“Your debts written off!”: Is it too good to be true?

posted by in Bad advice, Debt, IVA

This page contains information about debt solutions available in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Debt advice in Scotland involves similar but different solutions. Before considering an IVA as a debt solution, please make sure you fully understand the risks involved when entering an IVA.

If you need debt help now, use our online debt advice tool Debt Remedy or call us. We’re a debt charity and we can help.

Debt wipe out

Can you rub out your debts?

We’ve all heard or seen adverts suggesting that it’s possible to get your debts written off. It sounds too good to be true, for one reason. It usually is too good to be true.

In some cases it’s a way of enticing people in debt to take out a formal solution. There have been other less than satisfactory solutions offered by fee charging companies over the years that were less than effective, although many of these have now been outlawed thankfully.

In many cases it would be better to talk to to a free, impartial organisation for debt advice (you can get debt advice by using our online Debt Remedy tool)

So what do they offer? For the most part “debts written off” means either an individual voluntary arrangement (IVA) or assisted bankruptcy.

Let’s look at these two in more detail.

An IVA is a form of insolvency that if you qualify for would see you in a legally binding arrangement with your creditors, overseen by an Insolvency Practitioner. IVAs usually last five to six years and in most cases creditors agree to write off a percentage of your debt.

An IVA is no easy ride and isn’t the best solution for everyone.

Assisted bankruptcy is where a company charges you a fee to help you go bankrupt. Although you can do this yourself if you want, some companies try to charge to help you fill in the official forms.

This article doesn’t cover all of the benefits and considerations of an IVA. For more information about IVAs and bankruptcy visit the StepChange website for free, impartial advice.

Statute barred

However, there is a piece of legislation called the Limitation Act which refers to something called ‘statute barred‘.

This is the only real piece of debt law that could see your debt deemed unenforceable, after a period of six years.

Creditors are unable to legally pursue you for most unsecured debts if, after six years;

  • The creditor has not already obtained a County Court judgment (CCJ)
  • You or any one else owing the money (on a debt in joint names) have not made a payment
  • You have not written to the creditor admitting you owe the debt

So, I hear you cry, “All I have to do to get my debts written off is ignore the creditors and not pay them anything for six years!”.

Erm no, not really, that wouldn’t actually work.

As the above explanation suggests, if you start to ignore your creditors they’re likely to get in touch with you rather quickly and may even do this through the courts, by obtaining a CCJ or other debt collection procedure available to them.

“Okay, I’ll move house and not tell them!” some might shout.

That really won’t work either as it’s your responsibility to keep your creditors updated with your current address. Moving house and not telling your creditors where you’ve gone is seen as debt avoidance. This isn’t recommended.

The Limitations Act

Importantly, the act isn’t there to encourage debt avoidance or non-payment and some judges will take a dim view of this tactic. It’s there to protect people from being forced to pay debts that have ‘timed out’ through no fault of their own.

While the act does apply to most unsecured debts the debt doesn’t disappear and it’s not ‘written off’ but with the act in force the creditor can no longer enforce the debt through the courts.

Finally, the Limitation Act doesn’t apply to all types of debt and some debts such as benefits overpayments and Council Tax don’t need to take court action to enforce debts.

We find our clients are genuine in wanting to do their best to repay as much as they can afford to their creditors and at StepChange Debt Charity we want to do our best to give you the correct advice and guide you through the maze of legislation while being impartial and honest at all times.

We sometimes come across cases where a client is on a debt management plan (DMP) with us and out of the blue a creditor they thought they had paid off years ago gets in contact to ask for money.

If this happens to you we can look into the case and give you the best advice for your circumstances. If the debt is genuinely statute barred we can give you all the advice and support you need.

Otherwise the promise to have “your debts written off” is simply too good to be true.

You can read more about writing off debt on our website.



Matthew worked as an IVA drafter prior to working in social media. In a former life he wrote scripts for Eastenders, Emmerdale and Hollyoaks. He has 3 chickens, 2 dogs and a rabbit.

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Tags Bad advice Debt IVA
  • Best

    Are you looking for a real loan at 3%? Kindly reply to this email (fservice_help@live.com) with your full name, amount needed, duration yrs, mobile number.

  • Hilary White

    Do you know any up to date information with regard to Compass Debt Counsellors who went into liquidation some time ago. I was a client for whom they were holding £4.500 in a client account in the hopes of clearing my debts. Since sending all of my statements to the solicitors dealing with the liquidation I’ve heard nothing. I also wondered whether I would be entitled to claim through Financial Recovery – just wondered if you could help?

    • moneyaware

      Hi Hilary,

      Thanks for getting in touch.

      I’m sorry to hear about this situation.

      The Financial Conduct Authority have some information on their website about what to do if the company owes you money:


      There’s a contact email address and a consumer Helpline number on the page. It might be worth giving them a call as they should be able to offer advice on what to do in your situation.

      If you need advice in dealing with your debts, please feel free to contact our Helpline. All of our advice is free and impartial and we offer a range of debt solutions. Our advisors will be more than happy to chat through your options with you. You can find out how to get in touch with us here:


      I hope this helps but if you’ve got any more questions please let us know.

      Kind regards,


  • Andrea

    I have just got a letter from DWP saying I owe £107.90 from 2003. I have never been contacted before. Can they take out of my wages as they have told me ?

    • moneyaware

      Hi Andrea,

      If you owe money to the Department of Work & Pensions (DWP) for a benefits overpayment, for example, they can take money from your wages.

      This is called a direct earnings attachment (DEA) and the DWP don’t need to take you to court to do this, so it is a type of action that could possible be taken against you.

      However, a DEA is usually only used as a last resort, and it’s often straightforward to make arrangements with the DWP to repay any arrears before it gets to this stage.

      I hope this helps,


  • ray mills

    I have had a call saying that I owe £1300 to welcome finance but I have not heard from anyone at all for over 8 years no calls no letters anything she said it went to court but I have no proof of that
    can they still ask for this.

    • moneyaware

      Hi there,

      Thanks for posting.

      If court action has been taken against a debt it can no longer become statute barred.

      You should be able to request information about the court action that was taken from your creditor.

      Please get in touch with us if you’d like advice on dealing with this debt. Here’s the contact details: https://www.stepchange.org/Contactus.aspx.

      I hope this helps,


  • tia

    Hi i have about 13500 in debt. i have made 3 payments and not missed any but really struggled. A friend has offered me 7000 to help. if i asked the loans company to come to an agreement to settle the debt using this money is it likely considering i haven’t missed any payments?

    • moneyaware

      Hi Tia,

      There’s no harm in asking your creditors, but they usually only accept reduced settlement offers if you’re behind on your payments.

      I’m sorry I couldn’t give you better news. If you’d like more in depth advice on dealing with these debts I’d recommend giving our Helpline a call: https://www.stepchange.org/Contactus.aspx.

      Kind regards