Chill for borrowers as the trail goes cold
Keep an eye on your credit reference, writes Sam Dunn, or mistakes by others may leave you frozen out for new loans
Sunday 18 July 2004
Have you read the story of your finances this weekend? All borrowers have one, in the form of a credit report that clocks all your loans, mortgage payments and plastic transactions. It is monitored by the three UK credit reference agencies - Equifax, Experian and Callcredit - and also makes a log every time lenders rake over your file.
According to Experian, the biggest of the agencies, consumers using its online service now look up their credit report at least once a month.
With an average of five credit arrangements each, our fears of identity theft and concern over debt repayments and rising interest rates have contributed to the rising take-up of the service, although at £50 for a year's unlimited access to your credit file, it doesn't come cheap.
Many people may not feel the need to keep such a close eye on their financial footprints. After all, if they don't regularly miss loan repayments or take on more credit card debt than they can handle, then why should they worry?
However, a healthy report is essential for credit card or mortgage applications and you need to keep tabs on it in case your story gets distorted through circumstances beyond your control. And such problems may not be the result of fraud; they could be down to bureaucratic bungles.
Independent on Sunday reader Nigel Knox found this out after trying to help his girlfriend clear big debts to Barclays bank and the credit card company Goldfish. The lenders had sold these balances on to separate debt collectors - a common practice in the financial services industry when outstanding repayments become an expensive problem.
In this case, Mr Knox paid off his girlfriend's loans but no record of this found its way to the credit reference agencies, thanks to a failure of debt settlement protocol between the big lenders, their debt collectors and the agencies.
As a result, when he tried to arrange a remortgage with his girlfriend, Mr Knox discovered that the wrongly blemished credit reports were convincing lenders to turn them away.
The communication breakdown has left the couple unable to get a new mortgage for well over a year. "It seems like we fell right through a hole in the system," says Mr Knox.
Had he known, he could have written to the reference agencies to request a "note of correction" be posted on both his and his partner's credit report.
You can write up to 200 words to explain your unhappiness at a particular credit status and this alert will be read by every lender, providing a more accurate snapshot.
Credit agencies will normally look into any problem but, failures by lenders aside, the way the service works has some way to go. In particular, consumer awareness needs to be improved and Equifax and Experian are flagging the benefits of writing in - for free - to place correction notes.
There are other flaws. For example, lenders won't always give a full picture of their own customers' finances. Depending on the type of account you hold, some of the UK's biggest banks only release limited data.
Late payments or multiple applications for credit cards by LloydsTSB current account customers may go unnoticed by other lenders during a credit check, simply because its policy is only to reveal a "default" history - where repayments have fallen seriously behind.
"There can be gaps," says James Jones of Experian, "but pressure is now on the industry to share full information."
Write to the reference agencies if you feel you are being unfairly turned down for credit or you have a query. For a fee, you can even see what credit score they give you. You can also check your credit report by post: the statutory fee is £2.
Don't forget, you're stuck with a bad record for a long time. Experian's database notes late payments for at least three years and court judgments blot your score for six years.
Write to: Equifax, Credit File Advice Centre, PO Box 1140, Bradford BD1 5US; Experian, Consumer Help Service, PO Box 8000, Nottingham NG80 7WF.
- 1 Isis 'jihadi bride' claims forced sex with Yazidi girls is never rape because Koran condones it
- 2 New Zealand 'the best country to work as a prostitute', says sex worker advocacy group
- 3 Purity balls: Girls in the US making virginity pledges as fathers vow to 'protect purity'
- 4 Mother 'will allow son's circumcision in return for release from prison'
- 5 Female Muay Thai champion hustles coaches to give them a beating
As a white man, I'm surprised more women aren't tweeting the hashtag #KillAllWhiteMen
Scotland may have to leave the EU even if it votes to stay in, David Cameron confirms
Report finds that Britain's wages are the most unequal in Europe
The day that Britain resigned as a global power
Almost a third of school pupils believe 'Muslims are taking over our country', study claims
Gay marriage 'Bert and Ernie' cake bakery found guilty of discrimination in Northern Ireland
iJobs Money & Business
£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...
£45,000 - £55,000: Neil Pavier: Are you looking for your next opportunity for ...
£45,000 - £55,000: Sheridan Maine: Are you a newly qualified ACA/ACCA/ACMA qua...
£50,000 - £60,000: Laura Norton: Are you looking for an opportunity within a w...
Day In a Page
On the market for the first time in more than 50 years, this six-bedroom home is a project with vast potential - spread over three floors of living space.
This five-bedroom home comes with a range of outbuildings including a large barn which could be converted into a self-contained granny-flat or rental.
Surrounded by rolling countryside, this four-bedroom barn conversion comes with a self-contained, one-bedroom annexe that could serve as an office or a holiday let.
Located near Harrogate town centre, this five-bedroom Victorian terrace is arranged over three storeys while a current study serves as an optional sixth bedroom.
A ground-floor flat in a country house, located a mile from Sway; this two-bedroom home would make an ideal weekend retreat on the edge of the New Forest.
On a popular residential lane in Caterham on the Hill, this four-bedroom family home offers a secluded garden and a convenient location for local schools and public transport.
Just a short walk from Westerham green, this three-bedroom cottage has a light kitchen with exposed brickwork and double doors that lead to a south-facing garden.
In a prime spot opposite the River Thames, this one-bedroom flat has an 18sq ft reception room with glass doors that open out to a private terrace.
