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How debt review (debt counselling) works [full breakdown]

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Known as one being one of the best (and safest) ways to overcome debt, debt review is the process of working alongside a debt counsellor to consolidate and repay your debts as outlined in a structured repayment plan. 

With a myriad of benefits, it’s no wonder thousands of South African consumers have been set free from the stresses of debt after completing debt review! 

To help you completely understand debt review, this blog will outline and explore each step of the debt review process in detail. We hope you find this read insightful!

 

The debt review (debt counselling) process 

Debt review is a rehabilitation programme established by the National Credit Act Act 34 of 2005 with the purpose of assisting over-indebted South African consumers. 

Here is debt review process step by step

  1. Gather your financial documents for assessment
  2. Contact a registered debt counsellor 
  3. Apply for debt review 
  4. Confirm the debt repayment plan and begin the repayment process
  5. Complete debt review 
  6. Congratulations, you’re now debt-free! 

 

For a detailed explanation of what debt review is, read our blog What is debt review? South Africa’s solution to debt

 

debt review calculator

What is your estimate?

Try our debt reduction calculator to calculate your lower monthly debt instalment*.

*The calculation is an estimate actual amounts may vary.

What is your estimate?

Try our debt reduction calculator to calculate your lower monthly debt instalment*.

*The calculation is an estimate actual amounts may vary.

debt review calculator
Calculator - Reduced Repayment

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If applicable, enter your current monthly repayment amount for your home and vehicle debt below.

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Continue by adding what you pay each month for each category below.

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Click 'Check your estimate' to estimate your reduced monthly debt repayment under debt review.

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Now, let’s explore each step in greater detail.

 

Debt review process step by step

Gather your financial documents for assessment

When you apply for debt review, your debt counsellor will request several documents that you need to collect so that your debt may be assessed to verify that you are over-indebted.

Here is a list of the documents that you’ll need: 

  • Proof of income
  • Creditors statements
  • Documented living expenses
  • Bank statements 
  • Identification documents 

 

Your proof of income verifies that you have a regular income that you can use to repay your debt, while creditors’ statements detail your financial agreements with creditors, for example, credit card statements, unpaid bills, vehicle finance agreements, bond accounts, etc. 

And lastly, documented living expenses include water and electricity bills, grocery expenses, payments toward rent, and the like.

 

A graphic with a checklist of the documents you need for debt counselling (debt review)

 

Contact a registered debt counsellor 

Once you have all the required financial evidence and documentation in order, it’s time to contact a qualified debt counsellor and/or debt counselling firm. 

It’s very important that you check if your debt counsellor is registered with the National Credit Regulator (NCR). You can verify their services by checking their NCR ID number with the NCR database of debt counsellors.

Note that debt review isn’t free and that there are debt counselling fees you may want to familiarise yourself with. Thankfully, all fees are inclusive and must fall within the fee guidelines set forth by the NCR.

Your debt counsellor is responsible for the following services: 

 

Reviewing your financial situation

In order to be eligible for debt counselling, you need to be proven as ‘over-indebted’. Your debt counsellor will conduct a thorough review of your financial situation, confirm your over-indebtedness and begin developing a debt repayment plan tailored to your specific financial situation.

  

Helping you navigate the debt review process

Your debt counsellor will help file all the relevant forms to get the debt review process moving, negotiate with creditors on your behalf, help to establish legal protection, and get final approval of the debt repayment plan from the Court. 

 

Communicating with creditors on your behalf

Adopting the responsibility of communicating and negotiating with your creditors, your debt counsellor will inform them of your application for debt review. They will also request records of your debts and negotiate a debt repayment plan suited to your living expenses and repayment capability. 

Throughout the negotiation, it’s possible that your debt counsellor can reduce what you owe, decrease interest rate charges and rework your repayment timeline so that it suits your needs. 

