What is a Debt Relief Order (DRO)?

A Debt Relief Order (DRO), is a solution designed for those who are struggling with debt and don’t have enough income to pay them back. It is designed for those who have no assets and owe less than £30,000 as a way to have the balances written off.

Available only to those living in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, this solution freezes the debts included for a year – to allow you time to try and improve your situation. If nothing has changed by the time the year is up, then your debts are written off.

To enter a DRO, you have to apply through a licensed money advisor and pay a one-off flat fee of £90. You can pay this in instalments if you need to, but it’s best to try and pay it upfront.

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What debts can I include in a DRO?

You can include most unsecured debts when entering into a DRO, including:

  • Utility bills
  • Rent arrears
  • Credit cards
  • Overdrafts
  • Store cards
  • Loans

Unfortunately, however, you cannot put all debts into a DRO, there are some that are exempt, including:

  • Court fines
  • Student loans
  • Any child support/maintenance
  • Confiscation orders
  • Social fund loans

You will need to continue to budget for these and they would not be counted in your overall debt level.

If you have missed any debts when setting up your arrangement, you cannot add these to your approved DRO, and if they put your debt level over the £20k threshold, then your order may be revoked.

What are the restrictions of a DRO?

Once your DRO has been granted, you will be given a strict set of restrictions that you will need to stick to whilst it’s in place.

You won’t be able to borrow more than £500 without telling the lender that you are in a DRO. Although you may find this difficult whilst the order is in place anyway due to it being noted on your credit file.

If you are looking to set up, manage, direct or promote a limited company, you will not be able to do this without first getting permission from the court.

For those of you who own businesses under a different name from the one you got your order with, it is compulsory that you tell everyone you do business with that you have a DRO and the name of the company you used to get it.

DRO advantages and disadvantages  

Deciding how to deal with your debts isn’t an easy decision. As such, it’s important to weigh up the advantages and disadvantages so that this process is easier. We’ve laid these out for you below to help:


  • It only lasts a year
  • Your debts are written off if your situation hasn’t improved
  • It’s low cost – you only need to pay the £90 fee
  • Your lenders cannot chase you for payment during the DRO period
  • Lenders cannot take any legal action against you


  • There is a strict criterion to qualify for a DRO
  • You’ll have to stick to a strict set of restrictions whilst your order is in place
  • Details of your DRO will be placed on a public register
  • It will have a severe impact on your credit rating for six years
  • Your job can be affected depending on what industry you work in
  • Not all debts can be included

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The DRO process

The DRO process is one that can become complicated if not done right. As such we’re giving you a step by step guide through the journey that is a DRO to help you:

Pick an advisor  

You cannot apply for a DRO without going through a licensed adviser, so your first step is to pick one.

Once you have contacted them, they will go through your situation and make sure that you both qualify for the solution and that it’s the right one for you. Everything will be taken into account at this stage, including all your income, your expenses, your work and what effect it would have on your life.


If you then decide to continue with the DRO, the adviser will work with you to complete the application forms. You will need to fill in all details of your circumstances, your debts and any assets that you may have.

This will then be sent to an Official Receiver, who will then decide whether or not to grant you the order. You will also need to pay the £90 fee at this stage as your application cannot be processed until this has been done.

Paying the fee

You can pay the £90 fee in one go or in instalments, but this must be paid in full before your application can be processed.

It can be paid at your local post office or Payzone. This is non-refundable and you won’t get this back if your application is rejected, so it’s important to make sure this is the right solution for you before applying.

Decision time

Once you have completed the above steps, the Official Receiver will decide to either grant you the DRO or to reject it. This will be based on whether you have filled in the application correctly and if you have given enough information.

If they need to find out more information, your application may be deferred. In these cases, it’s important that you work with them to answer their questions as if it’s found that you have given incorrect or false information your DRO restrictions could be extended to up to 15 years and you could even be taken to court.

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Life with a DRO

If the Official receiver approves your application, you will be sent confirmation of this in the post. They will also then contact all of the lenders included to inform them that the order has been granted.

In some instances, some of your lenders may object to the DRO. However, this will only be upheld if this is on reasonable grounds.

Once it has been granted, you won’t need to make any more payments to the debts included for the 12-month DRO period. These lenders can then no longer ask you for any further payment or take any action against you during this time.

If your application is rejected, you will be contacted in writing to make you aware of the decision and given the reasons why. You can appeal this if you think the decision is unjust.