When everyone has a home

Housing advice for Northern Ireland

Insolvency, debt relief & bankruptcy

Many people can sort out their debt problems by negotiating with creditors and trying to settle debts, often with free help from an advice agency.  However, there are more formal ways to solve debt problems but these will have a big impact on your future ability to get a loan, mortgage or any other type of credit.

Individual Voluntary Agreement

An IVA is a formal agreement between you and your creditors and has to be set up by an authorised insolvency practitioner.  You will have to pay for this service.  You can apply for an IVA if you owe more than £20,000 but it won’t include any debts secured on your home, like a mortgage. If you owe less than £20,000 in unsecured debt, you can apply for a Debt Relief Order. You need a steady income to qualify for an IVA and you need to be able to pay a set amount towards your debt each month. 


If you owe someone more than £5000 they can ask the court to make you bankrupt.  You can apply for bankruptcy yourself if you can’t deal with your debts but you have to pay court fees. As part of the process you may have to sell off any assets you own, including your home. 

Bankruptcy has a really serious impact on your financial future.  After a year, you’ll be “discharged” from your debts, but your credit rating will suffer for a long time.  You’ll find it hard to get loans, credit cards and even store cards for a very long time. 

Debt relief orders

People who have assets worth less than £1000, have less than £50 per month of spare income and owe less than £20,000 can apply for a debt relief order. A debt relief order lasts for a year.  During this year the companies included in the order can’t ask you for the money you owe.  If your circumstances haven’t changed within the year the debt can be written off. 

A debt relief order will affect your credit rating.

Advice on these options

If you’re considering an IVA, bankruptcy or a debt relief order speak to an independent advice agency first.  There are lots of government funded and charity advice organisations that can help you with debt problems for free so you shouldn’t have to pay a company for advice.