 

A graphic that presents the overview of the debt review process with a timeline and milestones

 

Apply for debt review 

As the final step towards confirming your debt review application, your debt counsellor will file a notification to creditors that you are entering debt review (Form 17.1), your formal debt review application (Form 16), and the form confirming your over-indebtedness (Form 17.2). 

At this point, creditors are no longer allowed to pursue your debt in any legal manner, and your access to credit is halted, known as a ‘credit freeze’. A notice will be issued to creditors and credit bureaus and you will officially be tagged as under debt review to ensure that creditors do not make things worse by lending you more money while you’re repaying your debt.

You are allowed to withdraw from the debt review processes prior to Form 17.2 being issued by delivering a written instruction to your debt counsellor.

If the Form 17.2 has already been issued, you will have to issue a formal court application. 

 

Struggling to keep up with your debt?

Our team can help make your debt affordable once again.

We help thousands of South Africans to reduce their monthly debt repayments, protect them from legal action, and keep their assets — our team can help you too.

 

Confirm the debt repayment plan and begin the repayment process

After completing negotiations, your debt repayment plan proposal is sent to the National Consumer Tribunal for approval. Once this plan has been approved, you will sign an affidavit confirming that you agree to the terms of the repayment plan. 

 

The risks of defaulting while under debt review

It is important to note that you run the risk of having the debt review process terminated if you default on repayments.

This happens when applicants don’t pay the stipulated repayment amount in full, pay late, or don’t pay at all! 

If this happens, Section 86(10) of the National Credit Act allows creditors to terminate the debt review process and take legal action against the account, which includes the total outstanding amount owed them. 

Debt review applicants should reach out to their debt counsellor as soon as the risk of defaulting on payments arises — the debt counsellor may be able to help apply for a postponement. 

In the case of retrenchment, the debt counsellor should be notified immediately. Oftentimes credit arrangements contain clauses that grant lenders a 2-month grace period while seeking alternative employment. 

 

Complete debt review (stick with it) 

The finish line is going from negative X Rand owed to zero. 

At the end of the debt review process, your debt counsellor issues a clearance certificate confirming that you have successfully repaid all of your debt (there are exceptions for home loans, these do not need to be repaid in full).

You will be untagged by credit bureaus and have the opportunity to access credit once again. This time hopefully, more responsibly 😉

 

Debt-freedom 

Completing debt review is a massive achievement that deserves celebrating. Going from over-indebted to debt-free sets you up for a better future.

 

Tips for staying debt-free

To prevent falling into the same negative financial habits, here are a few pointers to help you stay out of debt: 

 

4 tips for staying debt-free

 

1. Prioritise buying cash 

We all know the saying ‘cash is king’ so keep this in mind when spending. Cash doesn’t have to be printed money or coins, cash means having the money to buy something without credit

Saving up for things that you want is a habit that can build over time.

 

2. Set and stick to a personal budget 

Develop a detailed monthly (or weekly) budget to help you track your spending and reach certain financial goals. A budget can help you stay accountable for your spending and help you flag where you may be spending recklessly. 

If you don’t think drawing up a physical budget will work for you, then try an app instead.

 

3. Avoid risky financial behaviour such as gambling

Gambling is a slippery slope toward losing money recklessly and falling into dangerous debt. We advise that you avoid gambling and other risky financial behaviour altogether.  

 

4. Be mindful of your credit 

After completing debt review, you will have access to credit once again; however, you should request credit carefully. Our advice would be to monitor your credit score regularly and make timeous payments on all your accounts. 

 

5. Seek professional help if necessary 

When spending habits start to spiral, or you simply need advice on certain financial decisions or goals, don’t hesitate to reach out to a registered professional.

 

Final comments 

We hope this blog was informative and left you with a greater understanding of the debt review process from start to end.  

As an effective way to address your debt in South Africa, debt review is a highly valuable process to help you achieve debt freedom. 

Here at My Debt Hero, we help South African consumers safely overcome their debt. If you need any assistance, don’t hesitate to contact us.

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