IVAs: What are they and how do you get one?
At the end of June 2019, people in the UK owed £1,642 billion. According to the Money Charity, that’s an increase on the previous year of £1,596 billion, or £887 of debt for every adult in the UK. In just one month this summer, the average household debt per person rose from £31,067 to £31,139. And across the country debt continues to rise.
The problems occur when you’re unable to pay that debt back.
Debt: a growing problem
According to the Money Charity, one person is declared bankrupt or insolvent in the UK every 4 minutes and 14 seconds. That’s 340 people every day. In Scotland, personal insolvency is rising faster than at any point since the fallout from the last market crash.
Accountancy in Bankruptcy figures show there were 3,520 personal insolvencies in Scotland during the first quarter of 2019, up almost 10% on the same period in the previous year.
Across the UK, when debts escalate there are a number of options to help you manage them. An Individual Voluntary Arrangement (IVA) is one of those options.
What is an IVA?
An IVA is an agreement that someone in debt reaches with their creditors (the people to whom they owe money). It’s a formal, legal solution, approved by the court and legally binding on all parties.
Is an IVA the same as bankruptcy?
No, it’s an alternative to bankruptcy and there are specific pros and cons of an IVA that may make it a preferable option to formal bankruptcy. It’s important to remember, however, that whilst bankruptcy continues to carry a stigma that other forms of debt management may not, it may still be the right solution in certain circumstances.
How does an IVA work?
An IVA is arranged via an insolvency practitioner (you can’t arrange an IVA directly with creditors). The practitioner looks at all the debts and works out what the debtor can afford to pay, then places that in a repayment plan that usually lasts five years. In some circumstances it can last longer.
The insolvency practitioner then submits the repayment plan to creditors. Creditors won’t recieve back all the money they are owed, but under the terms of the plan they will recoup a percentage of it. On the basis that something is better than nothing (and that the amount creditors will receive in an IVA will likely be more than they would get from bankruptcy), creditors will often agree to it. Providing creditors representing 75% of the total value of the debt agree, the IVA will be approved.
Once approved, the debtor makes the agreed monthly payments. At the end of the five year period the debt will have been discharged.
What debts can be included in an IVA?
To qualify for an IVA, debts of at least £10,000 must be owed to at least two creditors. Those debts could include:
- Finance company loans
- Credit or store cards
- Bank account arrears and overdrafts
- Outstanding tax and VAT debts
- Outstanding shortfalls of HP payments (typically because those HP goods may have been repossessed for non-payment)
- Loans from friends and family
IVAs do not usually include the following debts:
- Loans secured against a property
- Court fines
- Child maintenance arrears
- Rental property arrears
What happens if you can’t keep up IVA payments?
If a debtor struggles to keep up with payments the first call should be to the insolvency practitioner. If the issue is that the debtor can make some of the payment but not all, the practitioner may be able to agree a smaller payment amount over a longer period.
Alternatively, a different form of debt management plan may be more appropriate.
And if the debtor cannot afford to repay any or most of the agreed amount, either the creditors or the debtor can apply for bankruptcy.
What are the benefits and disadvantages of an IVA?
There are a number of pros and cons of an IVA, including:
- After the agreed number of years have elapsed, the debt is cleared
- During the IVA, the debtor pays only a proportion of the debt back. The insolvency practitioner designs a
- payment plan with affordability in mind, so whilst living with an IVA isn’t easy, it should be far more
- manageable than the alternative
- Interest and charges on the debt covered by the IVA are frozen, so the debt stops getting worse
- Because an IVA is legally binding, creditors can no longer ‘hassle’ debtors for payment of debts covered by the IVA
- You won’t have to sell your home – but see below
- There’s no guarantee that an IVA will be agreed
- Although you won’t have to sell your home, you may have to remortgage if there’s equity in your property. This typically happens towards the end of the IVA and only if a number of conditions are met. If mortgage payments go up as a result of this, IVA payments will be reduced
- An IVA will negatively affect a debtor’s credit score for six years
- Being in an IVA isn’t easy. It does require very careful budgeting
- An IVA isn’t always the right solution. Other debt management options are available and it’s important to seek professional advice to choose the right option for you
- An IVA is in place longer than bankruptcy (sequestration in Scotland) – five or six years versus (usually) a total of four years
Can I get an IVA in Scotland?
