Thinking of entering into a Part IX Debt Agreement? Know what you’re getting into by reading our guide below.
If you’ve come to the point of considering a debt agreement, it’s safe to say you are struggling with your debt. You may owe money on credit cards, secured loans or unsecured personal loans and be finding it hard to juggle your monthly payments. Is your debt only being shifted around and not being reduced? Are you seeing yourself dipping further into the red? It's important to find out all about Part 9 Debt Agreements and weigh up the benefits and drawbacks before deciding the best avenue for you to take. You can do this using our guide below.
What is a debt agreement?
A debt agreement is a binding agreement between you and your creditors to pay a sum of money owed to your creditors that you can afford. It’s also referred to as a Part IX agreement as it can be found in Part 9 of the Bankruptcy Act 1996.
What’s the difference between a debt agreement and bankruptcy?
While a Part 9 agreement is an act of bankruptcy, it is not a full act of bankruptcy. You are not declaring yourself bankrupt when you enter into a debt agreement. Here are some of the main differences between the two:
|Part IX Debt Agreements||Bankruptcy|
|Length of time||You are only under the agreement until you pay back your debts.||You remain bankrupt for a minimum of three years and a maximum of eight years.|
|Appearing on your credit file||The debt agreement will appear on your report for five years from the date you enter into it.||Your bankruptcy will appear on your file from two years from the date you were discharged or five years from the date you became bankrupt, whenever is later.|
|National Personal Insolvency Index (NPII)||Your name will appear on the NPII for a limited period of time.||Your name will appear on it forever.|
|Eligibility||There are income, asset and debt thresholds. You cannot have been bankrupt or in a debt agreement in the last 10 years.||Petition may not be accepted if you were previously bankrupt. There are no income, asset or debt thresholds.|
|Employment restrictions||No restrictions.||Certain industry associations or licencing authorities may have restrictions or conditions concerning bankruptcy.|
|Income restrictions||No restrictions.||Your income will be restricted to pay creditors if it exceeds a certain amount.|
|Other restrictions||You may be required to disclose your debt agreement if you own a business in another name.||There is a multitude of restrictions that come with bankruptcy. For instance, you cannot travel overseas without prior written consent of your trustee.|
What are the benefits and drawbacks of a debt agreement?
If you’re considering entering into a debt agreement, it can help to weigh up the pros and cons before taking the next step. Here are some points to consider:
- You can avoid bankruptcy. While entering a debt agreement is an act of bankruptcy, it isn't completely declaring bankruptcy. Entering a Part IX debt agreement is an alternative.
- Your debts won't accrue interest. After the creditors have voted "yes" on the debt agreement, your debts will stop accruing interest.
- Creditors can't pursue you. Once the creditors agree, any civil actions are frozen as well as the executions and creditors are considered on equal footing.
- You can consolidate household debt. If your household has mounting debt you can file for individual agreements or 'Conditional Proposal' for joint debt. This means if one debt agreement isn't accepted, the other will be approved.
- You may not be able to access credit. The debt agreement is an act of bankruptcy and it will be listed on your credit file for five years. During this time your ability to access credit will be seriously impacted.
- You can lose secured assets. If you do not keep up with repayments as per the debt agreement on secured assets, creditors can repossess the security. If the sold asset isn't enough to recover the lender's loss, you still may owe the lender money.
- It can damage your business. You will need to inform anyone you do business with that you are currently under a debt agreement if you do not operate your business under your own name.
- It can restrict your employment. If you are employed in certain industries there may be restrictions placed on you, or you may not be able to be employed while you are under a debt agreement.
- It can lead to bankruptcy. If you do not stick to your debt agreement or it is not accepted by your creditors, they can use the proposal to apply to the court to make you bankrupt.
How does the debt agreement process work?
Understanding how the Part 9 Agreement process works is important to helping you weigh up the advantages and disadvantages. Here is a breakdown of the process.
- Review the information. You need to read and review the prescribed information about the consequences of bankruptcy, debt agreements and the alternatives that are available. You can find this information on the Australian Financial Security Authority (AFSA)'s website.
- Appoint an administrator. You have the option of administering your own debt or appointing a debt agreement administrator. If you decide to appoint an administrator you can find one on the registered debt agreement administrators section on the AFSA's website. Keep in mind you will be charged upfront and ongoing fees.
- Debt arrangement proposal. After you appoint an administrator and they determine your insolvency and unmanageable debt and help you prepare a dent management proposal. This will outline the proposal offer in dollar terms. Separate forms will inform creditors about your financial position and your will also set out your statement of affairs. Your debt arrangement proposal will then be lodged with the Official Receiver.
- Your creditors will vote. Following the receipt of the debt arrangement, your creditors will receive copies of the Official Receiver's Report and the Debt Arrangement Proposal. Creditors then vote on the proposal, generally within a period of five weeks. If the report is accepted by the majority it becomes an agreement and recorded on the NPII; if it's rejected by the majority it will be recorded on the NPII and creditors can continue trying to recover debts from you; if it's cancelled by the Official Receiver the NPII is updated and creditors can commence or continue with action to recover their debts.
- If your debt agreement is accepted. You will need to comply with the debt agreement and complete it by the date listed on the proposal. Talk to your administrator if you don't think you will be able to complete it by this date.
What are the alternatives to a Part 9 Agreement?
If you're unsure whether a debt agreement is right for you, you may want to consider some ways to take back control of your debt:
- Unsecured personal loan. Depending on how much debt you owe and the state of your credit history, you may be eligible for an unsecured personal loan. You can borrow upwards of $60,000 with an unsecured personal loan and consolidate debt from multiple credit accounts.
- Free financial counselling service. Before you enter into an agreement it can help to get some free advice to find out if this is the best route for you to take. You can give the service a call on 1800 007 007.
- Balance transfer credit cards. If the majority of your debt is on credit cards and you have good credit history, you may want to consider your balance transfer options. These cards let you transfer debt from multiple cards to one and pay no interest for an extended period of time. You can compare your card options here.
Who is eligible for Part IX Debt Agreement?
To be considered for a debt agreement:
- You cannot have been bankrupt or had a debt agreement in the last 10 years
- Your unsecured debts need to be less than $108,162.60*
- You cannot earn more than $81,121.95*
*Amounts correct on 8 December 2015