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Debt Settlement Arrangement (DSA)

If you are in debt and cannot meet your repayments when they are due, formal debt solutions can be an option. A Debt Settlement Arrangement (DSA) is one of the solutions under Personal Insolvency Act 2012 to help you clear your debt problems over a period of time.  

Different debt solutions can affect your life in different ways (for example, they might affect your credit rating, mortgage or savings). You must apply for a DSA through a Personal Insolvency Practitioner who will charge a fee for this service. So it’s always a good idea to contact MABS before you make any big decisions. 

Find out how to qualify for a Debt Settlement Arrangement (DSA) and how the process works.

What is a Debt Settlement Arrangement? 

The Debt Settlement Arrangement (DSA) process gives debt relief if you: 

  • Have unsecured debt  
  • Can afford to make either regular payment or a lump sum payment towards your debts  

There are no maximum limits on the total amount of debt that can be covered, but all of the debts must be unsecured 

A DSA can be put in place for up to 5 years and can be extended to 6 years in some cases. Creditors are not allowed to take action against you during this time. This is called the supervision period’. 

The length of an arrangement is agreed by all parties involved. It will depend on your personal circumstances and what is being proposed by your Personal Insolvency Practitioner (PIP). This is a person authorised by the Insolvency Services of Ireland (ISI) to support you to apply for a Debt Settlement Arrangement.  

The DSA proposal must be agreed by you and then approved at a creditors’ meeting. The proposed DSA will have to get the support of creditors representing at least 65% of the total debt that it covers. 

During the term of the DSA, you either make a lump sum payment or make regular payments. The ISI will share this money to your creditors according to the terms of the DSA.  

When a DSA is in place, you are entitled to a reasonable standard of living that includes food, clothing, education, health care, special circumstances and a modest allowance for savings. Work out your households reasonable living expenses using the ISI’sreasonable living expenses calculator. 

At the end of years, if you keep to the terms of the DSA, the rest of your debts listed in your DSA will be written off. This means that you no longer owe the money. 

What happens if my circumstances change? 

Your PIP can change your DSA if your circumstances change during the term of your agreement.  

Your financial situation gets worse: If you can no longer afford the agreed repayments, your PIP can apply for a change to the arrangement terms.  

Your financial situation improves: The terms of the DSA can be changed if your circumstances improve. 

 You will have a say in any changes made to the arrangement. 

Is there a fee for getting a Debt Settlement Arrangement? 

You must apply through a Personal Insolvency Practitioner who will charge a fee for this service. There is no set fee for PIPs, but they are expected to clearly tell you their costs and charges before you appoint them. 

What debts does a Debt Settlement Arrangement cover?  

A Debt Settlement Arrangement mainly covers unsecured debts. It is important to know whether your debts are secured or not. 

In general, the following debts are unsecured: 

  • Utility bill arrears (gas, electricity and so on) 
  • Rent arrears 
  • Credit card debt 
  • Store card debt 
  • Bank overdrafts 
  • Unsecured bank loans 

If debts like these are added to your mortgage, they become secured debts and you would not be eligible for a DSA. 

What debts may and may not be included? 

May be included 

  • Personal loans  
  • Credit Union loans  
  • Business/commercial loans  
  • Credit card loans  
  • Store cards  
  • Overdrafts   
  • Personal guarantees 

May be included with creditor permission (Excludable) 

If the creditor is contacted and asked if the debt can be included and doesn’t respond, the creditor is judged to have permitted to it being included. 

  • Taxes, duties, levies owed or payable to the State  
  • Local government charges  
  • Amounts due to the Health Service Executive under the Nursing Home Support Scheme  
  • Annual service charges to owner’s management companies (apartments and housing estates)  
  • Liabilities arising under the Social Welfare Consolidation Act 2005  
  • Local authority rates 
  • Household charge

May not be included (Excluded) 

  • Secured debts like a mortgage 
  • Family maintenance payments under Court orders  
  • Court fines in respect of criminal offences  
  • Liabilities arising out of personal injury or wrongful death claims awarded by the Court  
  • Liabilities arising from loans obtained by fraud  
  • Other similar debts 

Am I eligible for a Debt Settlement Arrangement? 

A Debt Settlement Arrangement deals with unsecured debts. There are no minimum or maximum limits on the total amount of debt that can be covered. 

