Your credit report is one of the most important parts of your application for funding and one which many of us overlook until it’s time to apply.
Understanding your credit report
There are four credit agencies (Experian, Equifax, Crediva and Transunion) these companies aggregate information from a variety of sources to provide lenders and other companies with a score or report as to your financial background.
What information is held on your credit report?
Electoral roll information
The electoral roll is used for organisations to establish your home address and your address history. It won’t confirm the exact dates you lived at that address but coupled with other information should be quite reliable.
The electoral roll can get out of date though, and if you have not registered to vote at your address this can affect your credit score or mean going through further checks to prove your address if you apply for finance or a mortgage.
If you are not on the electoral roll at your current address then contact your local area electoral office to update your details.
No – we’re not writing a cop drama, your alias could be that you use different names or different forms of your name, perhaps including middle names or hyphenated surnames.
These are financial links you might have with another person (often but not always a partner or spouse). These might be joint applications for mortgages or joint bank accounts or adverse information such as joint judgements.
If you are no longer linked to the person stated on your report then it is possible to file a “disassociation” notice to the credit agencies.
Although the details of the association are recorded on your report, the other person’s credit information will not. This might mean that a lender will request their file in addition to your own. They cannot do this without permission though.
Bankruptcies, voluntary arrangements and court judgements
If you are taken to court for non-payment of a debt a court judgement will be made onto your record, unless it is settled within 28 days of being made it will remain for 6 years.
If any judgements or other arrangements show on your report this can make arranging finance more difficult (although not always impossible) but you should keep a file regarding the details around your judgement should it be required;
Credit account information
All of the UK’s main lenders have signed up to share information about their customers (us!).
That means that all your credit cards, mortgages, bank account details, store cards, phone contracts and a host of other information is available at the push of a button.
Keep an eye on this section – your payment history is shown here, arrears in any credit arrangement will affect applications you make for funding, especially “secured” arrears (ie a mortgage or secured loan).
Some years ago we had a client, with no money problems at all who paid her credit card every other month. There was no reason for this except her own convenience. As she’d been doing this for years it had a severe impact on her credit score and made funding her business more difficult.
Although previous searches do not show any difficulty with payments they can reduce your credit score as it sometimes shows you are shopping around for credit, perhaps after being turned down.
For this reason, it’s better to apply directly to a provider who is likely to approve you the first time, rather than leaving it to chance and letting the lender turn up any potential credit difficulties you might have had.
Many agencies and comparison sites will now help select providers using a “soft search” which does not impact your credit score. This is great for credit cards and personal loans. Here at Acorn.finance and Acorn.mortgage we ask you to provide your credit file and only approach lenders who are likely to approve your application.
When debtors change address but do not provide their lenders with a forwarding address this record helps lenders to trace the customer through other financial accounts.
The UK’s fraud prevention service helps protect customers against identity theft or impersonation. A warning in this section is not an accusation of fraud but might mean you have been a victim, or an attempted victim of a scam and warns lenders to take additional care to positively identify that any application is genuine.
Notice of correction
If any information contained within your report is incorrect then you have the right to have that information corrected.
What’s the score?
The credit agencies aggregate the information into a score, some lenders, particularly in consumer credit rely on the score alone to approve or reject applications. In the commercial finance or mortgage market, there is much more variance and a lower score would not always mean instant rejection.
All of the credit agencies do offer help with improving your credit score though and taking a few of these measures, over a period of months will start to positively affect your score and help to obtain cheaper credit (not just credit cards but annual payment arrangements for insurance, store credit etc.)
What should my adverse file contain?
While we’d all prefer perfect credit scores, real life rarely works that way, so – if you have adverse credit on your file, what should you do?
It’s not the end of the road for your finance application if you have adverse events recorded on your file. There are lenders in the commercial and residential market who will consider your situation and may well still lend.
Prepare a credit file
Typically, especially in the commercial market lenders will look at your report and potentially ask for more details around the event, it’s worth preparing this information in advance as some of the documentation could take a while to get hold of.
- Circumstances, not excuses
- Were there reasons for the missed payments or difficulties? Especially where the event can be seen as a one-off, an extended stay in hospital or post not being forwarded from an old address.
- Isolated, not habitual
- If you can demonstrate that non-payment is not a regular behaviour then this can help.
- Have to hand the dates, amounts, debtor and any other details around the event. If the debt was disputed then keep copies of the correspondence.
- When was the payment made? You can obtain a certificate of satisfaction from the court to prove payment, this will cost £15, you’ll need to send a cheque to the court.
- If you are unaware of who took you to court then contact the court shown on your report with the reference number shown.
- If you believe that there is incorrect information on your credit report then you should contact all four of the credit reference agencies (Experian, Equifax, Crediva and Transunion) and request they correct their data, they will potentially ask for evidence but if you can provide this they will put the record straight.