What is a Debt Relief Order?

Person working with a Debt Relief Order (DRO) adviser

If you’re no longer able to afford your regular debt repayments, a Debt Relief Order (DRO) is one way that might help you to take control of your situation without pursuing more serious insolvency measures like filing for bankruptcy. DROs are available in England, Wales and Northern Ireland and applications must be made using an authorised debt adviser, like Citizens Advice or Step Change. Once they confirm that you qualify, they will help you make the application.

How can you qualify for a Debt Relief Order?

Debt Relief Orders are designed to help people who have debts of £30,000 or less and are struggling to meet their monthly payments.  


  • You must have less than £2000 in assets (ordinary household objects and clothes are not counted)
  • There is an additional allowance for a car or motorbike but this can’t be worth more than £2,000
  • You cannot own your own home
  • You must have less than £75 left each month after paying your regular household expenses.

There are some additional criteria that must be taken in to account before you apply:

  • You cannot have had a DRO within the last 6 years
  • You cannot be involved in other insolvency procedures such as IVAs or being declared bankrupt
  • You cannot be a company director
  • You must have lived or worked in the country where you are making the application for at least three years
  • If you are over 55, you are not allowed to have a large pension that you could access which is currently undrawn.

Are all types of debit included?

A DRO will not remove all types of debt. You cannot include the following types of debt in your calculation - these debts will all still need to be paid. 

  • Student loans
  • Court fines including Television Licence arrears
  • Maintenance, Child Maintenance and Child Support Agency payments and arrears.

See the National Debtline factsheet for a full list of what can and cannot be included in your DRO application.

Can I have a joint DRO with my partner?

It’s not possible to have a joint DRO. All DROs are submitted and approved for an individual.  If you and your partner have joint debts then you will both need to apply for a DRO.  If you apply for a DRO and your partner doesn’t, they will be fully responsible for any joint debts that you held together in joint names. 

What are the benefits of setting up a DRO?

Once approved, a DRO will:

  • Freeze your eligible debt payments for a period of 12 months
  • After that, the eligible debts included in your DRO will be written off
  • During the 12 month period, your creditors cannot chase you for money
  • You won’t have to appear in court to get the DRO accepted.

What are the disadvantages of setting up a DRO?

  • If you qualify you will have to pay a non-refundable fee of £90 to submit your application
  • Not all your debts can be included so you may still have to make some payments
  • If accepted, the DRO will show on the Individual Insolvency Register which is a public record and can be viewed by anyone.

How will a Debt Relief Order affect your credit history

A DRO will become part of your credit history and will remain on your credit report for six years from the date the DRO is approved. Active DROs are taken into consideration by lenders when you apply for a loan or other forms of credit, and may affect how they view your creditworthiness.

Other insolvency procedures such as bankruptcy, Individual Voluntary Arrangements (IVAs) or County Court Judgements (CCJs) will also be reflected in your credit report. Whether they are the right choice, depends on your individual circumstances, but DROs can be a cheaper alternative to bankruptcies and as such may be a preferable option for those who qualify.

Applying for a Debt Relief Order

If you think a Debt Relief Order is the right option for managing your debts, you will need to speak to an authorised debt advisor. They can advise you on whether you meet the necessary requirements and are likely to have your application accepted by the official receiver. You can read more about finding an adviser on Citizens Advice or StepChange

Equifax is a Credit Reference Agency, not a DRO adviser.

Article Ending 

This article was reviewed and updated  on 09-December-2021-; all information was correct at the time of writing.

For up-to-date information, regularly check Citizens Advice and National Debtline.

Related Articles