A debt relief order, also known as a DRO, is an agreement designed to help those with little to no spare income, who don’t own their home and have debt of £20,000 or less.
What is a debt relief order?
Set up through a DRO advisor and the Insolvency Service, a DRO allows payments to be paused on the debts you owe for a period of 12 months.
Once you’re in a DRO, your creditors can’t force you to make any payments, and they can no longer pursue you for the debts.
There is a £90 set-up fee to apply for a DRO. This doesn’t have to be paid in one lump sum and your application won’t progress until it has been paid in full.
If you are still unable to pay them after the 12-month period has ended, the debts will be written off and you won’t have to make any more payments on them.
This type of arrangement is only available in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Scottish residents may be able to apply for a similar solution, called a Minimal Asset Process (MAP).
Are you eligible for a debt relief order?
To be eligible for a debt relief order, you must meet these criteria:
- You must be a resident of England, Wales or Northern Ireland.
- You cannot own or have a mortgage on your own home.
- You must not owe more than £20,000 in unsecured debt (or £15,000 if you live in Northern Ireland).
- You must be unable to make the minimum repayment on your debts.
- You cannot have a current insolvency agreement (such as an IVA).
- Your monthly disposable income must be £50 or less.
- You cannot own assets worth more than £1,000 (excluding your car).
- If you own a car, it must be worth less than £1,000.
All of these conditions have to be met to be eligible for a DRO. If you meet some, but not all, of these criteria, you may still be eligible for other insolvency solutions that could write off a large amount of your debt.
You must continue to meet these conditions throughout your DRO. If your circumstances improve, the order can be revoked – meaning your debts are reinstated (with any interest added) and become your responsibility again.
It is vital that you act honestly and openly if you plan to apply for a DRO.
If the authorities discover that someone has lied, committed fraud, or made their debt situation worse – for example, if you gave away belongings or sold them at less than their value to meet the criteria – you can also be subject to a debt relief restriction order. This is a court-imposed punishment which means your financial affairs can be limited for up to 15 years – with fines and imprisonment possible if you break these conditions.
How much does a debt relief order cost?
A debt relief order costs £90 to set up. This amount is paid directly to the Insolvency Service – a government department that’s set up to help people facing problem debt and supporting creditors to receive what is owed to them.
The £90 payment doesn’t have to be made all at once – but your application won’t be progressed until it’s paid in full.
The debt advisor you work with will explain to you how this payment works, including when and how it should be made.
What debts can be included in a debt relief order?
There are also limitations on the types of debts that can be included in a DRO. You can include unsecured debts, for example:
- Personal loans
- Credit cards
- Rent arrears
- Overdue utility bills
- Tax and National Insurance underpayments
- Benefits overpayments
- Telephone and broadband bills
- Council tax
Which debts can’t be included in a debt relief order?
Certain debts can’t be included in a debt relief order. These include:
- Criminal fines – e.g. court or confiscation fines
- Student loans
- Social fund loans
- Compensation for a death/injury
- Child maintenance/support
If you have a debt that’s not listed here and you’d like to know if it can be included, speak to one of our advisors.
Living with a debt relief order
It’s important to understand that a DRO will have a negative impact on your credit rating and, as with most financial matters, it will remain on your credit report for six years from the date the agreement begins.
Your credit rating reflects your ability or willingness to repay money that you owe, and as such, can affect you obtaining further credit and contract-based products such as mobile phones or insurance.
You will also not be able to apply for a mortgage while in a DRO as it is extremely unlikely that you’d meet mortgage lenders’ strict affordability and creditworthiness criteria. Even if you did, owning a home would mean you are no longer eligible for a DRO.
However, it is also important to remember that this will have a significantly less negative impact than having numerous amounts of ongoing arrears and having action being taken against you. Your credit rating will also begin to improve once you have your debts back under control.
A DRO also comes with financial restrictions. While it’s in place, you won’t be able to:
- Borrow more than £500, open a bank account or manage a business without notifying the lender of your DRO.
