Debt Relief Order (DRO)


If you’re having money trouble but you’re debt level is relatively low, you may be able to apply for a DRO, or Debt Relief Order, which can help you write off your debts.

In this guide, we’ll explore the Debt Relief Order in more detail, covering what it is, who is suitable for a Debt Relief Order, and how DROs can be a useful tool for people who are struggling to repay the money they owe.

Who qualifies for a DRO?

To qualify for a Debt Relief Order, you need to have debts of less than £30,000, and less than £75 left in disposable income each month.

What is a Debt Relief Order?

A Debt Relief Order is a debt solution that helps people deal with their debts if they don’t have enough money to repay them, and they also don’t own their own home or any other assets valuable to sell in order to raise funds.

As a formal insolvency procedure, a DRO enables the individual to stop making payments towards their debts and also offers creditor protection, meaning the people you owe money to can’t enforce payment once the DRO has been put in place.

How does a Debt Relief Order work?

Debt Relief Orders work by giving people in debt more time to try to repay what they owe, without living in fear of creditor pressure.

If you obtain a DRO, your debt will be frozen for one year, during which time you won’t have to make any further payments. This removes the immediate threat of legal action, and gives you a chance to improve your financial circumstances.

If that one-year period passes and your circumstances haven’t improved to the point where you could make a meaningful contribution towards your debts, your debts will be written off entirely.

If you obtain a DRO, your debt will be frozen for one year, during which time you won’t have to make any further payments.

What debts can be included in a DRO?

There are certain debts that will make you a good candidate for a DRO, called ‘qualifying debts’. Examples of qualifying debts include:

  • Overdrafts
  • Loans arrears
  • Credit card debt
  • Benefit overpayments
  • Council tax arrears
  • National insurance arrears, income tax arrears, or money owed to HMRC

There are certain debts you can’t use a DRO to pay off, like student loans, magistrates’ court fines, and child maintenance arrears. A professional debt adviser may be able to help you with excluded debts.

Would I be suitable for a Debt Relief Order (DRO)?

You might be a good candidate for a Debt Relief Order if:

  • You have qualifying debts totalling less than £30,000
  • You have less than £75 of spare income each month (after taking care of household bills)
  • You don’t own valuable assets or hold more than £2,000 in savings
  • You’ve lived and worked in England and Wales within the last 3 years

In most cases, you won’t be able to apply for a DRO if you are currently, or have in the past, entered into another formal insolvency procedure, whether that’s bankruptcy, an Individual Insolvency Arrangement (IVA), or a previous DRO (within the last six years).

How we helped Paige

It was literally the best decision of my life, and it has actually changed my life, cheesy as that sounds, it has changed my life.

Paige , IVA Customer

How to apply for a DRO

There is a formal Debt Relief Order application process that you’ll need to adhere to in order to give yourself the best chance of success.

Speak to an authorised debt adviser

A DRO can only be applied for through an approved individual known as an intermediary. You can find one via free advice organisations, like the Money Advice Service, Government bodies, or private debt management companies.

Work with your DRO adviser to fill out your application

You’re adviser will firstly decide whether you’re a suitable candidate for a DRO. If you are, they will help you fill out your application, which will include details of your income and expenses, your total debt and total assets, as well as your savings.

Once you have filled out the application form, they will send it on to the Insolvency Service. There is a £90 application fee that has to be paid in cash, either at a Post Office or Payzone outlet. This money won’t be returned, even if your DRO application is subsequently rejected.

Wait for the decision of the official receiver

Once your application is sent away, the official receiver will make a decision on whether or not to approve you. At this stage, they will either:

  • Approve your DRO
  • Defer the decision and request further information from you
  • Refuse the order if they decide you’re not eligible

It’s important that you cooperate fully with the official receiver. If they feel you have been dishonest about details of your debts, or whose to blame for them, they can ask the court to make debt relief restrictions undertaking against you, which will mean you’ll be placed under financial restrictions.

Have your debts frozen for one year

If you’re DRO is approved, you won’t have to make any payments towards the debts included in the arrangement for a period of one year. You will be expected to keep up payments for normal household expenses, however.

What happens if my circumstances change during a DRO?

A Debt Relief Order will be in place for 12 months, during which time your debts will be frozen and creditors will be unable to pursue you for payment. If your circumstances change during this time, it can affect your DRO.

If you come into a lump sum of money, for example via an inheritance or lottery win, you may be expected to pay some or all of it towards your debts.

Similarly, a wage increase, starting a better paid job, or receiving extra benefits may mean you no longer meet the criteria for a DRO. If your circumstances change, make sure you reach out to the Insolvency Service. They’ll review your situation and advise you on next steps.

What happens at the end of a Debt Relief Order?

Provided your circumstances haven’t changed during that time, your DRO will end after 12 months. All the debts included in the arrangement will be written off.

That means you will no longer have any legal obligation to repay the debts you previously carried. In certain cases, creditors may continue chasing you for payments even after your DRO has ended. That’s why it’s useful to share proof of your DRO with creditors once the arrangement comes to an end.

After six years your details of your DRO will be wiped from your credit report

Will my assets exclude me from a DRO?

If you own your own home, the chances are you won’t qualify for a DRO. To be eligible, you can’t hold assets valued at over £2,000.

The same is true of other assets you own outright, whether that’s artwork, jewellery, or your car. If you’re paying for your car via hire purchase or conditional sale agreements, on the other hand, it won’t be included as an asset. This is because it’s not technically yours until you’ve made all your payments.

Do Debt Relief Orders impact your credit rating?

Your credit record, or credit reference file, looks back over the previous six years of your credit history. Because DROs are a matter of public record, credit reference agencies will include that information on your credit report, so your DRO will be listed for a period of six years.

This is likely to lower your credit score, and for that six-year period you may find it more difficult to do certain things, from opening a new bank account with a high street bank, to being accepted for a loan.

After six years, however, your details of your DRO will be wiped from your credit report. This allows you to begin the process of rebuilding your credit score over time.

Advantages & disadvantages of a Debt Relief Order


Legally binding agreement

Protects you from legal action

Gives you time to deal with debts

Usually over with in 12 months

Unaffordable debts are cleared


Entered into public register

Unsuitable for homeowners

DRO restrictions can last over 2 years

Restricts your borrowing to £500

Will impact credit rating

Where can I get debt advice and more information on DROs?

It’s never nice knowing that you owe money to creditors. The situation becomes even more unpleasant when they put pressure on you to repay, especially if you don’t have the money.

That’s why so many of our clients turn to us for debt advice. At Your Debt Expert, our team of advisers specialise in helping people like you find solutions that protect them from creditors, deal with their debt, and allow them to rebuild their credit file with confidence.

For confidential debt advice and a roadmap out of debt, talk to one of our friendly advisers today on 0800 082 8086.

Where can I get more advice on Debt Relief Order (DRO) and other debt solutions?

To discuss your options and get the support you need to deal with your debt today, contact us now on 0800 082 8086 or click the button below to get started.