Accessing credit and loans, especially for big items such as a mortgage or a car, are of course a regular feature of family finances. Applying to lenders and hoping that they will agree to your request can be a stressful experience. However, it can be made a whole lot easier simply by better understanding how a potential lender might assess your application.
The key question for any lender is the chances that you will repay a loan in full and on time. By assessing the risk involved as best they can, lenders can make an informed decision. As a result, most lenders will refer to a credit score constructed by one of the UK’s three registered credit reference agencies. Your credit score is a snapshot of your credit status. It isn’t too difficult to understand your credit score – It is based on a 0-999 scale and the higher the number, the lower the risk.
So, how do the agencies assign your score? A major although not the only factor is your credit report. This is compiled by credit reference agencies from a whole range of available information to paint a picture of your financial reliability. Whether you know about it or not, there is a credit report on you and you can expect it to be the first port of call for any potential lender.
Your credit report includes personal information such as date of birth and address. It also contains details of your credit accounts and money you have borrowed and your repayment record during the past six years. Although it may seem trivial, even if you have paid a mobile phone bill late or missed an electricity bill, it may appear on your credit report and have a detrimental impact. It is therefore important to make sure that you and your family pay bills in full and on time. If you haven’t listed yourself on the electoral roll, then do it. This is one of the resources used by credit reference agencies and gaps in your residency may seem suspicious. Another thing worth noting is that if you are making mortgage overpayments, make sure that you don’t miss out on an entire monthly payment. Even if you are overpaying in order to reduce outstanding debt or guard against interest rates, a missing mortgage payment could be a red flag on your credit report.
Thankfully, it is very straightforward to check your credit report and it is advisable to do so regularly. You can simply request it from any of the credit reference agencies who will likely post it to you within a week. Once you receive the report, make sure that you check it thoroughly for accuracy. If you spot any mistakes, then you should contact all three agencies to have the report rectified. If there is an error connected to family members with whom you have no financial link, then you can ask to be “disassociated” from them through the agencies. If there is an inaccuracy concerning your credit record, then your first port of call should be the creditor who can update their records and then inform the agencies. If the creditor does not agree to amend their records, then you are entitled to attach a 200 word “Notice of Correction” to your file, explaining the disagreement.
Hopefully though, your credit report will need no corrections, in which case you are well advised to simply check it regularly and make sure it remains up to date.
Written in collaboration with David Taylor, finance writer from Leeds