If you have a debt problem, one of your options for sorting it out might be bankruptcy. You can apply for bankruptcy if you can’t pay back your debts.

As well as applying for bankruptcy yourself, someone else you owe money to (a creditor) can ask a court to make you bankrupt, even if you don’t want them to. They can only do this if you owe at least £5,000. You can find out more about creditors making you bankrupt

Bankruptcy can have serious consequences – it might not be your only option and it might not be the best one for you. You can get more information about other debt solutions, for example a debt relief order (DRO) or an individual voluntary arrangement (IVA).

Advantages of going Bankrupt

When the bankruptcy order is over you can make a fresh start – in most cases this will be after a year. Other advantages of going bankrupt include:
the pressure is taken off you because you don’t have to deal with your creditors
you’re allowed to keep certain things known as ‘exempt goods’, for example everyday household items, tools you need to do your job, a car if you need it to get to work or you’re a carer and it’s not worth more than £2,000
you’re allowed to keep a reasonable amount from your income to live on
if you have to make payments from your income, this can only be for 3 years – you won’t have to make payments if your only income is from welfare benefits
creditors have to stop most types of court action to get their money back following a bankruptcy order
you won’t have to pay back the debts that bankruptcy covers

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Disadvantages of going Bankrupt

To apply to go bankrupt you’ll need to pay a £680 fee. Other disadvantages of going bankrupt include:
if your income is high enough, you’ll be asked to make payments towards your debts for 3 years
it will be more difficult to take out credit while you’re bankrupt and your credit rating will be affected for 6 years
if you own your home, it might have to be sold – this depends on how much it’s worth after any amounts secured on it are repaid
if you rent your home, your landlord could end your tenancy
some of your possessions might have to be sold if they are not ‘exempt goods’
some jobs don’t let people who have been made bankrupt carry-on working
if you own a business it might be closed down and the assets sold off
going bankrupt can affect your immigration status
your bankruptcy will be published publicly (although if you’re worried you or your family might be the victims of violence, you can go to court to get an order, so your address details aren’t given out)
you could have a bankruptcy restriction order made against you lasting up to 15 years which will restrict your financial affairs

What happens at the end of bankruptcy?

Your bankruptcy will normally end after a year – this is known as ‘discharge’. After discharge you won’t have to repay the debts covered by the bankruptcy. However, you will still have to pay some debts like court fines and loans from the Student Loans Company.  

Next steps

Bankruptcy might help you become free of debts, but it isn’t the right option for everyone. It’s important to know how bankruptcy will affect your day-to-day life and to explore the alternatives.