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Creditor forbearance: breathing space to deal with debt problems

Creditor forbearance is when you ask your creditors to give you breathing space, by stopping calling or writing to you, while you deal with your debts. This is an informal agreement, but many creditors will agree to stop contacting you for a short period if you’ve sought debt advice.

This can give you time to help you focus on what to do next while you deal with your debt problems, without the worry of receiving calls from creditors demanding payments.

Most creditors will agree to stop contacting you for a short period if you need time to get in touch with a debt advisor or work out how you’re going to deal with your debts.

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Asking creditors for breathing space to deal with your debts

Breathing space during the coronavirus pandemic

The guidance on this page is for lenders' approach to breathing space under normal circumstances. At present, lenders are likely to give you more time, or offer other options, such as payment reductions or payment holidays. It's worth asking your creditors if these options are available.

Read our debt and coronavirus guides to find out what help is available.

If you contact a creditor to explain that you’re in financial difficulties and you’re seeking help from a debt advice organisation, most companies will give you at least 30 days' breathing space.

During this time, they should not contact you, except for essential notifications about your account.

They should also do this if you can show that you’re making an effort to sort out your debts.

You could contact a creditor to ask for this if you’ve spoken to us or received online debt advice.

When you’ve had your debt advice session with us, you’ll get a client reference number that you can share with your creditors.

How do I ask my creditors for breathing space?

  1. Contact each of your creditors to let them know you’ve taken advice from a debt advice organisation. You can do this by letter or email, over the phone or in person
  2. Provide your creditors with some proof that you’re trying to sort out your debt problem. If you’ve contacted us by phone or used our online advice tool, you could give them the date you contacted us or the reference number we gave you. If you’re dealing with your debts on your own, explain what you’ve done so far and what you plan to do next
  3. If a creditor refuses to offer breathing space, and you feel this is unfair, you can make a complaint

Will my creditors stop contacting me if they’ve agreed to give me breathing space?

During breathing space, creditors should put a hold on letters and phone calls demanding payment. However, they may not be able to stop all contact. Some letters must be sent by law, so a creditor may be unable to stop these being sent.

The creditor may continue to add any interest or charges as normal during the breathing space.

How long does this type of breathing space usually last for?

Breathing space usually lasts for 30 days but can be extended if a creditor thinks you need more time to deal with your debts. The 30-day period is meant to give you time to work out:

  • how you’ll deal with your debts
  • how much you’ll be offering to pay to your debts each month
  • whether paying what you owe through a debt solution, such as a debt management plan, would be suited to your financial situation

Most creditors should also give you an extra 30 days if you let them know you need more time. Find out more about your rights when dealing with debt problems.

We’ll update this page when the new breathing space scheme (Debt Respite Scheme) comes into force on 4 May 2021.This new scheme will provide a new type of creditor forbearance. It will have different rights, responsibilities and protections to the informal breathing space arrangement that is currently available and described on this page.

Will creditor forbearance affect my credit file?

If you’re given a period of breathing space to help you deal with your debt, any payment you miss may be recorded on your credit file. This could affect your chances of obtaining credit in the future.

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Why do creditors provide breathing space?

Most creditors want to treat you fairly and help you deal with your debt problems. Giving you time to get independent debt advice is an important part of this, and will usually make the creditor’s job easier.

On top of this, a requirement to offer breathing space is included in the industry codes of practice that cover almost all of the major UK lenders and debt collectors. These include:

If your creditor is a member of any of these organisations, they should give you breathing space if you tell them you’ve contacted us or another debt advice agency.

Other codes of practice may also include similar provisions to offer breathing space.

Do all creditors offer breathing space?

Not all companies will offer breathing space to help you deal with your debts. Most large companies will be covered by the codes of practice above, but smaller lenders may not be.

The breathing space requirements apply mainly to consumer credit debt, such as bank accounts, credit and store cards, personal loans, catalogues and car finance, among others.

Breathing space isn’t available with some types of debt, for example priority debts such as fines, court judgments or decrees, rent arrears, council tax arrears or child maintenance (CSA) arrears.

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