How to get a debt relief order

This advice applies to England. See advice for See advice for Northern Ireland, See advice for Scotland, See advice for Wales

If you've decided you want to apply for a debt relief order (DRO) you'll need to find a DRO adviser to make your application to the Insolvency Service who deal with all DROs.

Step 1: find a DRO adviser

You can only apply for a DRO through a specialist DRO adviser, also called an 'approved intermediary'. This is usually a skilled debt adviser who has been given permission to complete the forms and give advice on DROs. They will check that you're eligible to apply and that a DRO is right for you.

You can find a DRO adviser at most local Citizens Advice.

You can also call our debt helpline to speak to a debt adviser. If you’re eligible, they’ll refer you to a DRO adviser.

Find out how to talk to an adviser.

You can also find a DRO adviser through other approved organisations, known as 'competent authorities'. Check which organisations are approved on GOV.UK.

Step 2: work with the DRO adviser to make your application

Your DRO adviser will help you work out whether you're eligible to apply for a DRO. They'll also look at whether it's right for you - for example, how it might affect your credit rating, lifestyle and work. 

If you decide to go ahead, you'll need to work with your DRO adviser to fill in your application. This will include working out your income and outgoings, and adding up all your debts and assets. Your assets are any savings you have or things of value you own.

It's important to be honest and give your DRO adviser all the information you have. If you apply but you're not eligible, you won't get your application fee back. 

The application is sent to an official receiver at the Insolvency Service. It’s their job to make a decision about the application and deal with your DRO if it goes ahead. If the official receiver finds out you've been dishonest in your application, the restrictions under a DRO could be made to last up to 15 years. In serious cases of dishonesty you could be taken to court.

Step 3: the official receiver makes a decision

When your application is received, the official receiver will make one of the following decisions:

  • make the debt relief order if you're eligible and your application has been filled in correctly

  • defer the order if they need to find out more information to make a decision

  • refuse the order if you're not eligible or you've given false information

After you've applied for a DRO, you must co-operate with the official receiver. This means answering their questions and providing any further information they might ask for. It’s important that you let the official receiver know if your income goes up or you receive a lump sum, for example a tax refund or backdated benefit award. 

If your application is turned down, you'll be given written reasons why it's been refused. You might be able to challenge the decision.

Next steps

Find out what happens when a DRO is made

Help us improve our website

Take 3 minutes to tell us if you found what you needed on our website. Your feedback will help us give millions of people the information they need.

Page last reviewed on 08 January 2020