No, but you can apply for a protected trust deed (sometimes called a Scottish trust deed) which operates in a similar way and has a similar effect. Because of the familiarity with the term ‘IVA’, trust deeds are sometimes called Scottish IVAs. They are, however, quite distinct and separate from other UK IVAs with some important differences.
What’s the difference between an IVA and a Scottish trust deed?
Besides the obvious difference that Scottish trust deeds are available only in Scotland whilst IVAs apply to England, Wales and Northern Ireland, there are several other differences:
- An IVA is agreed over a five – and sometimes six – year period. Whilst a Scottish trust deed can last longer (typically if there are problems making repayments and the trust deed is extended), it is usually approved for four years, so a trust deed in Scotland allows you to escape debt sooner than an IVA would in England.
- An IVA requires unsecured debts of £10,000 held by two or more creditors. With a protected trust deed that debt threshold is just £5,000, and it can be owed to a single creditor.
- IVAs can be entered into jointly (e.g. by a husband and wife). A Scottish trust deed cannot be held jointly. If two partners both need debt management, they’ll need to apply for two separate protected trust deeds or other solutions.
- IVAs and trust deeds both require approval from creditors, but those requirements vary. For an IVA to be accepted, creditors representing 75% of the total debt must approve it.
- In Scotland, a trust deed will be approved (and therefore protected) unless at least half the creditors object or those creditors who object account for at least one third of the total debt
- If you own a house or car the equity will be considered at the end of the IVA, however a Scottish Insolvency practitioner will usually consider the equity at the start of the solution.
Find out more about the similarities and differences between Scottish trust deeds and IVAs.
It’s still worth exploring options with a debt management professional. They may be able to help you make your budget stretch further. If not, they will be able to give you advice about which is the right debt solution tool for you. That could be an IVA (in England, Wales or NI) or a protected trust deed (in Scotland) but there are several other potential options.
Talk to your IVA insolvency practitioner. They may be able to get agreement from creditors to a temporary reduction in payments or a longer repayment period to help you over a difficult period.
Banks hold an automatic ‘right to offset’. This means that if you have money in a bank account and unpaid loans or credit cards with the same lender, they can take the money in the account to pay off the debts. More confusingly, this can also happen when the debt is owed to a company also owned by your bank.
So, for example, if your bank account is with HSBC and you have an unpaid credit card with M&S Bank or First Direct, a right to offset could be used to pay those debts, because HSBC owns all of them.
You can find more about which banks are subsidiaries of other banks here.
In an IVA, and to avoid the right to offset, you may be required to switch bank accounts.
Yes. The record of the IVA will remain on your credit file for six years from the date the IVA begins.
Will I still be able to get credit with an IVA?
Getting credit is harder with an IVA. If you want more than £500 of credit you’ll need permission from your insolvency practitioner in most circumstances. The chances of credit being approved are less, and any credit you are able to secure is likely to cost more.
Bear in mind, however, that an IVA (and a Scottish trust deed) is designed to help you escape debt, not find new sources of it.
No. In fact, you can’t set up an IVA without an insolvency practitioner who will handle all the to-ing and fro-ing between creditors. Assuming you qualify in other ways (see above) that makes an IVA ideal if you’d rather not speak to your creditors.
To explore trust deeds and other debt management options that might be right for you, talk to us.
Trust Deed Example
Example Unsecured Debts
|2||Credit card 1||£6,812|
Your Monthly Repayments Would Be
a Scottish Trust Deed £748
(total contractual repayments)
a Scottish Trust Deed £295
(total contractual repayments)
* Subject to creditor acceptance
* Payment subject to individual circumstances
* Credit rating may be affected
* Fees apply, subject to individual's circumstances. For more information on our fees click here