What is a Debt Relief Order?
A debt relief order – sometimes called a ‘DRO’ – is a form of insolvency; the legal term used to explain someone’s financial situation when they simply cannot pay back what they owe.
A debt relief order is designed for people who may need to write off any debt that they will be unable to pay back in a reasonable amount of time.
A debt relief order pauses the repayments on your qualifying debt, meaning you do not have to make any payments for up to 12 months.
If you still cannot pay when these 12 months come to an end, your debts will be totally written off – meaning you’ll never make a payment on them again.
Debt relief orders are only available in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. People in Scotland may be able to apply for a similar solution, called a minimal asset process (MAP).
A MAP isn’t exactly the same as a debt relief order, so it’s important that you seek advice on what’s involved if you feel like it may be right for you.
To apply and be considered for a DRO, your financial situation must meet a strict set of conditions.
Am I eligible for a debt relief order?
A debt relief order can be a positive way to handle your problem debt – but it can be difficult apply for a DRO, as you must meet a strict set of conditions:
- You 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
If you meet some, but not all, of these criteria, you may still be eligible for an insolvency solution that could write off a large amount of your debt – but to apply for a debt relief order, each of these conditions must be met.
While your DRO is in place, this eligibility must continue. If your circumstances improve, the debt relief order can be revoked – meaning your debts are reinstated (with any interest added) and become your responsibility again.
It is absolutely crucial 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, 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 who 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.
Which debts can be included in a debt relief order?
Only certain types of debt can be included in a debt relief order – these are referred to as ‘unsecured’ debts and include:
- Personal loans
- Credit cards
- Rent arrears
- Overdue utility bills
- Tax and national insurance underpayments
- Benefits overpayments
- Telephone and broadband bills
- Council tax
If you have unsecured debt that’s not on this list and would like to know if it can be included in a debt relief order, you can speak to one of our friendly advisors who will be able to tell you more about the kind of debt that can and can’t be included.
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, then the debt that’s listen 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, it’s like to be a significantly less negative than on-going 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, as such, 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 6 years after the date of commencement.
This can affect your ability to obtain credit and may prevent you from obtaining 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 10 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 will need to discuss your situation with you – before requesting certain pieces of information.
Including the names of the companies you owe money to, details of those debts, information about your income, benefits, cost of living – etc.
To make sure the debt relief order progresses as quickly as possible, it’s important you don’t delay on 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 like us – who’s approved by the Insolvency Services.
Our team of experienced advisors know what the Insolvency Services look for from 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-term – and in the long term.
Can you get a mortgage and other credit with a debt relief order?
Having a debt relief order puts a number of 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 will not be able to obtain 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 credit worthiness criteria – and if you did, owning a home would mean you are no longer eligible for a DRO.
If you’re hoping to obtain credit, you will 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 are in a DRO.
What’s the next step?
If you’re considering a debt relief order as an option, your next step should be to have a chat with one of our helpful team.
They’ll be able to give you advice that relates to your exact circumstances – and help you find the best way to get back on your feet with all your money issues.