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Debt Relief Orders (DROs): A brief guide - accurate September 2015

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What is a Debt Relief Order?

A Debt Relief Order (DRO) is a formal solution to help you deal with debts that you cannot afford to pay. A DRO may be able to help you if you do not own your home, have few assets and little available income to pay your creditors. It is a cheaper option than bankruptcy. If your DRO application is successful, most creditors cannot take action to recover your debts for 12 months. The debts are then written off after the 12 months are up.


How do I apply for a Debt Relief Order?

You can only apply for a DRO through a special adviser called an ‘approved intermediary’. It is not possible to apply directly to the Insolvency Service yourself. You must get advice from an approved intermediary first, and if they agree that a DRO is right for you, they will give you advice and make the application on your behalf. With any debt option it would be important to seek impartial advice from a recognised charity. This will ensure you choose the most appropriate route forward. The fee for a DRO is £90.


Do I qualify for a Debt Relief Order?

There are strict rules that you have to meet to qualify for a DRO. You must:

• be unable to pay your debts;

• have total debts under £20,000 at the date the application is approved by the official receiver;

• have assets below £1000;

• not have a car or motor bike worth more than £1,000;

• have less than £50 a month spare income after normal household expenses are taken into account;

• live in England or Wales (or have lived or run a business in England or Wales in the last three years); and

• not have had a DRO in the last six years.

• you cannot already be bankrupt or have an individual voluntary arrangement (IVA).


What debts can be included in a Debt Relief Order?

You should include priority debts. Examples include:

• rent arrears;

• gas and electricity debts with your current supplier;

• arrears on your phone bill if you need to keep it as an essential service;

• council tax, business rates and community charge arrears; and

• income tax, VAT and National Insurance arrears.


You must make sure you include all your credit debts in the application. If you leave a debt out, it cannot be included later. Examples of debts you should include are:

• water arrears;

• credit cards and store cards;

• bank overdrafts and bank loans;

• loans to finance companies;

• catalogues;

• home-collected credit;

• benefit overpayments;

• family or personal debts;

• hire purchase and conditional sale agreements if you are in arrears (if you are not in arrears you may be able to exclude this type of debt in certain circumstances);

• hire agreements;

• parking penalty charges; and

mortgage shortfalls (money you owe if your house was sold for less than the outstanding mortgage).


You may also owe debts from your small business such as:

• money you owe to employees;

• debts to customers who have paid for goods or services that you were unable to supply; and

• debts to suppliers.


Are there any debts which are excluded from a Debt Relief Order?

Some debts do not count towards the £20,000 limit, although you still have to list them in the DRO application. This means you are still liable to pay these debts in full. You cannot include:

• magistrates' court fines;

• maintenance and Child Support Agency (CSA) payments and arrears;

• student loans;

• budgeting loans and crisis loans.

• money owed under a ‘criminal confiscation order’; and

• debts resulting from certain personal injury claims against you.

You will need to make sure you pay ongoing payments on these debts and include them in your outgoings.


What are my assets?

You can have assets worth up to £1000 and still qualify for a DRO. Lots of basic household items such as cutlery, crockery, cookers, televisions, beds or furniture do not count as assets. The value of your assets is worked out using the resale value, not how much the item was worth when you bought it, unless it is brand new. Assets may include antiques, luxury items or valuable collections, stocks, shares, premium bonds and savings


What are the effects of having a Debt Relief Order?

• You must not take out credit of £500 or more without telling the lender that you have a DRO.

• You cannot run a business in a different name without telling everyone you do business with the name you used for your DRO.

• You cannot be involved with the promotion, management or formation of a limited company, or become a company director without getting permission from the court.

• You may not hold certain public offices.

• You cannot apply for a DRO again for six years.

• Your bank account may be frozen

• The DRO will be recorded on your credit reference file.

• The DRO will be recorded on a public register called the ‘Individual Insolvency Register’.

• Your job could be affected. This is only likely to be the case where your contract of employment states that you are not allowed to have a DRO.

• If you rent your home, your tenancy could be affected. Check your tenancy agreement to see if it states that you are not allowed to have a DRO.


This information only provides a brief overview, you can read more via https://www.gov.uk/options-for-paying-off-your-debts/debt-relief-orders


It should not be considered as full Debt Relief Order advice. If you believe that a Debt Relief Order is likely to be the best option to help you with your debts it would be vital to seek impartial advice from one of the debt advice charities such as the Citizens Advice Bureau, Stepchange, Christians Against Poverty or ourselves.

For Free, Confidential and Independent advice: 0808 808 4000

Monday - Friday 9am to 9pm // Saturday 9.30am to 1pm // 24-hour voicemail. Please leave a message to request an information pack. http://www.nationaldebtline.org // http://www.mymoneysteps.org

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