What is "discharge from bankruptcy"?
It is a process that frees you from the restrictions of bankruptcy and releases you from most of the debts you owed at the date the bankruptcy order was made. The Official Receiver can apply to court for a Bankruptcy Restrictions Order, which will mean that you continue to be subject to restrictions after discharge for the period stated in that Order. This will not affect the discharge of your debts.
When will I be discharged?
Usually after 12 months, but if the Official Receiver files a notice in court before that time to say that he has concluded his enquiries into your affairs, then you will be discharged when the notice is filed. If such a notice is issued in your case, a copy will be sent to you so that you will know when you are discharged. If you do not co-operate with the Official Receiver (or the trustee, if an insolvency practitioner has been appointed as trustee in place of the Official Receiver), then the court may be asked to stop your discharge from taking place. An example would be if you refused to provide information to the Official Receiver or the trustee. If your discharge has been suspended (stopped) before 1 April 2004, you should contact the Official Receiver for information about how and when you may be discharged from bankruptcy.
How do I get my bankruptcy discharge?
You will normally get your discharge automatically even if no payments have been made to your creditors. If you are discharged automatically, you do not have to do anything to get your discharge. If you wish, you can obtain a certificate of discharge. A certificate is not necessary in most cases, but if you need one you should write to the court that dealt with your bankruptcy. Do not write sooner than 2 weeks before your discharge date. Give your name, address and court number (to be taken from the latest correspondence about your bankruptcy).
The court will check with the Official Receiver that you are entitled to an automatic discharge. You should receive a certificate confirming your discharge within about 4 weeks.
A fee of £60 is payable to the court for issuing a certificate of discharge (further copies will cost £1 each). You can also ask for the Official Receiver to advertise your discharge, but you will have to pay the costs of this before it is done.
You will not get your discharge automatically if:
- if your discharge period has been suspended, for example because you have failed to co-operate with the Official Receiver or trustee;
- if you are subject to a criminal bankruptcy order. Please contact the Official Receiver for more information.
What is the effect of the discharge?
a) Your Debts
Your debts - you will be freed from most debts that you incurred before the bankruptcy order. You will be able to obtain credit without having to mention your bankruptcy (unless you are specifically asked to do so) but you will want to ensure that you can repay it.
The debts you are not freed from include:
- Any money owed under family court proceedings (for example, maintenance) or arising from any personal injury claims against you unless the court directs otherwise.
- Any court fines or debts arising from fraud or certain other crimes.
- Debts you incur after the bankruptcy order.
- Since 1 September 2004, all outstanding student loans. If you were made bankrupt before 1 September 2004 you may still have to repay your student loan. Clarification should be requested from the Official Receiver.
b) Your mortgage payments
Please note that secured creditors (lenders who hold security such as a mortgage for the money owed) still have the right to enforce or recover their security if payments are not met. You should consider contacting your mortgage lender about your mortgage payments and your discharge from bankruptcy.
c) Your assets
Any assets that the Official Receiver or the trustee held or claimed during your bankruptcy remain under the control of the Official Receiver or the trustee. They are not returned to you on discharge. It may be some time after your discharge before all your assets, such as your home, are dealt with. Please note that, when your trustee makes a payment to your creditors, he may place an advertisement about your bankruptcy in a newspaper asking creditors to submit their claims. If it takes your trustee a long time to deal with an asset, this advertisement may appear several years after the bankruptcy order. If your home has not been dealt with in a certain period, usually 3 years from the date of the bankruptcy order, your interest in it may be returned to you. (We have a separate guide what will happen to your home, which explains this more fully.)
d) Your business
After discharge you can carry on a business without the restrictions that applied during your bankruptcy. You can act as a director of a limited company or be involved in its management (unless you are subject to a separate disqualification order).
Your obligation to co-operate with the Official Receiver and trustee
You must continue to assist the Official Receiver and the trustee, for example by providing any information requested, even after your discharge. If you do not, you could be liable to contempt of court.
The following paragraphs explain what will happen to public records of your bankruptcy:
- The Insolvency Service’s Individual Insolvency Register - The Individual Insolvency Register contains records of bankruptcy orders and individual voluntary arrangements in England and Wales. The record of your bankruptcy will remain on the register for 3 months after the date of your discharge.
- The Individual Insolvency Register is available online by viewing the Individual Insolvency Register
- For further information, a publication called 'The Individual Insolvency Register' is available from your local Official Receiver’s office or from The Insolvency Service website or from the Insolvency Service Publication Order Line.
HM Land Registry
Bankruptcy petitions and orders are registered at the Land Charges Department of HM Land Registry. These entries remain on the register for 5 years from the date of registration. Discharge has no effect on this. The Official Receiver or trustee can apply for entries to be renewed beyond the 5 years, for example if the discharge has been suspended. If you own property that is registered in your sole name, a bankruptcy notice (to protect the rights of creditors) and a bankruptcy restriction notice (to prevent dealings with the property) may also have been registered against the title to the property. If your interest in your home is returned to you, the trustee will notify the Chief Land Registrar that the property is no longer part of your bankruptcy estate. If the property is registered in joint names, a Form J restriction (against dealings) may have been registered against the title. Discharge has no effect on this.
Credit reference agencies
The Official Receiver does not send any form of notice to credit reference agencies. The agencies pick up information from other sources such as advertisements of bankruptcies in newspapers, “The London Gazette” and the Register of County Court Judgments. If no advertisement of your discharge from bankruptcy or the annulment of the bankruptcy order is made, you will have to provide separate information to credit reference agencies to amend their records. For further information, a publication called “No Credit?” is produced by the Information Commissioner’s Office - telephone 01625 545745.
What is "annulment of bankruptcy"?
This is a procedure by which a court cancels the bankruptcy order it has made. This can happen if it turns out that your bankruptcy order should not have been made or if all your debts and fees and expenses of the bankruptcy have been paid in full; or if your creditors accept proposals for settlement under a voluntary arrangement. See individual voluntary arrangement (IVA) for more information.