Dealing with your priority debts

What are priority debts?


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); or
  • in very rare circumstances, apply to 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 ​Evict you from your home. Also you may still have to pay arrears, which could result in court action called diligence.
​Council tax ​Deductions from some benefits, deductions from your wages, freezing your bank accounts, trying to take goods from outside or inside your home, or bankruptcy.
Gas or electricity

​Cut off your supply.

Court fine ​Deductions from some benefits, deductions from your wages, freezing your bank accounts, supervised attendance order, your vehicles could be taken, 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 passport, ID card or driving licence taken away or, if you deliberately refuse to pay, risk 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, through your tax payments or court action.
Income tax, National Insurance and VAT ​Freeze your bank accounts, try to take goods from outside or inside your home, make deductions from your wages, or bankruptcy.
Hire purchase or conditional sale ​Repossession of the goods or a court order to hand them back.
​TV licence ​Court fine (see court fines above for information about what this can mean).