How long does a Debt Relief Order take to process?

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This article will walk you through the various steps involved in a Debt Relief Order (DRO), including how long it takes to apply and what happens after you leave your arrangement.

Entering a Debt Relief Order (DRO) is a significant milestone that can help you kickstart the journey to a debt-free life. But while the process can differ slightly between providers, it can be helpful to know the basic steps involved before you apply.

From reaching out to an approved insolvency adviser to receiving a decision, the application process is relatively straightforward and usually doesn’t take more than a few weeks.

What is a Debt Relief Order?

A Debt Relief Order (DRO) is a formal insolvency procedure designed to give you temporary relief from your unaffordable debt. Usually, a DRO is only granted if you meet the eligibility criteria and it’s believed that you won’t be able to repay the debt.

During a DRO, all your debts (including interest and fees) are frozen for a total of 12 months then written off completely if your financial situation hasn’t improved within this time.

This means that, for 12 months, you don’t have to make payments to any of the people or companies you owe money to and your balance won’t increase.

However, if your income increases during this time, your DRO could be revoked and you’ll be expected to make arrangements to repay your debt through a lump sum or in monthly payments.

Will a Debt Relief Order affect my credit rating?

From the date your DRO is approved, it will be added to your credit report for six years. During this time, your credit rating will be affected and you’ll find it difficult to access further credit.

This is because a DRO indicates that you’ve fallen short of your debt repayments in the past and could potentially default on future credit agreements.

When you apply for credit, the first thing a lender will do is check your credit record to determine whether you’re a suitable candidate. Having a DRO on your credit file may mean you struggle to get approved or, in the best case scenario, you’ll get approved but face higher interest rates.

However, you’ll need to inform the lender that you have a DRO if you want to borrow more than £500. Other rules include not being able to promote, manage, or set up a limited company or become a company director without getting permission from the court.

DROs are also added to a public register called the Individual Insolvency Register (IIR) until three months after they end (15 months in total). This is an online database that contains details of everyone in an active DRO, IVA, or bankruptcy.

How long does a Debt Relief Order take to process?

There is no one-size-fits-all answer to how long it takes to process a DRO. Ultimately, it depends on your individual circumstances and how prepared you are.

For example, if you gather evidence of your wages, outgoings, and debts before reaching out for debt help, the process is likely to run much more smoothly and your application could be submitted within a couple of days.

Similarly, if you have been asked to repeatedly provide proof of your income and expenses and don’t have the paperwork readily available, the process will take longer.

Once you’ve completed your application form and submitted it to the relevant department, you can expect to receive a response within 10 working days (two weeks).

What are the different stages of a Debt Relief Order?

There are a number of key stages involved in the DRO process, though they can differ slightly. Here is what you can expect when you apply for a DRO:

Seek expert debt advice

The first thing you should do is reach out for impartial debt advice to ensure a DRO is the right solution for your current financial situation.

Even if you qualify for a DRO, another debt solution may be better suited to your circumstances and make more financial sense in the long run.

Gather all relevant paperwork

Once you’re confident a DRO is right for you, it can be useful to gather all the documents needed beforehand, such as bank statements, wage slips, bills, and letters from creditors.

This will speed up the application process and allow you to have a better picture of your financial situation, making it easier to discuss your income and expenses with your adviser.

Reach out to a DRO-approved adviser

Because a DRO is a formal debt solution, you can only apply through an authorised debt adviser who will confirm that you’re eligible to apply and help you complete your application. This can be done by contacting one yourself or contacting a debt management company who will assign one to you.

Once your application is complete, it will be submitted to an official receiver at the Insolvency Service, which is the government agency responsible for administering personal insolvency solutions.

Await a decision

Typically, you’ll receive a response to your DRO application within 10 working days (two weeks) of it being submitted. This can take longer if you’re asked to provide additional information about your debt.

However, if the official receiver discovers that you’ve been dishonest in your application or purposely made your financial situation worse prior to applying, you could be taken to court and issued with a Debt Relief Restrictions Order (DRRO) which can extend your DRO restrictions for up to 15 more years.

Start your DRO

Once your DRO is officially approved, you won’t have to make payment towards your debt for 12 months.

