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i The advice on this page applies to residents of Scotland only.

Decree. What is it and what are my rights?

If you have arrears and you can’t come to an arrangement to pay them back, your creditor could apply for a decree in the Sheriff Court.

Decrees are a court process only used to collect debts in Scotland. The equivalent court action in England, Wales and Northern Ireland works differently.

If your debt is regulated by the Consumer Credit Act, your debt must have defaulted before your creditor can begin court action.

If you get a decree, details of it will appear on a public register for six years.

Paying a decree off in instalments

If you can’t afford to pay off the whole decree debt you can ask to pay it in affordable instalments.

To do this you need to complete and return the form called ‘Application in writing for a time to pay direction’, included with the decree paperwork. You’ll be given a deadline to do this, usually 21 days.

If you don’t return this form your payments might be set at an amount you can’t afford.

This form asks the creditor to agree a payment amount you can afford. If the creditor doesn’t agree it the court will ask you to attend a hearing to set a payment.

You can’t ask for instalments to be set on large decree debts over £25,000, or on some debts such as income tax, VAT or child maintenance arrears.

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Types of decree

There are two types of decree. If you asked to pay in instalments and this was agreed, you’ll get a time to pay direction. As long as you keep making the payments your creditor can’t use any further enforcement or diligence measures.

If you didn’t apply for a time to pay direction, or you returned your forms too late, you’ll get an open decree asking for the full amount to be paid. Your creditors can begin diligence straight away.

Free help and support

If you’ve received any court paperwork call our Helpline for advice. We can help you deal with the court forms and your debt.