If you get a letter saying you’ve broken a bankruptcy rule

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

If you’ve broken a bankruptcy rule, you might get a letter from the court or the person who deals with your bankruptcy - they’re called the ‘official receiver’.

To work out what to do, check if the letter is about a ‘bankruptcy offence’ or a ‘bankruptcy restrictions order’.

If you get a letter about a bankruptcy offence

If the official receiver thinks you’ve committed a bankruptcy offence, this counts as a criminal offence. You could be fined or sent to prison.

You should get legal advice as soon as possible. If you can show you didn’t intend to mislead or defraud the official receiver, you may have a valid defence in court, but you’ll need independent legal advice to help you work out your options.

Depending on your financial situation, you may be able to get Legal Aid to help you get this advice. Find out how to get independent legal advice.

If you get a letter about a bankruptcy restrictions order

A bankruptcy restrictions order (BRO) is a legal order from the court which extends the period of time you have to follow certain restrictions. It’s not a criminal offence.

A BRO can last between 2 and 15 years. The length depends on how serious the court thinks your behaviour was.

If the official receiver wants a BRO to be made against you, you'll either get a letter from them saying they want to apply for a BRO, or you'll get notice of a BRO court hearing.

You have to tell the official receiver or the court whether you agree with the BRO.

If the letter says the official receiver wants to apply for a BRO, you must reply within 21 days.

If the letter is notice of a BRO court hearing, you must reply within 14 days.

If you accept the allegations that are made against you by the official receiver, you can offer to enter into a bankruptcy restrictions undertaking (BRU). This has exactly the same effect as a BRO but means you won't have to go to court.

If you offer to go into a BRU, this will normally be shorter than if the court made a BRO.

If the letter is about an ‘interim bankruptcy restrictions order’

If there is a delay in investigating your case or the court can't fix a hearing date for some time, the official receiver might apply for an interim BRO against you. If the court makes an interim BRO, you'll have to follow extra restrictions until the hearing. You can check the extra BRO restrictions on GOV.UK.

If you want to challenge the BRO

When you get the notice of the BRO court hearing, you have 14 days to tell the court you’re challenging the application. You have 28 days to send the court the evidence to show why you think the application is wrong.

You also have to send the official receiver a copy of the evidence you sent to the court. You have to send the copy to the official receiver within 3 days after you sent it to the court.


Jess got notice of a BRO court hearing on 1 January.

Jess has to:

  • reply to the notice by 15 January

  • send her evidence to the court by 29 January

  • send her evidence to the official receiver by 1 February

When deciding whether you want to challenge the BRO application, think about the following:

  • if you dispute the allegations that have been made against you, do you have any evidence to support your case?

  • if you don't have evidence to support your case, do you want to go through the stress of a court hearing?

  • thinking about your personal circumstances, would it be better to accept a BRU with a shorter period of restrictions than to run the risk of having a BRO made against you with a longer period of restrictions?

  • how likely is the court to agree to the BRO?

Check how likely the court is to agree to the BRO

When the court decides whether to make a BRO, they look at what you did before and after the bankruptcy order was made. They’ll ask themselves if there’s a risk you’ll do something that makes other people lose their money in future. They’ll look at things like:

  • the extent to which your creditors have lost out

  • how aware you were of your situation at the time

  • the likelihood of you doing it again

  • if you’ve been bankrupt before in the last 6 years

It's a good idea to take independent legal advice if you want to challenge the BRO application - find out how to get legal advice.

Check if the hearing is in person

Some courts are closed and others are changing the way they work. You need to check how these changes will affect you on GOV.UK.

You can check how to prepare if the court arranges a hearing by phone or video call.

If you go to court in person, you’ll have to wear a mask or covering for your mouth and nose. If you don’t wear one, you won’t be allowed in the building. Some people don’t have to wear one – check who doesn’t have to wear a mask or face covering on GOV.UK.

If the court hasn’t told you how to attend your hearing, contact them to find out. You can search for the court's contact details on GOV.UK.

If you get a BRO or BRU

You have to follow some extra restrictions while you have the BRO or BRU.

While you have a BRO or BRU, it’s a bankruptcy offence to break any bankruptcy restrictions - including the restrictions you had before you got the BRO or BRU. A bankruptcy offence counts as a criminal offence. You could be fined or sent to prison. If you break any of the restrictions, you should get legal advice as soon as possible. Find out how to get legal advice.

When you get a BRO or BRU, the official receiver also tells your creditors about the BRO or BRU and publishes it on the Insolvency Register.

You can check the extra restrictions and what happens after a BRO or BRU is made on GOV.UK.

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Page last reviewed on 25 February 2021