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- How to check your credit rating
- I’ve been turned down for credit
- I’m being pursued for someone else’s debts
- Someone has used my name to run up debt
- Old debts
Being in debt can be crippling, not only financially, but emotionally. We understand that and can help you get back on track. We’ve put together some information here for you but everyone’s situation is different. If you are struggling with debt, the best thing to do is to get help for your circumstances.
You have a right to know what is held on your credit file at Equifax and Experian, or Callcredit, all of which are credit information companies in the UK. You can write to them asking for a copy of your file (which will take a week), or you can apply online.
You can write to the bank or building society who turned you down, or the company who refused your application and ask, though they do not have to tell you. Most banks and building societies have agreed to abide by a code of practice which means they will tell you if they used a credit reference agency and if the information they were told affected your application.
You can find out what information is on your credit file (see above) and if it is wrong, write to the bank, building society or company involved giving them the correct information. You should also contact the credit reference agency and ask them to correct the mistake. They may ask you for proof that their information is wrong. You may also be able to add notes to your credit file explaining if there were particular circumstances that caused you problems.
If you are being pursued by a debt collector for a debt you do not owe you need to make it clear to them that it is not your debt. A debt collector is not a bailiff and has no right to enter your premises. You should write to them informing them of why they are wrong.
If this does not sort out the problem and you are still being chased for the debt you can complain to the Office of Fair Trading. The Office of Fair Trading will look at the situation and ask for evidence from the debt collector as to why they think you owe the debt and evidence from you as to why you do not. If they decide that you have been wrongly pursued, they can award a payment for the distress and inconvenience you have been caused.
You can find out more here:
What action you can take will depend on how the debt was run up. When money is borrowed in joint names (for example, on a mortgage or loan) it means that both people are liable for the whole debt, both jointly (together) and separately.
If the debt has been run up fraudulently (without your knowledge) you might be able to avoid paying it if you can prove that it has nothing to do with you, for example if someone has stolen your identity. If you suspect this, you should immediately report it to the police and contact any banks or financial institutions explaining the situation. They may want to see a copy of the police report.
If you believe this may be the case you will need to check your credit file. Each time a loan or credit card is applied for it will be recorded on your file and you will be able to recognise those which may be your applications and those which are not.
Under the Limitations Act 1980 a creditor (the person you owe money to) has six years to chase most unpaid debts, or twelve years for some mortgage debts. You start counting the six or twelve years from the time of your last payment, not the time you got the money or the length of time for which you have been making payments. The same limitation period applies to a court judgement (CCJ) and if a creditor wanted to enforce the matter after that time a further application to the court would have to be made.
There is no limitation period for a CCJ or for debts owed to the Crown such as income tax.
The Limitations Act 1980 says that when ALL of the following conditions are met a debt cannot be enforced:
- The creditor has not registered a County Court Judgement (CCJ) against you
- You (or with joint debts, you and the other debtor) have not made a payment in the last six or twelve years
- You have not admitted the debt in writing in the last six or twelve years
If a debt cannot be enforced (is not enforceable) it is not the same as the debt being written off or disappearing. It just means that if the creditor takes you to court you can defend the claim and should not get a County Court Judgement against you. Some creditors like the Department of Work and Pensions have the legal power to take money directly from your wages or benefits without going to court, so even if the debt is statute barred then they can still make you pay it.
It is considered unfair practice to chase people for debts which are statute barred, so if you are being pursued for a debt you know is statute barred you should write to the creditor and tell them. There is a link to more information and a template letter on the Resources page.
If you do not pay your debts and there is a court judgement against you saying you owe money, enforcement action can be taken against you. Sending Bailiffs to seize property to pay off the debt is a type of enforcement action. You can stop bailiffs visiting your home if you pay them the money you owe. It is important to get advice on managing your debt as soon as possible, before bailiffs become involved.
Bailiffs have to operate within certain rules and guidelines. They normally charge you for visits to your home and this is added to what you owe. They can also charge you for coming into your home and taking your belongings. You can challenge the fees and complain if you think they’re charging for things they didn’t do or too much money.
Unless they are collecting unpaid criminal fines, Income Tax or Stamp Duty, Bailiffs are not allowed to force their way into your home and you don’t have to answer the door to them, let them in or agree to pay them. If you agree to let the bailiffs in, you will not be able to refuse them re-entry. But if you don’t agree to pay them or let them in, they can charge you more fees and you might end up owing more money. They can also take things from outside your house, like cars or bikes.
Bailiffs are not allowed to take things you need for your job, like work equipment or things you need for living, like clothes, cookers, fridges or furniture. They can take luxury items like TVs, art and jewellery. Bailiffs can only take the property of the person who owes the money, but you will have to prove that property is not yours to stop them taking it.
You need to be careful before letting anyone into your home. Make sure you check the Bailiff’s identification and that you see a detailed breakdown of what they say you owe. If you disagree with any of the items in the breakdown, you can dispute it.
If you do pay the bailiff or they take some of your possessions you need to make sure you get a receipt, to prove that you have paid. You can talk to the Bailiffs about how you can pay the money you owe if you can’t pay immediately and you can make an offer to them. Remember that you need to be able to keep up with the payments so think carefully about how much you can afford to offer to repay per month or per week. The Bailiffs don’t have to agree to your offer.
There are some links to other websites on the resources page with more information about dealing with debt, and some organisations which may be able to help.