IVAs and DMPs are very different debt solutions. The advantages and disadvantages of IVAs are discussed here; and of DMPS are discussed here. Neither of them is “best” – it all depends on your current situation and how that might change in the future. Looking at the differences between them is the best way to decide which is right for you.
NB It is important to remember that IVAs are individual arrangements. In this article I am assuming that your IVA would follow what is currently a fairly normal pattern.
DMPs are good temporary solutions – IVAs aren’t
- You can easily stop a DMP whenever you want and resume the normal debt repayments.
- You can end an IVA, but it’s not simple and can have significant downsides: the IVA marker will remain on your credit file (see below) and you will also have incurred the IVA set-up fees.
making a choice: If there is a good chance that your finances will improve soon and that afterwards you will be able to pay off your debts normally, you probably should choose a DMP.
have you considered: If you haven’t reclaimed PPI, start off with a DMP whilst you do this as this could mean you don’t need an IVA at all! Many people have been astonished by the amount of PPI compensation they get, as they had no idea they had paid that much.
An IVA has a guaranteed end-point – a DMP hasn’t
- IVA normally end after 5 years, with an extra year being added if you have equity in a house but can’t release it. At that point, your IVA completes and any remaining debts are written-off. But some IVAs go on for longer than planned – a few are still ongoing after nine years.
- A DMP goes on until you stop it or you have cleared all of the debts. This could take three or four years, but it could still not be finished after twenty! When you are choosing between an IVA and a DMP, you must work out how long your DMP is likely to last, this is a crucial piece of information.
making a choice: If your DMP is going to be long, then an IVA instead could be a speedier and a more assured solution. But if your DMP would be short, opting for the ‘fixed length’ of an IVA is not a plus point.
IVA monthly payments aren’t flexible – DMP payments are
- In an IVA, if things go wrong there are usually some limited options that your Insolvency Practitioner can change: payments can be changed by 15% or there can be a payment break of six months – see What happens if you can’t afford the IVA payments. But large problems, especially in the first few years can be insurmountable. At present about 1 in 4 IVAs fail – this is better than a few years ago but it is still high.
- IVAs for the self-employed work rather differently and can be designed to cope with a seasonal variations in income.
- In a DMP, repayments can be adjusted if your hours are cut or you have additional expenses. The downside of doing this is however that the DMP then takes even longer to complete. A DMP that you initially calculate as being say nine years may seem acceptable to you, but if things go wrong, then that could stretch to a very long time.
making a choice: If you have a very variable income, making a five-year commitment in an IVA would be unwise. If you have a regular income, consider if any of your expenses are likely to change significantly, from mortgage rate rises or needing a replacement car to having a baby or benefits stopping when a child leaves school.
An IVA has to be agreed by a majority of your creditors – DMPs don’t
- An IVA has to be approved by 75% (by the value of their debt) of creditors who vote at the meeting. If you have a very large creditor, they have effectively a veto over the IVA. For example, a large creditor may say they will only accept a proposal if it is for six years not five. This isn’t common – your Insolvency Practitioner should know if your creditor list is likely to prove ‘difficult’ and will discuss it with you.
- A DMP is proposed to creditors individually. Even if one of them refuses to ‘accept’ your offer, you can still go ahead and make the proposed reduced payments, but the creditor may not freeze interest or could still go to court for a CCJ. If the difficult creditor is small, this probably doesn’t matter.
making a choice: If an IP tells you an IVA is unlikely to be approved, you may well have problems with a long-term DMP and you may need to look at other debt solutions such as bankruptcy or selling your house if it has equity.
All interest is frozen in an IVA – this isn’t guaranteed in a DMP
- In an IVA, all your unsecured creditors are bound by the IVA and cannot add interest, even if they voted against the IVA.
- In a DMP, your creditors are asked to freeze interest and not add charges. Most will if they are presented with a reasonable Income and Expenditure sheet and you can challenge a refusal, but this isn’t guaranteed.
making a choice: If other factors are pointing towards a DMP, you could start a DMP and 6 months later change to an IVA if, unusually, you have a lot of problems with creditors continuing to add interest or charges.
