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Help to Buy: ensure your credit history is up-to-date

Joanna Faith
Written By:
Joanna Faith

Homebuyers are being urged to review their credit history before they apply for the Government’s ‘Help to Buy’ scheme.

Chancellor George Osborne announced plans in his Budget statement yesterday to make home ownership a reality for people across the UK

However, in announcing the ‘Help to Buy’ initiative, Osborne placed emphasis on continued responsible lending practices by mortgage providers.

Neil Munroe, external affairs director of credit information provider, Equifax, said: “George Osborne was quick to highlight the importance of responsible lending and called for financial services providers to focus on ensuring that people only take on affordable levels of debt. With only a small deposit, buyers could afford a substantial mortgage, making comprehensive credit checks crucial.”

Lenders make checks with credit reference agencies to see whether an applicant has kept up to date on repaying their credit. Having several credit cards with high limits and missing repayments can be cause for concern for lenders and could give the impression the person is financially stretched.

“For that reason it’s important an individual’s credit information is completely up to date – giving them the best chance of getting a good mortgage dea,” Munroe added.

“We are, therefore, urging homebuyers to review their credit history before they apply. Then at least they can spot any information that might need updating – such as being registered on the electoral roll – to put them in the best position to get a good deal. And if they are declined or offered a less favourable rate they will be able to ask the lender the reasons why, fully armed with the knowledge about their own credit history.”



1. Are you Registered?
The electoral roll is used by many companies for identity verification purposes in order to combat identity fraud. It is vital, therefore, that you are registered on the electoral roll at your current address. And if you believe the address is not properly presented, you can ask the credit reference agency to take this up with the lenders and the local authorities.

2. Are you credit active?
Not having many credit cards or loans can affect your credit score. Lenders are looking for signs that you are capable of repaying money you have borrowed. So it’s worth considering opening an account to establish a credit history – even if you pay it off in full at the end of every month.

3. Change of Circumstances
If your circumstances have changed and you have had difficulties keeping up with credit payments, then it’s important to say so, for example if you were made redundant or recently divorced and have fallen behind on credit repayments. You can place a Notice of Correction on your credit file explaining the background to any missed payments, especially if you have now got back up to date. A lender will review this when assessing any credit applications you make.
If you believe a lender/company has provided incorrect information on your credit file, you can raise a Notice of Dispute with the Credit Reference Agency and they will take this up with the lender. This will usually be resolved within 28 days.

4. County Court Judgments (CCJ)
If you’ve had a CCJ and it is now settled make sure the settlement is recorded on your credit file. If not contact the court to get confirmation details and inform the credit reference agencies.

5. Stop Applying
If you have been refused credit, obtain a copy of your credit report. But DO NOT carry on applying elsewhere. Each credit application search by a lender will leave a “footprint” on your credit file. Too many searches in a short space of time can be perceived by lenders as you maybe over-stretching yourself financially and could therefore affect your ability to get credit.

6. Avoid a high balance
Avoid carrying a balance that is more than 30% of your credit limit. Lenders may view this as a sign of you having too much credit already and that you therefore may not be able to keep up with any new repayments.

7. Be Direct
It’s easy to forget a payment so setting up direct debits and standing orders with your bank will ensure payments go out on time.

8. Close it Down
Make sure any accounts you don’t need or use are closed. Lenders are paying more attention to the total amount of credit available to an individual and whilst you may not be using them, these accounts could affect your ability to get credit.

9. Early Bird Catches the Worm
Try to pay off loans and credit agreements ahead of schedule. Lenders will look favorably on this.