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What if you can't repay your debts

Don’t panic if you don’t have the money to pay your debts. There are still options open to you.

You may be able to freeze your repayments, arrange a ‘payment holiday’ until you’re back on your feet or reschedule your deadlines for repayment.

You may need to consider more formal ways to repay your debts. These include:

  • Debt Relief Order
  • Administration Order
  • Individual Voluntary Arrangement
  • bankruptcy.

These options will all appear on your credit file and may make it harder for you to open a bank account, get a loan or buy on credit in future. However, if you have no real way of paying off your debts, these options can help you make a fresh start.

Don’t make any decisions on your own. Talk to a debt adviser to find out more about your options.

It's important to know that if a debt was accrued when someone has dementia, it may not be recoverable. Seek advice if the person affected by debt has dementia. 

Know your priority debts

Not all debts are the same. ‘Priority bills’ are more important than others, as non-payment could lead to serious trouble. For example, if you don’t pay your mortgage, your home could be repossessed. Or if you don’t pay your electricity or gas bills, your energy supply could be cut off.

If you’re behind on any of these bills, don’t panic. Act quickly to either pay off the debts or pay it off in affordable instalments, and you should be able to stop these things from happening.

Priority bills include:

Non-priority bills include

  • catalogue debts
  • credit card debts
  • personal loans
  • money borrowed from friends and family.

Further information


Our Information guides are short and easy to digest, giving a comprehensive overview of the relevant topic. Factsheets are longer with more detail, and are aimed at professionals.

You can download other guides in our series from publications

For more information: Call Age UK Advice: 0800 678 1174

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