What Is A Debt Relief Order?

What is a debt relief order?

This page was last updated on 1 April 2021

What Is A Debt Relief Order In 2021?

 This article has been written to provide a clear explanation about what a Debt relief order (DRO) is and whether it would be a suitable debt solution for you. It covers all of the main details that you would need to know, including:
  • What a DRO is
  • All of a DRO’s restrictions
  • The advantages and disadvantages of this debt strategy
  • What a DRRO is
  • Where you can get further advice for fre

Topics that you will find covered on this page

You can listen to an audio recording of this page below.

What is the definition of a Debt relief order DRO?

Debt relief orders (often abbreviated to DRO) are a method of debt reduction if your debts are more than you can manage and you cannot afford to pay them.

A DRO is not an appropriate way to sort out your finances if you have already had a DRO in the last six years.

How long does a debt relief order last for?

The way this debt solution works is that you do not have to pay certain debts for a specified period, usually 12 months. It covers credit card debt, overdrafts and telephone bills.

After 12 months, or when the DRO comes to an end, the debts included in the DRO will be written off or discharged and you will not have to pay off those debts.

Here is a short video that explains more about them.

How does a debt relief order work?

The application

One of your first questions is likely about how best to apply for a DRO and who can help you with your application.

You might think that to apply for a debt relief order means having to approach an insolvency service to find an approved intermediary. But, actually, one of the surprisingly useful  government services is a list of approved intermediaries for a DRO on the government website.

This authorised debt adviser, who is an officer of a bankruptcy court, will be able to make the debt relief orders application on your behalf.


You may have to tell your bank or building society about your debt order (DRO). Not all business avenues remain open to you if you are engaged in a DRO: you cannot be the director of a company or create a new one.

Which debts cannot be included?

Even if you get a DRO you must still pay off debt incurred from student loans, child maintenance and secured debts. Debt relief orders DROs 

Can you write off debts after 6 years? 

In England Wales, six years is not the length of time after which your debts are written off, rather your DRO is removed from your credit file at the end of six years.

Typically, debts included in the DRO are written off after twelve months.

What are the DRO debt relief order criteria?

Before you apply for a debt relief order (DRO), you need to make sure that you are eligible according to the criteria for England or Wales. You should be sure to check the following debt recovery order criteria in advance of your application:

  • Firstly, you need to owe less than 20 000 pounds (less than 20 000 or a maximum of £20,000).
  • You need to have lived in England or Wales (or worked in England Wales) in the last 3 years.
  • After using your income to cover tax, national insurance, and all normal household expenses, you should have less than £50 of disposable income to spend on a monthly basis.
  • The value of your assets should amount to no more than £1000 in total.
  • You should not have had a debt release order (DRO) in the last 6 years.

Unfortunately you will not be eligible to apply for debt relief order if you are engaged in a bankruptcy or any other formal insolvency process. Nonetheless, if any of your creditors have asked a court to make you bankrupt, you may ask those creditors for permission to apply for a DRO as an alternative. 

debt recovery order

Is a debt relief order a good idea?

On one hand, debt relief orders DROs are a good idea if you are in the midst of a debt problem as they are a cheap solution, costing only £90, whereas other debt solutions are considerably more expensive. So a DRO is a more affordable way of handling debt and it will work well if you don’t have too much debt to pay off (less than £20,000).

Another benefit of a DRO is the freezing of all interest and charges on your owed debt, so you will not need to pay off more than what you already owe. You will also have more peace of mind as your creditors cannot take legal action against you like a bankruptcy order.

A DRO is also quick and easy as your debts will be written off after one year.

But the main downside of a DRO is that you cannot get one if you have high-value assets e.g. if you are a homeowner, you will not be eligible for this debt solution. Furthermore, your credit rating will be affected for six years so there are lasting consequences to a DRO.

What is a debt relief restrictions order?

A debt relief restrictions undertaking or a DRRO is a court order that may be made against an individual who has applied for a DRO in a dishonest way. It is similar to a bankruptcy restrictions order.

An official receiver would ask the court to carry out this order if they received evidence of any foul play. 

If the court decides to make a DRRO, the restrictions that you have to follow while the DRO is in force are extended for as long as a 15 year period.

debt relief orders

Why might someone be given a DRRO?

There are several common reasons why an official receiver might request a DRRO. These include:

  • If an individual acquired debts at a time where they had no means of repaying them
  • If an individual gave away valuable assets or belongings or sold them at less than their true value
  • If an individual paid off the debts to some creditors while neglecting others
  • If someone committed fraud
  • If someone fails to cooperate with the official receiver
  • If someone doesn’t declare all of their assets in the process of making the DRO application even if they were gained during the DRO period. A common example of this is a payment protection insurance payout (commonly known as a PPI payout).
  • If someone carried on with a business in the knowledge that they could not pay off their debts.

Where can I go to get some advice about DROs?

Before deciding on whether a DRO, an insolvency procedure which can change your life significantly, is the right choice for you, it is important to seek some debt advice.

One source of advice is a credit reporting company called Experian who are widely considered to be  industry experts when it comes to bankruptcy and insolvency and debt advice. The insolvency service can offer advice and support to those who are struggling financially or are considering a Debt relief order DRO.

You can also find a debt adviser at an organisation like Citizen’s Advice. This advice service works in your interests and its services (e.g. a meeting with a debt adviser) are free. They may also have more experience breaking ideas down for the people that approach them.

How approachable will a debt adviser be regarding DROs?

One of the benefits of approaching such an adviser is that they will be able to offer you non-judgemental advice. Their goal is to help you with their advice and to not make you feel guilty or upset about your situation.

Another advantage of their advice is that it does not matter how big or small your problem is. You are welcome (and it is even encouraged) to approach an adviser well before debt relief orders present themselves as an option.

One helpful outcome of seeking advice is that an expert’s advice might include things you are not able to come up with alone. Their advice might include ways to deal with debts that you have never heard of. 

The expert’s advice may even include a debt solution to manage your debts even if you think you do not have any spare money.


How easy is it to access free advice about DROs?

Before you apply for a DRO, you should make sure that it is the best option for you by consulting a professional debt adviser. There are a few different options for accessing this kind of advice and support.

One option for free advice and support is using online advice services like a website work. Examples of this option include the Debt Advice Foundation and the National Debtline, which has a digital advice tool.

If you feel more comfortable on the phone, there are also telephone advice services available to you.  Examples of this option include the Debt Advice Foundation and StepChange debt charity.

Finally, there are also face-to-face and local advice services available. The Money Advice Service has an online advice locator which will help you find one.

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