- Produce, manage or endorse a company without the court’s consent.
- Be a director of a company.
If you’re not sure about what you can and cannot do while in a DRO, it is always best to contact your DRO advisor, who can point you in the right direction.
The debt relief process
You can’t set up a DRO by yourself. An application for a debt relief order is a detailed process that must be done through a DRO advisor or an organisation that’s approved by the Insolvency Service.
Our team of experienced advisors know what the Insolvency Service looks for in a person’s financial situation – so we’ll be able to help you find a solution that’s exactly right for you, both in the short and longer term.
How long does a debt relief order last?
Normally, a debt relief order will last for 12 months. Assuming your financial situation doesn’t improve during those 12 months, the debt that’s listed on the DRO will be written off.
However, if your financial situation changes – even if it’s just enough to lift you over the eligibility criteria listed above – your debt relief order is likely to be revoked, allowing you to make repayments toward your debt again.
Does a debt relief order affect your credit rating?
A debt relief order will have a negative effect on your credit rating, however, this is still likely to be significantly less negative than ongoing arrears and the action that can be taken against you if you cannot pay what you owe.
Your credit rating reflects your ability or willingness to repay money that you owe, so it will begin to improve again when your debts are back under your control and you have the means to work on paying them off.
How long does a debt relief order stay on your credit file?
As with most financial records, a debt relief order will stay on your credit file for six years after the date of commencement.
This can affect your ability to get credit and may prevent you from successfully applying for some contract-based products, such as mobile phones, insurance policies, etc.
How long does a debt relief order take to process?
The official part of the process – awaiting confirmation from the Insolvency Service – takes up to ten working days. This is the time they need to look over your application and decide whether or not you qualify.
The overall process will take a little longer than this though, as we’ll need to discuss your situation with you, before requesting certain pieces of information.
We may ask you for the names of the companies you owe money to, details of those debts, information about your income, benefits and cost of living.
To make sure the debt relief order progresses as quickly as possible, it’s important you don’t delay getting this information together.
Where can I get a debt relief order application form?
You can’t apply for a DRO on your own. A debt relief order application is a detailed process that must be done through an organisation that’s approved by the Insolvency Service.
Can you get a mortgage and other credit with a debt relief order?
Having a debt relief order puts some restrictions on your finances, some of them official – others that relate to the impact a DRO will have on your credit rating and affordability.
You won’t be able to get a mortgage while you have a debt relief order in place.
It is extremely unlikely that you’d meet with mortgage lenders’ strict affordability and creditworthiness criteria – and if you did, owning a home would mean you’d no longer be eligible for the DRO.
If you’re hoping to obtain credit, you’ll be faced with similar problems. Your disposable income of less than £50 means that you are unlikely to be able to afford the repayments, so you won’t pass the affordability checks that lenders will perform.
If you do seek credit and find a lender who is willing to offer it to you, you must be aware that it is against the law to borrow more than £500 without first declaring to the lender than you’re in a DRO.
Frequently asked questions.
Need more info? Here are a few of our most frequently asked questions on this topic. If you don’t see the answer you’re looking for here, give us a ring – we’d love to help.
Unfortunately, if one of your debts has reached the stage where you are being contacted by bailiffs, a debt relief order will not stop them from taking your belongings through a controlled goods agreement.
In order to qualify for a debt relief order, you need to have an overall debt level of £20,000 or less and have less than £50 left after all your regular expenses.
You also must have lived in England or Wales for at least three years.
A debt relief order normally lasts for 12 months, and the companies you are in debt to will not be able to take any action against you or attempt to collect money during this time. You will also not be able to take out any further credit over £500 without making the company aware that you are on a debt relief order.
Once the year has ended, as long as your circumstances haven’t changed, your debts will be written off.
You can include most unsecured debts in a debt relief order, such as credit cards, loans, council tax, income tax, utility bills and rent arrears.