minimizes this risk. Communicating openly with lenders also proves critical at the first sign of trouble.

No entrepreneur ever envisions default when they set out to launch their dreams, but economic turbulence can dash plans without warning. By understanding the hazards surrounding SBA loans and planning ahead to avert issues, you give your business the greatest odds of not just surviving – but thriving.


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