Set in the hills above Llanwrda Village, west Wales, this 18th-century three-bedroom farmhouse has holiday-let potential from a separate barn conversion and annexe.
This charming end-of-terrace townhouse is arranged over three floors, with two double bedrooms and a private courtyard garden located at the rear of the property.
This four-bedroom Edwardian home offers a combination of original features and contemporary design after a renovation by the current owners.
Located in the University area, this semi-detached five-bedroom home is arranged over three floors - there's even a rear garden and off-road parking too.
Only a few minutes' drive from the charming town of Marlow, this two-bedroom home sits on the private riverside estate of Harleyford.
This detached four-bedroom home in Middleyard is arranged over two floors, with features that include a wood-burning stove and bespoke oak staircase.
In a row of eight detached Georgian residences, this five-bedroom home offers views of The Sound, Mount Edgcumbe and Cornwall from its impressive veranda and full-length balcony.
If you love cooking for friends this two-bedroom flat - complete with views of the iconic Battersea Power Station and an open-plan kitchen/dining area - will go down a treat.
Located above Grasmere village, this five-bedroom home is arranged over three floors and offers countryside views across Grasmere Lake towards Silver Howe.
Surrounded by the Western fells, this five-bedroom Georgian home retains many original features including panel-plastered ceilings, sash windows and fireplaces.
This six-bedroom home is set amongst three acres of grounds. Currently a large family home, Clift Hill has potential to make a B&B, subject to change of use permissions.
A former period coach house, Glebe Farm Stable is now a three-bedroom cottage with a double car barn, office, kennels and an outbuilding that's currently used as a gym.
Set sail for this four-bedroom farmhouse in Cowes. With five acres of land and an indoor pool, this home oozes character. There is even potential to let a one-bedroom annexe.
Surrounded by woodland, this five-bedroom manor house has plenty of outdoor storage space in the form of three converted loose boxes, two smaller outhouses and a woodstore.
This four-bedroom detached home comes with a double carport, useful workshop, garden and two walkways that offer views of the adjacent countryside.
With space for an equestrian business, a greenhouse for growing your own veg, a wine store and a gym; this five-bedroom home has all the ingredients for a country retreat.
This four-bedroom home has exposed brick chimneys and a vaulted ceiling in a breakfast room that's ideal for summer entertaining - the doors open to the patio and garden.
The decked roof terrace of this two-bedroom flat is perfect for summer drinks while large windows and ample storage space make for a light and spacious interior.
Surrounded by approximately 15 acres of grounds, this six-bedroom grade II-listed home has been extensively refurbished yet retains many period features.
This four-bedroom home comes with a two-bedroom cottage and commercial office, with planning to extend, in a stunning courtyard setting.
In a pretty Norfolk village, this four-bedroom family home is surrounded by landscaped gardens, with even a self-contained annex for guests.
A few miles from the seaside at Perranporth, this four-bedroom farmhouse sits amongst nine acres of idyllic grounds - including a lake and two barns used as holiday lets.
This five-bedroom home is arranged over three floors of a converted Victorian hospital, offering spectacular views of the Pentland Hills - only three miles from the city centre.
This four-bedroom detached home comes with grounds that span to approximately 2.5 acres, as well as two large patio areas and a double garage.
This four-bedroom cottage is a Grade II-listed town house, well-located for the thriving market town of Nailsworth.
A four-bedroom apartment on the ground floor of a stunning period property in North Yorkshire, with two kitchens and a large south-west facing garden.
This high-spec two-bedroom home is part of a smart collection of new flats at Beaufort Park and has a large decked balcony that's perfect for summer drinks.
Capitalise on the fabulous views of Trevone Bay by taking two homes and creating one spacious boutique B&B. Just a cliff-top walk from Padstow.
Overlooking a golf course, this six-bedroom Edwardian detached home spans four storeys and retains many period features including the original, operational servants' bells...
On the edge of the city, this six-bedroom home comes with an outdoor swimming pool and a large garage block that has annexe potential.
In a Grade II-listed manor just outside of Bath, this three-bedroom home is arranged on two floors with a skylight in a vaulted roof line.
Open the living room's bi-fold wooden doors to reveal a retro-style kitchen, and a conservatory leading to a paved garden at this three-bedroom home.
A Grade II-listed, four-bedroom home, in a charming Somerset village, with a two-storey studio that could be converted into a holiday cottage
A modern four-bedroom Victorian home, within walking distance to the high street
A luxury apartment in the Gothic mansion of Wyfold Court in Kingwood, offers six bedrooms spread over three floors and a turret
This school conversion, near Stockwell Tube, oozes New York loft style. The one-bedroom flat features double height ceilings and exposed brick work
This six-bedroom Georgian home is on three floors with open fireplaces, a two-oven Aga, an annexe, and cottage gardens with outbuildings and a car barn
High Crest House covers an impressive 9384sq ft, with almost three acres of grounds including a tennis court and summer house enclosed by electric gates
A six-bedroom farmhouse with separate accommodation in converted stables. Situated in the village of Church Aston, within walking distance to the market town
A two-bedroom flat with under-heated walnut floors and bespoke built-in storage. The Tube and Clapham Common are a short stroll away
A refurbished seven-bedroom townhouse with staff quarters, cinema room, superb gym, steam room and plunge pool
A minimnalist four-bedroom home designed to the highest spec, featuring glass walls and a kitchen space lit by a glass roof