Applying for a Debt Relief Order

Young male stood with his hand behind his back looking towards the camera and smiling.

What is a Debt Relief Order (DRO)?

A Debt Relief Order (or DRO for short) is a debt solution that’s ideal for people who have a relatively low level of debt, who are on a low income and who have few or no assets. It’s a legal process designed to clear most debts included in it. You don’t have to go to court to apply. If you live in England or Wales, the application is free. In Northern Ireland there is a one off fee of £90 per person to the Insolvency Service.

Please note the following information applies only to people living in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. If you are from Scotland, find out more about a Minimal Assets Process.

How do I get a Debt Relief Order?

It’s really important to get some impartial advice first, to decide whether a Debt Relief Order is right for you. 

Once you’ve decided a DRO is right for you, you must apply through an approved intermediary (an approved organisation such as CAP). You will then submit an application online.

Who can apply for a Debt Relief Order?

To apply for a DRO in England and Wales:

  • You must have no more than £30,000 of qualifying debt. This is increasing to £50,000 from 28 June 2024.

  • You must have no more than £75 of disposable income per month (this means the money left over after you’ve paid all your living costs each month, such as food, rent and bills).

  • Your car or other motor vehicle, if you have one, must be worth no more than £2,000. This is increasing to £4,000 from 28 June 2024.

  • Any other assets, if you have them, must be worth no more than £2,000.

  • You must not have had another debt relief order within the last six years.

To apply for a DRO in Northern Ireland:

  • You must have no more than £20,000 of qualifying debt.
  • You must have no more than £50 of disposable income per month (this means the money left over after you’ve paid all your living costs each month, such as food, rent and bills).

  • Your car or other motor vehicle, if you have one, must be worth no more than £2,000.

  • Any other assets, if you have them, must be worth no more than £1,000.

  • You must not have had another DRO within the last six years.

Your application may not be accepted if you have paid more to one of your creditors (including friends or family members) than the others, or transferred any assets into someone else’s name.

Some debts, such as TV licence arrears or criminal fines, are not covered by a Debt Relief Order. You will still need to pay these debts.

If you decide to work with us, we’ll let you know whether a DRO would suit you as part of your CAP Plan. CAP will also arrange to see a copy of your credit report before we apply for your DRO.

How long does a Debt Relief Order take to process?

Once your application is complete and submitted to the Insolvency Service, they should make a decision within 10 working days. In Northern Ireland, it could take a few weeks.

How do I apply for a DRO with CAP?

Let’s take a look at the DRO process – you might be surprised at how simple it is.

You’ll receive a letter from CAP explaining your insolvency advice along with a copy of the Full client agreement, which you need to sign and return. If your case has just been set up, your Debt Coach may have already discussed this with you.

It costs £90 per person to apply for a DRO in Northern Ireland. This is a fee you’ll have to pay to the Insolvency Service. In England and Wales, the DRO application is free.

This is not a fee payable to CAP for our service which is, and will always be, free of charge.

To apply for a DRO for you, we’ll need to see your credit report to check that none of your debts are missed off your application. If you’re a new client, we’ll ask you to sign a Credit report consent form which will allow us to access your credit report.

Next, we’ll carry out a pre-application check. CAP’s experienced Debt Advisors will make sure we’ve got everything in place to go through the DRO on your behalf.

When your application is ready, we’ll send the documents to you in the post to check. We may also arrange a phone call with you if necessary. Once you’ve confirmed you’re happy with your application, we’ll submit it online to the Insolvency Service.

Your application is done! It usually takes three to five working days for the Insolvency Service to approve it. After that, the creditors included in your application can no longer chase you for payment.

Get started on your debt free journey with CAP

Find your local CAP Debt Help

FAQs about Debt Relief Orders

Will the DRO cover all my debts?

As soon as your DRO is granted, the qualifying debts listed in your application are effectively written off. Some debts won’t be cleared in a DRO, including Magistrates’ Court fines, CSA/​maintenance arrears, student loans, social fund loans and any fraudulent debt.

Will my possessions be at risk?

No, one of the great things about a DRO is that there’s no risk of your possessions (or​‘assets’) being seized and sold.

How long does a debt relief order last?

Once your DRO is approved it technically lasts for 12 months. During this time your debts are effectively put on hold’. Your creditors won’t be able to chase you for repayment during this time. If your circumstances are still the same after 12 months then your debts are written off. It’s a permanent arrangement – it’s not delaying repayment, it’s writing off the debt.

What if my financial situation changes?

During the first twelve months after the DRO is approved, it can be cancelled and your debts reinstated if your financial situation changes. This can include things like being given a lump sum of money, gaining a valuable asset, or if your disposable income goes up because you are earning more.

Will a Debt Relief Order affect my partner?

DROs can only be applied for individually. Any debts you share with your partner or another person must be included in your application. 

However, only you will be released from the debt if your DRO is approved. The other person will still be responsible for the debt. 

Can a Debt Relief Order stop enforcement agents (bailiffs)?

Once your Debt Relief Order is approved, enforcement agents (bailiffs) will no longer be able to recover any debts covered by the DRO. Debts that are not covered by the DRO, such as court fines, can still be enforced. If you have a DRO through CAP we will let you know if this applies to you.

Life after a Debt Relief Order

The DRO will appear on your credit report for six years from the date it is approved. It will also be listed in the public domain on the Insolvency Service’s online register for 15 months, including your name and address.

For the year of your DRO, you can’t hold certain jobs, including being a solicitor, trustee of a charity or director of a limited company. 

If you wish to borrow another £500 or more, you must tell that creditor that you are already in a DRO.

If you hold power of attorney over another person’s finances (or if someone holds power of attorney over your finances) this would be cancelled. You could reapply after your DRO ends. Financial power of attorney is where you are legally allowed to make decisions on behalf of the other person in relation to their money, or help the other person to do so.

Jenny and her husband Steve, and their three boys, all stood in front of a lake and smiling at the camera. This family became debt free through CAP and are now able to build a legacy for their future.

Not sure a DRO is right for you?

Take a look at some different ways to become debt free.

More routes out of debt