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Dealing with debt

Lots of people are in debt for all sorts of reasons. Debt has many forms and once it happens, it can be difficult to get out of.

This page gives you advice on how to get help before debts become unmanageable, particularly priority debts like your rent and council tax.

What is a priority debt?

Some debts are more important than others. The law gives different creditors (the people you owe money to), different ways of getting their money back. With priority debts, some creditors could take your home away (repossession or eviction) or send out Enforcement Agents to take items from your home to sell (called taking control of goods). It is therefore important to sort out your priority debts first.

Examples of priority debts are:

  • mortgage or rent arrears
  • council tax
  • gas or electricity
  • secured loans
  • Magistrates court fines
  • arrears of maintenance or child support
  • Income Tax, National Insurance or VAT arrears.

This is not an exhaustive list.

Ten steps to help you deal with debt:

  • Don't ignore the problem - it won't go away and the longer you leave it the worse it could get.
  • If you are having problems paying your council tax, speak with one of our customer services advisors on 01283 575795
  • Contact the people you owe straight away and explain your circumstances. Try to get a contact name if you can.
  • Deal with your priority debts first.
  • Always fill in the reply forms to court papers and give all the facts and copies of your financial statement (sometimes called a personal budget sheet)
  • Check with the council to see if you are entitled to housing or council tax reduction.
  • Don't borrow more money to consolidate or pay off debts without thinking very carefully. Sometimes doing this can change a non-priority debt into a more serious one.
  • Seek help from the Citizens Advice Bureau or National Debtline who can help you to negotiate with the people you owe and prepare a financial statement with you. They may also help you in court or at appeals.

StepChange Debt Charity are a national charity providing free, impartial debt help. The offer a range of specialist solutions from free CCJ advice, bankruptcy support, debt relief order (DRO) or equity release. For free online debt help try their 60 second debt test or call 0800 138 1111.

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