An IVA may seem more intrusive than a DMP
- An IVA has to be set up by an Insolvency Practitioner, there is no “DIY” option. You will have to supply your Insolvency Practitioner with a lot of details and paperwork before your IVA is set up and at annual reviews. An IVA is also a matter of public information – your name will be on the Insolvency Register.
- If you set up your own DMP (see this article about a CAB system that can help) you don’t have to discuss your affairs with anyone else, but you will still have to send your creditors an Income and Expenditure Sheet to persuade them to freeze interest. If you use a company to run a DMP for you (NB never use a commercial firm that charges you fees!) then you will have to talk through your budget with them at the start and at reviews, but it will be simpler than setting up an IVA.
making a choice: If you need the security of an IVA, these are the necessary consequences. For most people they won’t seem like a major factor for making their decision.
Safeguarding your house
- In an IVA, your creditors cannot take legal action against you: they can’t get CCJs and then a charge over your house or make you bankrupt. For the duration of the IVA, your house is therefore safe (assuming of course that you can pay the mortgage and any secured loans.)
- At the end of an IVA, if you have significant equity you may have to remortgage or get a secured loan to release some money for your IVA. Currently in 2016, it is incredibly rare for someone to be offered a remortgage. The secured loan clause is new and it is not clear how often it will be used, but this story of one person being offered a 15 year secured loan at 19% interest is pretty horrifying.
- In a DMP your creditors can try to get a charge over your house or make you bankrupt. This is very unusual for a consumer debt, especially at the start of a DMP, but it is a possibility you need to be aware of especially if you have significant equity and your DMP is likely to last for a long time. It is more likely to happen with commercial creditors (eg where you have given a personal guarantee over a business loan) or tax debts. If you are concerned about whether this is likely to be a problem for your DMP, it might be helpful to discuss it with StepChange.
making a choice: protecting a house with significant equity is one of the main reasons to prefer an IVA over bankruptcy. Many people worry more than they need to about the potential risk to their house in a DMP.
Effect on your credit record
- An IVA marker is added to your credit record – this will make it hard or impossible to borrow money, which is likely anyway to be against the terms of your IVA. It will also make it very difficult to remortgage at a good rate, which may cause problems if you have a fixed rate ending in the next year or two. The marker will be removed after six years but even afterwards it will be harder to get a mortgage or remortgage.
- The effect of a DMP on your credit record is more complicated as there is no definite time at which creditors have to mark debts as defaulted. If your DMP may be temporary, you don’t want them to default your debts at the start, but in a long DMP it’s better if debts are defaulted because then they will fall off your file after six years – see this article for more details.
making a choice: The impact of an IVA is worse for your credit record than a DMP, but it is limited to six years. This is a side effect of your chosen debt solution that it is good to be aware of, but it is less important than other factors such flexibility or the length of time until you are debt-free in deciding which is best for you.
IVAs are a formal debt solutions. They have a fixed duration and all creditors are bound by them which is good, but they are not easily changed. It is essential that you are sure you can live on your allowed budget and that you think what may change over the next few years – do not sign up in a hurry to an IVA and later regret it.
DMPs are an informal debt solution. They can be short or long-term. Creditors are likely to freeze interest but cannot be forced to. They are flexible so you can change your payments. If you have a lot of debt, especially if you also have a house with equity, then you should probably look at formal debt solution such as an IVA to see if that would be a quicker and more secure approach to clearing your debt.
For some people this is a really hard choice to make. An IVA that fails is a disaster, but being stuck in a seemingly endless DMP isn’t a good idea either. You may feel that you need a crystal ball because of all the things that could change in the future! If neither feels right for you, look at the other possible choices such as bankruptcy, selling your house, getting a lodger etc
If you are feeling completely stuck, then you could start with a DMP and review it after 6 months, when it will be clearer how you cope on a restricted budget and whether your creditors have frozen interest.