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DROs are available in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

A debt relief order (DRO) is a way to have your debts written off if you have a relatively low level of debt and have few assets. If you qualify, our specialist DRO team can apply to the Insolvency Service for you. Debt relief orders are not available if you live in Scotland.

A DRO freezes your debt repayments and interest for 12 months. If your financial situation hasn’t changed at the end of this period then all of the debts included will be written off. As we're an approved organisation, we can help you apply for a DRO if you're eligible. Find out more about how to get debt help.

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

Benefits of a DRO

  • A debt relief order can be a low-cost alternative to bankruptcy
  • You don’t pay anything towards your debts for 12 months. After that they'll be written off
  • Your creditors can't pursue you for your debts during the 12 month period
  • Although a DRO is a formal debt solution, you don't need to appear in court

Risks of a DRO

  • A DRO is only available if you owe less than £30,000 (£20,000 in Northern Ireland) and live in England, Wales or Northern Ireland
  • You'll need to pay the Insolvency Service a one-off, non-refundable fee of £90. If you qualify, our specialist team can help you apply
  • You can't apply if you're a homeowner
  • A DRO will appear on a public register and will affect your credit report negatively
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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 such as here, at StepChange.

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

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The first step is to see if you qualify for a DRO, and if it’s your best option. Use our free online advice tool or call us and speak to one of our expert advisors.

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If a DRO is the best solution to your debt problem, we'll send you the necessary forms and help you apply. You'll need to complete these forms and return them to our specialist DRO team.

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Our DRO team will then prepare your application. Before they submit this there's a £90 fee that must be paid to the Insolvency Service in full or, if you live in England or Wales you can pay in instalments.

Once the fee has been paid, we can submit your application.


How long does a debt relief order take to process?

Once you’ve provided all of the relevant information to the DRO approved intermediary, and paid your £90 fee, your intermediary will submit your DRO application to the Insolvency Service. They’ll 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 included in a DRO. This includes household utility bills, council tax and consumer debt like credit and store cards. Some debts are called ‘excluded debts’. This means they’re not included in your DRO. The most common excluded debts are:

  • Criminal fines
  • Child maintenance
  • TV licence arrears
  • Loans from the DWP Social Fund, such as budgeting loans
  • Debts that have been taken out fraudulently, including benefit overpayments that have occurred as a result of fraud

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 a debt solution. To find out which option is best for your circumstances, we’ll 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 specifically designed for people who have a smaller amount of debts and a lower income, and 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 suitable for you, we’ll recommend it at the end of your advice session. You’ll then get a personal action plan with a step-by-step guide to apply for one.

Ready to get started?

Debt relief orders aren't 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.

A debt relief order will stay on your credit file for six years from the date it's approved. This may make it difficult to take out credit during this time. 

A DRO freezes your debt repayments and interest for 12 months. If your financial situation hasn’t changed at the end of this period then all of the debts included will be written off.

A DRO costs £90, which is the amount charged by the Insolvency Service to process an application. You can't get any discounts or exemptions like you can with bankruptcy fees, so the full £90 needs to be paid before your application can be submitted. The fee can be paid in one lump sum or, if you live in England or Wales, in instalments over a six month period. Once your fee has been paid and your application is submitted, you can't get your money back, even if the DRO is rejected or revoked.

Our DRO guides

It's important you're fully informed about how debt relief orders work and how they can affect you before you go ahead with this solution. Our DRO guide section has practical advice about the whole process; from applying through to what happens after your DRO ends.