What's a Debt? 

There are many different situations where debts can arise. A debt occurs when someone owes someone else money. This could be because: 

  • ​​you loaned money to a friend or family member, or they loaned money to you
  • you sold goods or services to someone, and they haven't paid you
  • you have not paid someone for goods and services they provided you
  • you borrowed money from a bank and have not repaid the loan within the time required
  • you have not been paying the mortgage on your house
  • you have not paid your phone, water, gas or electricity bill.

Other common examples of debts are:

  • ​where you haven't paid your rent, or your tenant owes you rent
  • where you have joint debts with your ex-partner.

In those situations, it is important to get legal advice because specific laws apply. 

In this section, you can read more about:


    A contract is an agreement between two or more parties. It is a legally binding promise or agreement. It doesn't have to be in writing. If one person does not carry out the terms of the contract, they may have 'breached' the contract. The other person could choose to make a claim for money or a debt arising out of the breach.

    For more information, see Contracts​.

    Gifts and private loans

    Sometimes there can be a disagreement about whether money loaned was meant to be a gift, or whether there was an intention to repay the money. This is common where family members borrow money from each other.

    For more information, see Gifts and private loans.

    Loans and credit cards

    Bank loans, credit cards and mortgages are consumer credit contracts. National credit laws cover these types of contracts and these laws give additional rights to consumers if they have a consumer credit debt problem.

    For more information, see Loans and credit cards.

    Electricity, gas, water and telephone bills

    If you have problems paying your utility bills, you may be able to negotiate a payment plan with the service provider or apply to an Ombudsman service. 

    For more information, see Electricity, gas, water and phone bills.

    Woman writing on notepad 

    Need legal help