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A Debt Relief Order is formal debt forgiveness or write-off if an indivdual satisfies certain criteria.

Overview Of Debt Relief Orders

A Debt Relief Order (“DRO”) is a way of addressing and getting relief from your debts if you cannot afford to pay them. It means you don’t have to pay certain kinds of debt for a specified period (usually 12 months).

At the end of the DRO period, the debts included in it will be written off and you won’t have to pay them.

If you obtained any of your debts through fraud, you will have to restart paying them when the DRO has ended.

If your circumstances change so that you are able to pay some or all of your debts, your DRO may be revoked so you can arrange to pay your creditors (the people or companies you owe money to).

Applying For A Debt Relief Order

You can only apply for a DRO through an ‘approved intermediary’. This is an authorised debt adviser, who will make the application on your behalf. Find a Debt Adviser.

The application is sent to an Official Receiver. This is an officer of the bankruptcy court and someone who works of the government agency called the Insolvency Service, who will decide if a DRO should be granted.

Get help and information

Read the following:

You can also contact the National Debtline for advice on dealing with debts.


To be eligible for a Debt Relief Order, you must meet these criteria:

  • you owe £30,000 or less
  • you have less than £75 to spend each month, after paying tax, national insurance and normal household expenses
  • you’ve lived or worked in England or Wales in the last 3 years
  • your assets aren’t worth more than £2,000 in total
  • you’ve not had a DRO in the last 6 years

You won’t be eligible if you are involved in bankruptcy proceedings or any other formal insolvency procedure. However, if one of your creditors has asked a court to make you bankrupt, you may ask the creditor for permission to apply for a DRO instead.

Applying for Debt Relief Order

You can’t apply for a DRO yourself; you have to ask an authorised debt adviser to do it for you. Find a Debt Adviser.

Your debt adviser will help you complete the application and explain what information you must include. They will then send it to the Official Receiver.

You will have to tell the Official Receiver if, in the last 2 years, you have:

  • paid some creditors but not others
  • given away any of your assets or sold them for less than they were worth

This might lead to your application being refused.


The Official Receiver’s fee is £90. This must be paid at the time of the application and won’t be refunded once a decision has been made, even if you aren’t granted a DRO.

The fee must be paid in cash. Some people are able to get a charity to pay their fee – your debt adviser can tell you more about this.

What Happens Next?

Your debt adviser will send your application to the Official Receiver. This is the person who will decide whether to grant a DRO for you.

The Official Receiver must look into your financial affairs:

  • before granting a DRO
  • if your circumstances change during your DRO

You must give them any further information they ask for about your finances.

If your Debt Relief Order is granted

The DRO will usually last for 12 months. The Official Receiver will:

  • tell you the DRO has been made and explain the restrictions and duties that it imposes on you.
  • tell all the creditors listed in the DRO that it has been made, and that they can’t ask you to repay your debt to them

You must not make payments to any of the creditors listed in your DRO. If a creditor asks for payment, you must tell them about the DRO. They cannot chase you for the debts under a DRO during the moratorium period, but they are able to send you statements or a default notice.

During your DRO period you must tell the Official Receiver about any money or assets you receive, or any increase in your regular income. If you are able to start paying off your debts the DRO may be revoked.

Your DRO is added to the Individual Insolvency Register – it’s removed 3 months after the DRO ends.

Debts You Will Still Need To Pay Despite Debt Relief Order

Some types of debt won’t be covered by a DRO and you will still have to pay them.

These are:

  • child maintenance, or anything you owe under family proceedings
  • student loans
  • budgeting and crisis loans from the Social Fund
  • debts secured against an asset you own
  • fines for drug offences
  • damages or fines a court has ordered you to pay
  • unpaid TV licence fees
  • any debts you incur after the DRO is granted

If you run up new debts after the DRO is granted, you could face:

  • a bankruptcy order
  • prosecution, if you incurred a debt without telling the creditor about your DRO

You must also continue to pay any regular commitments like rent and bills.

Restrictions Imposed Upon You By The Debt Relief Order

While your DRO is in place you will have to follow some ‘restrictions’. This means you can’t:

  • borrow more than £500 without telling the lender about your DRO – whether you’re borrowing on your own or with someone else
  • act as a director of a company
  • create, manage or promote a company without the court’s permission
  • manage a business with a different name without telling anyone you do business with about your DRO
  • apply for an overdraft without telling your bank or building society about your DRO
  • write cheques that are likely to bounce

It’s a criminal offence to break the restrictions – you may be prosecuted if you do so.

If you apply for a new account with a bank or building society, they may require you to tell them about the DRO. They then have the right to refuse your application or impose conditions and restrictions on the account.

You may not apply for another DRO for 6 years from the date your DRO was approved.

When the restrictions can be extended

If the Official Receiver finds that you have been dishonest about something related to your DRO; or you are to blame for your financial position, the restrictions listed above may be extended for 2 to 15 years. This extension is called a Debt Relief Restrictions Order. The receiver must apply to the court for one to be granted.

You can volunteer to continue with the restrictions without going to court. This is called a Debt Relief Restrictions Undertaking.

When the Debt Relief Order has finished

At the end of your DRO, the scheduled qualifying debts listed in it will be discharged and you won’t have to pay them.

If you obtained any of your debts through fraud, you will have to restart paying them when the DRO has ended.

You can check the date your DRO ended online using the Individual Insolvency Register.

When your DRO (moratorium period) has finished, keep your order paperwork.

You might need to show evidence of your DRO order, especially if you are trying to get credit or update your credit record. Anyone can ask you for evidence of your DRO.

Your credit record

Your DRO will usually stay on your credit reference file for 6 years from the date it was granted.

You may need to send the credit reference agencies a copy of an official document stating that your DRO has ended, if they don’t update your file automatically after 6 years.

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This page: Debt Relief Order is not legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. This article Debt Relief Order is provided for information purposes only. You can Contact Us on the specific facts of your case to obtain relevant advice via a Free Initial Consultation.

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