Q&A: Debt Review

A recent court ruling provided clarity around exactly how and when an individual may exit debt review, but there is still a lot of confusion around the debt review process.

Reader question
I have recently paid off my car and some credit I had, but I still have four outstanding debts and my salary has increased by 50% over what I was getting before I went on debt review. Will I now be able to exit debt review because I can now afford to pay my remaining debts?

Answer

If your debt review has been approved by a Magistrates court, then you have no option but to complete your repayments. Only once all your debts are repaid as per the court order, can you exit debt review. There is a good possibility that your debt counsellor negotiated a better interest rate for you under debt review, so it is an advantage to settle your debts under debt review. Ask your debt counsellor to increase your repayments based on your new affordability so that you can settle the debts as soon as possible.

Reader question
My wife has been under debt review for around two years now. The debt counsellor is saying that I must also be under debt review because we are married under community of property. They are saying the people who assisted my wife made a mistake by not including me under debt review. Is this correct? I don’t want to be under debt review.

Answer

What many people do not realise is that if you are married under Community of Property (COP) both spouses must be under debt review as the debt forms part of both estates. If your wife applied for debt review, the debt counsellor is supposed to include you in the debt review process. This is often an area of contention between spouses – especially if one has been managing their money carefully.

However, you need to remember that you are 100 percent liable for your wife’s debt under COP.  In theory a creditor could go after your income and assets if your wife defaults.

According to debt counsellor Russell Dickerson, in this specific case, if the debt counsellor did not place you both under debt review at the time of application, it is the error of the debt counsellor. Dickerson says the two options are either that you enter debt review, or you go back to court and attempt to rescind the order, as the original order is incorrect.

Reader question

I have recently completed my debt review process and was promised my clearance certificate.  The debt counsellor ignores my calls, and emails – when she does communicate back, she always changes the date for issuing the clearance.  I am sick and tired of this process.  She issued me with a screenshot of the DHS system being updated and a draft of a clearance certificate, not signed, not certified. How long should it take to receive a clearance certificate.

Answer

Section 71 of the National Credit Act deals with the issuing of clearance certificates. It states that the debt counsellor must within 7 days after the consumer paid up all the debt that formed the subject of the debt review, alternatively all other debt except a mortgage bond, issue a clearance certificate to such consumer.

If the debt counsellor refuses to do so, the consumer may apply to the National Consumer Tribunal for an order that such clearance certificate be issued.

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