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Debt relief order (DRO)

This is a way of cancelling, or 'writing off' your debts. You will not have to deal with the people you owe money to, also called 'creditors'. You will need to pay the Insolvency Service a £90 one-off fee. You may be able to get help with paying this.

Is a DRO right for me?

DROs are available in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

A debt relief order is a way of cancelling, or 'writing off' your debts. This happens if your finances do not get better after 12 months.  

During this time, you will not pay back what you owe. Interest and charges will stop being added to your debts. You will only need to pay a one-off fee to send your application. You do not have to deal with the people you owe money to.

Your approved intermediary will let you know everything you need to do. An approved intermediary is an organisation that deals with DRO applications.

You cannot get a debt relief order if you live in Scotland. The Minimal Assets Process (MAP) bankruptcy is similar. Find out how MAP bankruptcy works.

A DRO will appear on a public register and will affect your credit report negatively.

Benefits of a DRO

  • The people you owe money to will stop collections activity
  • Your debts will be cancelled, or 'written off' after 12 months
  • Interest and charges will also be cancelled. These can be put back on your debts if your DRO fails
  • Your approved intermediary will send your application for you. This means you do not have to go to court
  • You will be able to keep your household goods

Risks of a DRO

  • It is kept on a public register for 15 months 
  • It stays on your credit file for six years after it starts. This could make it harder to get credit in the future 
  • It could be cancelled if your finances get better during the 'moratorium period'. This is for 12 months after your DRO is approved. The people you owe may then ask you to pay them back and add interest and charges to what you owe
  • It could be cancelled if you break the rules of your DRO 

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Debt relief orders aren't available if you live in Scotland. In Scotland, a Minimal Assets Process (MAP) bankruptcy is a similar solution, but has different benefits, risks and fees associated with it.

Video: What is a debt relief order (DRO)?

A debt relief order, or DRO can be a low-cost alternative to bankruptcy. It’s a way to have your debts written off if you can’t realistically afford to pay them back.

DROs are only available in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, and you’ll need to apply for one through an approved organisation.

A DRO freezes your debt repayments for 12 months, this is called the moratorium period. If your financial situation hasn't changed by the end of this period, then your debts will automatically be written off.

As soon as your DRO is approved, the creditors included can't take any action to collect the debt from you and they should also stop asking you for payments.

If you live in England or Wales, you must not own any assets worth over £2000, such as a car or your home. Your total debts need to be less than £30,000, and you must have less than £75 left over each month after paying your essential living costs such as your household bills, food shopping and utility bills.

For people living in Northern Ireland the figures are different, with total assets being less than £1000, total debts of less than £20,000 and less than £50 left each month after essential living costs.

To qualify for a DRO you must live in England, Wales or Northern Ireland, or have run a business in one of these countries in the last three years.

You must be unable to pay off your debts, and you’ll need to meet certain criteria about how much you owe, what assets you own, and how much you can afford to repay.

The criteria for a DRO also changes depending on where you live in the UK. So to find out more, we’d recommended visiting our website.

So a DRO hopefully sounds like a good option. However, there are several risks you’ll need to consider first.

You’ll need to pay a one-off setup fee to the insolvency service of £90.

And if something changes during your 12-month moratorium period, such as a significant pay rise or an inheritance, your DRO could be revoked, meaning it will be cancelled.

Having a DRO will also affect your credit rating for six years from the date it’s approved which means that you're likely to find it harder to get credit during this time.

Some debts can't be included in a DRO. This includes court fines, student loans or child maintenance payments, and you must follow some restrictions for the 12-month period.

Additionally, your name will be added to a DRO register. This can be read online if someone looks for it, but it’s unlikely someone would stumble across it, and it shouldn’t appear in online search results for your name.

Although a DRO is a legally binding solution, you won't need to appear in court, but you must make sure all the information in your application is correct and not miss any information out.

And finally, it's really important to get expert debt advice to make sure that a DRO is suitable for you.

We offer free debt advice both online, and over the phone. We'll help you put together a realistic budget and a recommend the most suitable debt solution for you.

If an DRO is a solution that’s appropriate for your circumstances, we'll help you set it up and be here to support you every step of the way.

How to apply for a DRO

The first step is to see if a debt relief order is right for you. Use our free online debt advice tool at a time that suits you

We will let you know if you can apply for a DRO. If we recommend this we will share information about how to apply and how a DRO could affect you

You can only apply through an approved intermediary. Submit your application and pay your £90 fee to the Insolvency Service


How long does a debt relief order take to process?

When your application is complete and you have paid your fee, the intermediary will submit it to the Insolvency Service. They will make a decision on your application within 10 working days. Find out more about getting a debt relief order.

Which debts are covered in a debt relief order?

Most debts are written off by a DRO but there are some that cannot be. Like TV licence arrears and criminal fines. These will still need to be paid.

Find out more about what happens on a debt relief order.

Common DRO questions

You should always get free and impartial advice before going ahead with any debt solution. To find out which option is best for your circumstances, we will ask you a series of questions during a debt advice session, including:

  • How much money you owe and who do you owe money to
  • What types of debts you have
  • How much you can pay towards your debts
  • Whether your circumstances could improve in the future

Ready to find out if a debt relief order is right for you?

DROs are for people who have a small amount of debts and a low income. They can be a cheaper alternative to bankruptcy. To apply for a DRO, you must:

  • Live in England, Wales or Northern Ireland
  • Owe less than £30,0000 (£20,000 in Northern Ireland)
  • Have less than £2,000 in assets (£1,000 in Northern Ireland) and a car worth no more than £2,000 (£1,000 in Northern Ireland)
  • Have less than £75 in surplus income per month after paying your household bills and living costs (£50 in Northern Ireland)

Firstly, have a debt advice session online or over the phone. If we think a debt relief order is right for you, we will let you know. You will then get a step-by-step guide to applying.

Ready to get started?

Debt relief orders are not available if you live in Scotland. In Scotland, a minimal assets process (MAP) bankruptcy is a similar solution.

If you live in Scotland, read our debt advice in Scotland page for more information on the solutions available to you.

It stays on your credit file for six years after it starts. This could make it harder to get credit in the future. Your DRO will also be kept on a public register for 15 months. This is online for anyone to view. It may also affect your credit file. 

You will need to pay the Insolvency Service a £90 one-off fee before your application is sent off. You may be able to get help with paying this. 

If your DRO is cancelled or if your application is rejected, you will not get your £90 fee back. The people you owe money to may then ask you to pay them back. They could also add interest and charges to what you owe. This may also be dated back to the DRO approval date. 

Our DRO guides

 Our DRO guide section has practical advice about the whole process.

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