UPDATE: Amigo is asking the regulator for a Scheme of Arrangement, see Amigo seeks refuge from complaints. This is very early days – nothing may happen – if it goes forward all customers will be asked to vote to approve it.
If you are a guarantor for a loan you can ask to be removed as the guarantor:
- if you couldn’t afford to repay the loan without difficulty; or
- you were pressured into becoming the guarantor; or
- you didn’t understand the implications of being a guarantor.
This article has a template letter you can use to complain to the lender:
- you can complain if the borrower is still paying the loan or if they have stopped and you are being asked to pay it;
- you can still complain if you have been taken to court for a CCJ or a charging order, see Is it too late to complain after a CCJ?
This page does not apply if you have given a personal guarantee for a business loan or a property rental.
If you are the borrower – this is the wrong page – see How to complain if you have got a guarantor loan which has a different template.
Reasons to complain
There are a lot of different reasons some people have why they should not be the guarantor. Some won’t apply to you.
You can win your complaint with only one of these reasons. But mention all the ones that apply to you to give yourself the best chance of winning. You may be most upset about the way you were talked into being the guarantor, but often it is the “affordability complaint” which is easiest to win.
There may be other reasons as well. You know your own case best – if something didn’t feel right to you, mention it.
a) The loan was unaffordable for you
A lender such as Amigo should have checked that a loan will be affordable for you before the loan started. And new checks should have been done if the loans was topped-up.
The regulator’s definition of affordable is that you have to be able to repay it on time without it leaving you so short of money that you have to borrow more, get behind with bills or sell your house.
The lender should have asked about your income and your expenses, including rent/mortgage and utilities as well as food, transport, clothes, children’s expenses, your other debts and everything else you spend money on.
Guarantor loans are major, serious, long-term financial commitments. I would expect a lender to ask for evidence of your income and to have checked your credit record to see what other debts you had. If your income may change over the term of the loan, the lender should have thought about this, for example if you may not always be able to get overtime.
Amigo says a guarantor
must be able to afford the monthly payments and still have enough money to live their normal life.
So the expenses taken into account should have been what you were actually spending. They can’t say the loan would be affordable if only you stopped smoking or didn’t give your children pocket money or stopped paying your credit cards.
Owning a house doesn’t mean you can manage the loan repayments every month! You have to be able to make the monthly repayments out of your income and/or available savings, without having to sell or remortgage your house.
Was your credit record good? Amigo says:
Your guarantor doesn’t need to be a homeowner, we can still accept those who rent, but they will need to have a strong credit history.
A guarantor is supposed to be a person who doesn’t have money problems who can easily step in if the borrower gets into difficulty. If your credit record shows you have money problems, then you probably weren’t suitable to be a guarantor.
b) you had other financial links with the borrower
If you lived with the borrower or have other financial links with the person borrowing the money, the lender should have looked at how your financial situation would be impacted if the borrower couldn’t pay the loan.
Perhaps the borrower can’t or won’t pay the guarantor loan, because they are sick or have lost their job or because you have split up. In that case, your finances may have already suffered – you have to pay all the household bills, or they may have stopped paying your car finance or giving you child maintenance. So the lender should have taken these other problems into account.
c) a top-up to a previous loan wasn’t properly explained to you
Just because you agreed to the first loan, doesn’t mean the lender can assume you will be the guarantor of a top-up. The lender should have checked you were happy with this and that you could afford it – your circumstances may have got worse since the affordability check on the original loan was made.
The lender should also have explained clearly what the new loan was. It may be that you thought you were only now being asked to guarantee the “extra money” because the old loan was being cleared.
d) You were pressured into becoming a guarantor
I’m not talking here of your sister or a friend asking you to be their guarantor and you finding it a bit difficult to say “No”. But too often people can be put under pressure or bullied into agreeing to be a guarantor. Here are some examples:
- being asked by your manager or a colleague at work and thinking your job could be affected if you said No;
- being asked by someone you rely on for help if you are elderly or disabled;
- being asked by someone that helps with your finances – your partner that pays half the bills, your ex pays child maintenance;
- you were in an abusive relationship with your partner. The abuse doesn’t have to be physical, it can be financial, see Financial Abuse: How to tell if your partner is a money bully.
If any of these apply to you, mention it in your complaint. Don’t worry about how you can “prove” this, just say what happened and what you were worried about.
Sometimes people were literally told what to say on their expenses form and on the phone by the borrower – say if this happened to you.
e) You didn’t properly understand what being a guarantor meant
Everyone knows what taking a loan means. But being a guarantor is unusual and the lender should have explained it in detail and in words you could understand.
