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How to get your debt written off in South Africa

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When is debt written off in South Africa?

Prescribed debt is the only way that debt can fully be written off in South Africa, but there are other options for managing over-indebtedness.

Overview

There are many reasons why South Africans become over-indebted.

Nonetheless, when you do become over-indebted, there are several ways of managing this debt with your finances. In very specific cases, debt can be written off completely, but there are also other options that can help you pay off your debt even if it is not written off.

Causes of over-indebtedness

In South Africa, there are an array of reasons why people become over-indebted, even with the control measures and regulations that are in place to prevent this from happening. Some of the most common causes of over-indebtedness include:

  • Unemployment, retrenchment, or salary cuts
  • Overspending
  • Building too much credit
  • Interest rates, inflation, and house price increases
  • Loans such as student loans, home loans, and personal loans

How to get your debt written off in South Africa

Given that there are so many reasons why individuals could find themselves with too much debt, it is no wonder that you may be searching for different ways to get some, or all of your debts written off.

The National Credit Act in South Africa endeavours to create a fair and transparent credit environment in the country, but there are still some instances where consumers may find themselves with more debt than they are able to pay off.

The only true way to get debt written off in South Africa is when you have prescribed debt. However, there is also a new Credit Amendment Bill and other options which could help over-indebted individuals to manage their debts and finances better, so that they can possibly pay off the debts that cannot be written off.

Prescribed debt

Prescribed debt is old debt, which is written off by credit providers after a prescribed period of time has passed. This is the only real way, currently, in South Africa that debt can truly be written off, but there are conditions that apply to prescribed debt.

In order for a debt to be prescribed, the consumer must be unaware that the debt exists. This means that for a debt to be prescribed:

  • The creditor must not have claimed payment, sent a letter of demand, or issued a summons
  • The debtor must not have made any payments or acknowledged the debt directly or indirectly during the prescribed time period.

If this criteria has been met and the prescribed time period, which is three years for most debts, has lapsed then your debt will be written off and you will no longer be responsible for paying the debt to the creditor.

The Credit Amendment Bill

The Credit Amendment Bill was signed on 15 August 2019. The aim of this bill is to provide an alternative option for low-income individuals who are over-indebted.

This bill was developed specifically to enable certain debts to be suspended in part or in full for up to 24 months. Certain debts may also be written off entirely if your financial circumstances have not changed over these 24 months.

There is a criteria for individuals to be able to qualify for the assistance that this bill offers, which includes a monthly income that is not higher than R 7500 over six months, and a total debt amount that does not exceed R 50 000 in unsecured credit agreements.

Other options for paying off debts

If your debt cannot be prescribed and you do not qualify for the criteria set out in the Credit Amendment Bill, your debt will not likely be written off. However, there are other options that could help you pay some of, or all of your debt, without it being written off. This will help you to avoid large payments that may come in the form of accumulated interest, possible legal action, and judgements made against you for unpaid debts. These options include:

Option Description
Consolidating debts This means to combine all of your outstanding debts into a single loan amount, which is easier to manage and may incur less interest.
Debt review This is a formal process, where a debt counsellor will help you construct a repayment plan which restructures your debt.

Final thoughts

It is common for South Africans to have more debt than they can afford to pay, even with regulations regarding credit accounts in place.

Once you are over-indebted your debt will need to fall into very specific categories to be written off completely. Fortunately, there are other helpful ways of managing debt.

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