Dealing with your priority debts

What are priority debts?

Important:

don't panic

You should be given warning and, as long as you act quickly, you should be able to stop these things happening. ​​

Some debts are more important than others. The law gives different creditors different ways of getting their money back. If you don't act quickly, some creditors could:

  • take away your home (called 'repossession' or 'eviction');
  • cut off your gas or electricity (disconnection);
  • send the bailiffs to take belongings from your home; or
  • ask the magistrates' court to send you to prison.

It is important to use your money for creditors to make agreements to settle these debts first. If you are unsure about how much to offer, contact us for advice.

How much do I have left to pay my creditors?

Creditors can take action on some priority debts without going to court first. For example, gas and electricity suppliers can disconnect you if you have a meter outside your home. To recover an overpayment, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) can take deductions from your ongoing benefits without a court order. Most other priority creditors can only usually take action against you after court action.

The table below tells you what might happen if you delay sorting out different priority debts.

​Debt Possible action against you​
​Mortgage ​Repossess your home.
​Second mortgage or secured loan ​Repossess your home.
​Rent ​Eviction from your home. Also you may still have to pay arrears, which could result in court action for a money judgment.
​Council tax ​Use of bailiffs, deductions from wages, deductions from some benefits or you could be sent to prison.
Gas or electricity

​Cut off your supply.

​Magistrates' court fines ​Use of bailiffs, or deduction from wages, deductions from some benefits, a clamping order, enforcement through the county court or the High Court or you could be sent to prison.
​Child maintenance ​This will depend on whether you pay maintenance through the court or, through the Child Support Agency (CSA) or the Child Maintenance Service (CMS). In some cases, you could have your driving licence taken away or, if you deliberately refuse to pay, the possibility of going to prison.
Budgeting loans and new-style advances and benefit overpayments ​Deductions from most types of benefits, Universal Credit and in some cases, deductions from wages, and court action.
Tax credit overpayments ​Deductions from your ongoing tax credits, Universal Credit or through your tax payments or court action.
Income tax, National Insurance and VAT ​Use of bailiffs or bankruptcy.
Hire purchase or conditional sale ​Repossession of the goods or a court order to make you hand them back.
​TV licence Magistrates' court fine.  If you do not pay the fine: use of bailiffs, deductions from your wages, deductions from some benefits, a clamping order, enforcement through the county court or the High Court or you could be sent to prison.