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Advantages and Disadvantages to an IVA

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The Individual Voluntary Agreement, or IVA, has just reached its twenty-fifth birthday, after being introduced in 1986 as a type of debt management solution. Available to people in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, IVAs can help debtors escape insolvency. They are designed to assist people with unaffordable, out-of-control debts by arranging a reduced monthly payment plan with creditors.

More details about IVAs

IVAs are legally binding, but they are generally considered to be a more attractive insolvency scheme than bankruptcy. If followed properly, IVAs can support you in clearing your unsecured debts by providing you with the opportunity to make lower monthly payments into the managed IVA scheme, for an agreed period of time, which is usually five years.

Provided that you stick to the arrangement, which typically means honouring a reduced-rate monthly repayment plan, the remainder of the original debt will be written off at the end of the term and you'll be free from unsecured debt. The scheme is designed to assist people who owe significant levels of unsecured debt to a number of lenders who they cannot afford to repay. It's essential that you are still able to meet the new, reduced payments each month and commit to the scheme for five years. The agreement is legally binding and will be managed by an insolvency practitioner.

What are the benefits of an IVA?

There are several key benefits. An IVA can freeze the interest on your debts, which can otherwise mount up. It also protects you from further action or legal intervention from your lenders. This can greatly relieve pressure. It also allows you to avoid experiencing some of the more challenging aspects of bankruptcy, which can include the repossession of your property. It also means that you have a clear date for becoming debt free, which is usually a five-year period and you only need to deal with one scheme and one IVA company, rather than an array of lenders.

Are there downsides to an IVA?

With all insolvency schemes there are important points to consider. First, you may find that you're obliged to release equity from your property in month 54 of the IVA arrangement. You will also be prevented from taking out additional credit during the IVA period. You'll be forced to enter bankruptcy if you fail to adhere to the agreed conditions and terms of the arrangement, in which case your IVA will fail. Your IVA will also stay on your credit record for a year after it has finished, which can make it difficult for you to obtain credit.

If you feel that this scheme is appropriate for your requirements, you can find a company who provide IVAs pretty easily, as there are plenty of online and high-street firms offering such services. It's worth asking at your citizen's advice bureau for advice before entering into an IVA.

What next?

As with any kind of debt solution, it's essential that you get advice that is relevant to your situation. Speak to a qualified debt adviser and find out whether you meet the terms and conditions of the scheme. Check too that you understand the full implications of taking out an IVA and seek a reputable organisation with good feedback to manage the scheme for you.

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