Lenders have to make sure you understand what you doing when agree to be a guarantor. So here are some good reasons to complain if they happened to you:
- your English is poor (perhaps a friend is helping you with the complaint, perhaps the borrower translated things for you when the application was made);
- your mental health or medication you are on makes it difficult to understand complicated money decisions;
- you thought you were just providing a character reference for the borrower;
- you thought when you gave the money to the borrower and they started paying the loan it became their loan and you were no longer responsible;
- you thought you would only have to pay if the borrower died or went bankrupt.
- you didn’t realise that Amigo would ask you to pay if the borrower offered a payment arrangement because the Amigo website said wherever possible, we will always work with the borrower first and come to an arrangement before looking to the guarantor to pay;
- the paperwork was too hard to understand.
f) the loan was unaffordable for the borrower
If the loan was unaffordable for the borrower, then the loan should never have been given at all by the lender! You may have thought quite reasonably that the lender was going to do proper checks on the borrower – but perhaps they didn’t.
This can be hard for you to prove unless the borrower helps you with your complaint. But it is worth mentioning if you think it’s important even if you don’t have evidence about it.
What would a “fair solution” be?
If you should never have been a guarantor for one of the above reasons, you should be removed as the guarantor. This will remove the problem for you and the loan turns into a “normal” loan for the borrower.
If you have made any payments, these should be refunded to you and any problems on your credit record should be deleted. This includes CCJs and any restriction on your house.
It will also make the borrower’s life easier! They will be able to sort out their financial problems without worrying that it will affect you, for example by including the loan in a debt management plan or bankruptcy.
How to complain
You should complain to the lender. Email is best, see Email addresses for guarantor lenders for the right email to use.
I suggest putting COMPLAINT BY GUARANTOR as the email title. Here is a template with blanks for you to fill in.
These cases are very individual – no one will include everything in this template. Delete what isn’t right for you, change it and add anything else you think matters!
Think about cancelling the payment authority at your bank
If you aren’t being asked to pay the loan at the moment, this doesn’t matter.
But if you are making payments or you have been told the borrower has stopped paying so you will have to pay, you need to think about whether you can afford these payments.
If you can’t, it is probably best to cancel the Direct Debit with your bank so the money can’t be taken. If you borrow to try to make these payments, you are just creating more problems for yourself.
If you have other debts you can’t afford, talk to StepChange about a debt management plan for all your debts including this guarantor loan. This gets you into a safe position while your complaint goes through. It won’t harm your complaint. If you win your complaint, the debt will be removed from your DMP and any DMP payments made to it will be refunded.
Don’t worry about your credit rating. This loan may not even appear on your credit report – have you looked? If it does, then any negative marks will be deleted if you win your case.
If you aren’t sure what to do, talk to StepChange or go to your local Citizens Advice.
Lenders often say No to good cases – go to the Ombudsman
Lenders frequently reject a complaint even if you have a strong case. So don’t be disheartened if this happens.
If they send you a long reply which makes it sound as though your complaint has no chance, ignore it! They are hoping you will give up.
When the lender says No (or if you haven’t had a reply within 8 weeks) you send your case to the Financial Ombudsman (FOS). If you aren’t sure whether to send your case to the Ombudsman, ask in the comments below this article.
FOS is very friendly. You just have to say what happened and why you feel it is unfair. You don’t need a solicitor to help you do this. You don’t have to argue a legal case or say what rules your lender has broken.
From mid 2019 there have been a string of good results from FOS against Amigo and other guarantor lenders.
Many of these have been borrower complaints but here are two guarantor examples:
- an Ombudsman’s decision in a case where the guarantor, Miss W, had used the template letter on this page. The ombudsman decided that the loan was unaffordable for her AND had not been properly explained to her. She was removed as guarantor for the loan.
- a reader saying that Amigo has removed him as the guarantor when he complained.
Getting help with this
If you would like some help go to your local Citizens Advice. Citizens Advice can also help you to draw up an Income & Expenditure statement to be included with your complaint.
I strongly suggest you do this if any of the following situations apply:
- your case involves Financial Abuse or if you find it difficult to make money decisions – although a complaint from you should be taken seriously, these are situations where Citizens Advice could be a real help;
- a court case is underway or being threatened. Citizens Advice can help you get a court case “stayed” – that is the legal term for put on hold – whilst a complaint goes to the Ombudsman.