However, you’ll need to continue paying your normal household expenses from your surplus income as well as any other debts not included in the DRO. This includes things like your rent, council tax, gas and electricity, and water.

Which debts can be included in a Debt Relief Order?

Most unsecured debts can be included in a DRO, including:

  • Credit cards
  • Overdrafts
  • Rent arrears
  • Business debts
  • Payday loans
  • Benefits overpayments (unless they were due to fraud)
  • Buy Now, Pay Later (BNPL) agreements
  • Debts owed to friends and family

However, it’s important to note that if you fall behind on your rent payments, your landlord can still take action to evict you from the property – even if the rent arrears are included in the DRO.

Furthermore, you can’t add a debt you forgot to include after your DRO starts and must find a way to pay these outside of your arrangement.

How long do Debt Relief Orders last?

Under a DRO, you won’t need to make payment towards your debt for 12 months – this is known as the ‘moratorium period’.

During this time, the creditors included in the DRO won’t be able to ask you for payment, take you to court, or add further interest or charges to the debt. They will still, however, be allowed to contact you to remind you how much you owe.

Remember, if you’re dishonest in your application or break the rules while your DRO is in force, the official receiver can ask the court to file a DRRO against you – extending your DRO restrictions for up to another 15 years.

The kind of things that can cause you to be issued with a DRRO include committing fraud, being uncooperative, lying about or selling your assets for less than their value, or paying off some creditors but not others.

Furthermore, while a DRO only lasts 12 months, it will remain on your credit file for six years. This means that your DRO will continue to affect your credit score for another five years after it ends.

What happens after a Debt Relief Order ends?

Knowing what happens when a DRO ends can help you know what to expect. We’ve outlined the main things that will happen after a DRO here:

Your entry in the IIR will be removed

Firstly, it’s worth noting that you won’t be notified that your DRO is coming to an end so it can be useful to make a note of your start date by checking your entry in the Individual Insolvency Register (IIR).

This can then be printed off and used as proof of your DRO end date, but this must be done within three months of your DRO ending as your entry will be removed after this time.

You can apply for credit

Once your DRO ends, you’ll be free to apply for as much credit as you like without having to inform the lender of your past financial problems.

However, while your DRO is over, it will still be visible on your credit file so you may still find it difficult to get a lender to approve you for a loan. Most experts recommend waiting until your credit rating has improved before applying for credit as rejected applications can cause further damage.

You can rebuild your credit score

Rebuilding your credit score after a DRO can be challenging, but it certainly isn’t impossible. With time and patience, you can get your credit back to its pre-DRO level and enjoy the freedom that comes with a healthy credit score.

Start by keeping up with your monthly payments and regularly checking your credit file for errors. The more things you can do to prove you’re financially responsible, the quicker you can rebuild your credit score.


A Debt Relief Order (DRO) is a formal debt solution that can give you relief from your unaffordable debt and your creditors for 12 months.

The time it takes to process a DRO depends on your individual circumstances but you can expect to wait 10 working days for a response once your application has been submitted.

Once your DRO has been approved, you won’t need to pay anything towards the debt and will be protected from further interest and charges for 12 months, after which time your outstanding balance will be written off.

Key Takeaways

A Debt Relief Order (DRO) is a formal debt solution designed to give you a temporary break from your debts for 12 months
There is no set time it takes a DRO to process but you'll usually receive a response within 10 working days of sending your application
Most unsecured debts can be included in a DRO, including credit cards, payday loans, and overdrafts
DROs can be extended by up to 15 years if you're dishonest in your application or are found to have broken the rules
Once a DRO ends, your entry in the IIR will be removed within three months and you can get to work rebuilding your credit score
Maxine McCreadie

Maxine McCreadie

Author/Debt Expert

Maxine McCreadie, prominent personal finance writer featured in Vogue and Yahoo News, delivers practical guidance, simplifying money management and championing financial literacy.

How we reviewed this article:


Our debt experts continually monitor the personal finance and debt industry, and we update our articles when new information becomes available.

Current Version

May 7 2024

Written by
Maxine McCreadie

Edited by
Ben McCormack

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