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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'. If you live in England or Wales, there is no fee to apply for a DRO.

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 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.

Changes to debt relief orders


This is another form of insolvency. From 28 June, in England and Wales, people may be able to apply for a DRO:

  •  With a debt amount of £50,000 or under. The current limit is £30,000
  • If they own a vehicle worth £4,000 or under. The current limit is £2,000

What this means for you if you have had advice and been recommended bankruptcy

The advice we gave you is still right for your situation. However, a DRO may also be available to you after 28 June.

If you want to see if a DRO will be a better option for you than bankruptcy after the changes, please: 

  • Log on to your account after 28 June and complete another debt advice session. Remember to wait until 28 June if you decide to do this. This also gives you the chance to check your information and update your online account if anything has changed since you first got debt advice
  • Stop your bankruptcy application and any payments to the fee until you have decided which solution is right for you
  • Find a way to deal with your creditors in the meantime, such as Breathing Space or forbearance. There is more information about these options in your personal action plan

Bankruptcy may still be the option you decide to go ahead with, and your advice may not change. We cannot guarantee a DRO will be available to you after the changes take place.

For more information about DROs, please visit read our guide.

What if I have started my bankruptcy application?

If you don’t want to see if a DRO is now right for you, you don’t need to do anything. You can ignore this email and carry on with your bankruptcy application.

If you have started your application and not paid your full fee, you can still wait until 28 June and check if bankruptcy is still right for you.

Just log into your online account and complete another advice session. If, after 28 June, a DRO is now the option you want to go ahead with, you can cancel your bankruptcy application. Any money you have paid to the fee will be refunded to you.

If you have any questions, please get in touch.

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
  • If you live in England or Wales, there is no fee to apply for a DRO

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.

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 to the Insolvency Service for free (England and Wales only), or a £90 fee (Northern Ireland)


How long does a debt relief order take to process?

When your application is complete, the intermediary will submit it to the Insolvency Service. If you live in Northern Ireland, you will need to pay your fee first. 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. 

England and Wales

There is no fee. You can submit your DRO application to the Insolvency Service for free.

Northern Ireland

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.

The Gov.UK website says you can request a refund if you paid the fee before April 6th 2024. Speak to your intermediary about the fee if you have already paid and not had your application rejected. They will let you know if you can apply for a refund.

If you own your home, you cannot get a DRO. Even if the property is in negative equity.

If your IVA is terminated, you can start looking into different solutions like a DRO. If you are on an active IVA and want to change to a DRO, speak with your Insolvency Practitioner. They will talk you through your IVA if it is not working for you.

Our DRO guides

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

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