To qualify for a DSA you must: 

  • Have one or more unsecured debts 
  • Be insolvent (unable to pay your debts in full as they fall due) 
  • Be unlikely to become solvent in the next 5 years 
  • Have no more than 25% of your debt built up in the last 6 months 
  • Live in Ireland 
  • Not had a DSA before (you can only have one DSA in your lifetime) 
  • Not had a protective certificate for a DSA in the past year 
  • Not had a Debt Relief Notice in the past 3 years 
  • Not had a Personal Insolvency Arrangement in the past 5 years 
  • Not been involved in bankruptcy in the past 5 years 

How do I apply for a Debt Settlement Arrangement? 

You must apply for a DSA through a Personal Insolvency Practitioner (PIP).   

Call the MABS Helpline on 0818 07 2000, Monday to Friday from 9am to 8pm to check if you’re eligible to apply for a DSA. 

You will have to complete a Prescribed Financial Statement (PFS) giving full and honest information about your financial circumstances.  

What are the stages of a Debt Settlement Arrangement? 

Below is a summary of the stages involved:  

Stage   What happens 
1. Check if you’re eligible  Call the MABS Helpline on 0818 07 2000, Monday to Friday from 9am to 8pm to check if you’re eligible to apply for a DSA.
2. Choose a PIP  Choose a PIP from the Register of Personal Insolvency Practitioners  published by the Insolvency Service of Ireland (ISI) or call the ISI’s information line 076 106 4200, Monday to Friday from 9am to 6pm. 
3. Before your PIP consultation  Gather details of your debts, so you can bring these to your PIP consultation.  
4. PIP consultation  You will meet with the PIP. Your PIP will: 

  • Explain the process and help you complete a Prescribed Financial Statement 
  • Tell you if a DSA is the right solution for your situation, what the consequences will be and what fees you will have to pay 
5. Appoint the PIP to act on your behalf  You will: 

  • Decide whether you are happy with the solution being put forward and want to proceed with an application 
  • Appoint the PIP. The PIP will write to you to confirm that they will act for you 
6. PIP applies for protective certificate   Your PIP sends your application to the ISI:

  • ISI checks that all the details are in order and sends a protective certificate together with all the documentation to the relevant court. The Circuit Court in cases up to €2.5 million and the High Court in larger cases.  
  • Court reviews the documentation and issues a protective certificate.  
  • ISI records the details of the protective certificate on itsRegister of Protective Certificates. 
7. PIP notifies creditors  Your PIP tells each of your creditors the protective certificate is in place and that you intend to make a proposal for a DSA: 

8. The DSA proposal  Your PIP must invite the relevant creditors to make proposals about the way the debts might be dealt with as part of a DSA:

  • Your PIP must give creditors your Prescribed Financial Statement. 
  • When creating the proposal for a DSA, the PIP will make sure that you are not required to sell or move out of your home.  
9. Meeting of creditors  The PIP calls a creditors’ meeting:

  • The creditors vote on whether or not to accept the proposed arrangement.  
  • Each vote is proportional to the amount of debt owed to that creditor.  
  • For the DSA to be accepted, it must get support of creditors representing 65% or more of the value of your total debt. 
  • Creditors reject: Both the protective certificate and the DSA process end. 
  • Creditors accept: PIP tells the ISI who notifies the court. 
10. Court approves the DSA   If the court is satisfied that all the conditions have been met, it approves the DSA and it comes into effect. The ISI records the DSA in itsRegister of Debt Settlement Arrangements. If the court does not approve the DSA, you may have to look at another personal insolvency option. 
11. What next?  You and your PIP will review your DSA at least once a year – see ‘what happens if my circumstances change’ above.

 

You can read more in the Insolvency Service of Ireland’s Guide to a DSA (pdf) and information on what a PIP can do for you (pdf) 

What are my other options? 

A DSA may not suit everyone. If a DSA is not for you, you have other options. Talk to MABS if you need any more information. 

Voluntary arrangement 

Creditors often prefer to come to an arrangement with you to repay debt, without taking legal action and going to Court.  

Debt Relief Notice (DRN)

If you have unsecured debts of less than €35,000 and are on a low income and have minimal assets, a DRN might be a more suitable option for a fresh start. A DRN is not suitable if you have a mortgage. Debts are written off after 3 years of supervision and no payments are required unless your circumstances increase above a set amount during the supervision time.  

Personal Insolvency Arrangement (PIA)

A PIA covers both secured and unsecured debts so may suit if you have a mortgage. There are no maximum limits on your assets, income or unsecured debts but your secured debts must be €3 million or less (unless your creditors allow more).  

Bankruptcy

Bankruptcy is your option of last resort. You must first have tried a DSA or a PIA and you must have more than €20,000 of debt. Bankruptcy normally lasts for 1 year. You should get legal advice if you are considering this option.  

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