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1 Dealing with Debt

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1. Introduction

2. Rent or mortgage payment problems

3. Council Tax bill problems

4. Hire Purchase (HP) problems

5. Gas, electricity and phone bills

6. Water bills

7. Loan and credit problems

8. What creditors can do to get their money

9. Going to court

10. Dealing with many debts

11. Dealing with bailiffs

12. Other legal protection if you are in debt

13. When you can be sent to prison for your debts

14. Terms used when dealing with debt

There are several words and phrases that you may come across, for example from credit providers, the courts or bailiffs, when you are in debt.

Administration order

When you make a single payment (or series of payments) to the court, which then distributes the money to the people you owe money to.


When you are behind with payments (for rent or a loan, for example).

Attachment of earnings

When you have money taken out of your wages or benefits to pay off your debts.


Being sent to prison.

Suspended committal order
If you are given a suspended committal order by the court because you have not paid your debts, it means that you won’t go to prison as long as you make payments of a certain amount that have been worked out by the court.

County Court Judgment (CCJ)

When the county court decides that a credit debt must be repaid, the creditor can use methods including bailiffs, a charging order and attachment of earnings if you do not pay.

Charging order
Where the creditor asks the court to secure the debt to your home or (other property you have a financial stake in). If you don't make payments, the creditor could apply to the court for an order to sell your home to get the money you owe.

Conditional sale agreement
A way of borrowing money to buy things, similar to hire purchase. See ‘Hire purchase (HP) problems’ for more information.

Someone you owe money to.

Default notice

A formal warning that you have missed payments on a credit debt, and that court action may be started against you unless you bring the account up to date.


Where a creditor causes someone who owes them money ‘alarm, distress or humiliation’. They can be prosecuted for this, and lose their licence to carry on their business.

Individual Voluntary Arrangement (IVA)

A legally-binding way of making an arrangement with creditors to pay back part of what you owe with a lump sum or instalments or both, in return for them not taking court action against you.


A court order that allows a landlord or mortgage lender to take steps to evict you from your home.

Regulated agreement

A consumer credit agreement that is regulated by the Consumer Credit Act 1974. This means that, among other things, you are entitled to a properly-written credit agreement, a ‘default notice’ if you fall behind with payments before the creditor can take action against you, and the right to apply for a time order (see below).

Return order

When a county court forces you to return to the creditor goods taken out under hire purchase.

Time order

Something you can ask the court for to stop interest adding up on the money you owe, and to reduce the instalments you have to pay.

Warrant of Execution
This authorises county court bailiffs to threaten to take your belongings if you do not pay money you owe.

15. Further help

16. About this leaflet

This leaflet is published by the Legal Services Commission (LSC). It was written in association with Birmingham Settlement.

The leaflets are regularly updated but the law may have changed since they were printed so the information in them may be incorrect or out of date.

Leaflet Version: April 2019

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