A debt relief order (DRO) gives relief from debt recovery actions and debt repayments. It is granted by the Official Receiver (OR) on application.
A debt relief order is only available where the debtor has very little income and few assets, and has no means of repaying the qualifying debts.
While a DRO order is in place, the debtor can't be forced to make payment of any of the qualifying debts listed in it. Other debt management arrangements, such as an administration order, an enforcement restrictions order, and a debt repayment plan arranged with a debt management scheme will cease to be effective on the date the DRO is made.
A creditor owed a qualifying debt can only act against the debtor for recovery of the debt with permission of the court. A secured creditor, however, remains free to enforce their security.
The qualifying debts listed in the debt relief order will be written off at the end of the debt relief period unless the debt relief period was terminated early.
Duties of the debtor
Once the debtor has made an application for a debt relief order they are under a duty to give all such information about their affairs to the OR, attend on the OR at such times and do all such other things as the OR may require for purposes of carrying out their functions.
The debtor remains under an obligation to inform the OR should they become aware of any error or omission in the information given in the application to the OR. If there is any change in the debtor's circumstances after application is made that could have an effect on the decision of the OR the debtor must inform the OR as soon as possible.
If the OR believes that the debtor has in any way misled them or behaved dishonestly (either before or during the DRO) they can apply to the court for a Debt Relief Restriction Order (DRRO). This could extend the conditions imposed under the DRO for between 2 – 15 years.
Once the DRO is made the debtor must inform the OR if they acquire any property or there is any increase in their income.
Restrictions on the debtor
Similar restrictions apply to a debtor subject to a debt relief order as applies to a debtor who is an undischarged bankrupt, some of which are:
A DRO will affect your credit rating. All DRO's are registered in a public register kept at the Insolvency Service and remain on the register until three months after the DRO comes to an end.
A debtor who is unable to pay their debts can apply for a debt relief order (DRO) if:
If the DRO is granted the debtor will be protected for a period of one year against any debt recovery actions in respect of any qualifying debt listed in the DRO. When the DRO comes to an end (except if terminated early) the qualifying debts listed in the debt relief order will be written off and the debtor will never have to pay it.
The debtor can't get a DRO if:
How does the debtor apply?
The debtor has to find an approved intermediary to make the application for the DRO to the(OR) through the Insolvency Service.
An approved intermediary is a person that has been approved by a competent authority such as:
A complete list of organisations and their contact details for Northern Ireland can be found online on the
The approved intermediary will be a member of the institute or of the competent authority's staff.
The application for the DRO must include:
The application must be submitted to the Official Receiver together with the applicable fee.
What happens after an application to the Official Receiver has been made?
Once the application for a DRO has been submitted, the Official Receiver (OR) will only progress with it once the debtor has given answers to all their queries.
The OR may refuse to grant the DRO in the following circumstances:
However, the OR must refuse the application if they are not satisfied that:
A debt can only be included in a debt relief order if it is not an excluded debt and it is liquidated and payable either at the time of the debt relief order or in the future. To the extent that a debt is secured it can't be a qualifying debt. Examples of qualifying debts are:
Some of the excluded debts, that will not be affected by a debt relief order and will still have to be paid, are, for example:
Challenging the DRO
Any of the creditors who are owed a listed qualifying debt can object to the making of the DRO, the inclusion of the amount they are owed as a qualifying debt or the details of the debt mentioned in the DRO.
The objection has to be made within 28 days from the date the creditor received notice of the making of the DRO.
The objection can only be made on the following grounds:
At the end of the DRO period
A debt relief order usually comes to an end after one year unless the OR extends it or it ends earlier. When the DRO comes to an end (except if terminated early) the qualifying debts listed in the debt relief order will be written off and never have to be paid.
More information on DROs can be found: