“This default is destroying my credit score – how do I get rid of it?”
This is a very common question!
It’s sometimes asked when people’s finances have improved and they are trying to clean up old problems on their credit history as fast as possible. Or sometimes the default feels unfair in someway
I will look at various cases to see what – if anything – can be done for each of them.
But first, there is no magic trick that an “expert” can use to do this. Don’t ever pay a firm that says they can sort this for you. Their claims are often exaggerated, they can’t do anything that you couldn’t do yourself.
The rules about when debts disappear from your credit record
There are three credit reference agencies (CRAs) in Britain – Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. They all apply the same rules about reporting defaults.
How long a debt stays on your record depends on whether the record shows a default date or not. The two rules are:
- a debt with no default date stays on your record for six years from the date when it is settled. This applies whether it was settled in full or partially;
- a debt with a default date stays for six years from that date. You may have paid it in full, made a full and final settlement, not paid anything to it, or still be making payments… none of these matter, the debt is still going to drop off after six years.
Having a debt drop off your r4ecord because the default was over 6 years ago is the same in practice as having the default deleted.
Situations where the default should be removed
I am not saying these will be easy, but these are the most likely cases to succeed.
“I never owed this money”
If the debt isn’t yours, you should tell the lender and ask them to remove it from your credit record. It’s not just your credit record that matters here, you don’t want to be chased for money by the creditor or be taken to court for a CCJ.
“I was never in arrears”
If you recognise the debt but you don’t think you were ever in arrears with it, ask the lender for a statement of account to see where the problem is. You can then check against your bank statements to see if you made other payments that weren’t recorded.
“The lender stopped taking the money”
Sometimes the lender stopped taking the monthly payment by direct debit or by continuous payment authority. You may have assumed the debt was repaid and only found out later a default had been added to your credit record. Here it is the fact that the lender stopped taking the payments that is important – you may be able to get evidence from your bank that you did not cancel the DD or CPS until months later,
“It’s not fair – I only missed one payment”
In this case, no default should have been added as you were never three months in arrears!
Write to the lender, then appeal to the FCA /ICO if the lender refuses to correct it, see the above article about what the default date should be for details.
“A debt collector has added a later default”
They shouldn’t have done this. A debt collector can add a new record, but it should have the same default date as the original lender.
Write to the debt collector and ask them to correct it, and then appeal to the FCA/ICO if necessary.
“The default was added very late”
The rules say that a default should normally be when you are 3-6 months in arrears compared to what your normal payments would have been.
If a creditor has added a default later than this, it should be changed to be earlier. That means it will drop off sooner, and your credit record will be clean sooner.
See “What should the default date for a debt be?” which describes how to get your record corrected. For many people this is just as good as getting the default deleted and it can be a lot easier.
Cases where you have to win the argument to have it removed
“I was never properly informed about the debt”
Arguments can occur between you and a creditor if you feel they didn’t properly write to you about the debt, explain what the debt was or the size of it. Perhaps you moved house and the creditor carried on writing to your old address even though you notified them you had moved – this sort of thing.
If you paid the debt promptly as soon as you know about it, you could ask the lender to remove the default. Pointing out that you previously had a good history of paying their bills on time and that you don’t have other credit record problems can support your argument. You may have more luck going to the relevant Ombudsman rather than the ICO if the creditor refuses.
“The debt isn’t enforceable”
Sometimes this will work, sometimes it won’t.
Sometimes a lender will admit – or a court may decide – that a debt isn’t enforceable because it is statute barred. In this case a default should have been added to the debt more than 6 years ago, so you should ask for the default date to be changed so that it is earlier and then the debt will drop off your record.
When a creditor cannot produce the CCA agreement for a consumer credit debt it isn’t unenforceable in court. See Debts – why, how & when to ask for the CCA agreement for details – this does not apply to all types of debt. Here the debt still legally exists and you owe it even though you do not have to pay it – as a result the default will not be deleted.
“I should never have been given the loan as it was unaffordable”
Lenders should have checked you could afford to repay a loan before they gave you the loan. A loan is only “affordable” if you can repay it without hardship and without having to borrow again or get behind with bills.
If a proper check would have shown that the credit wasn’t affordable for you, ask for a refund of the interest you paid and for any defaults or late payments markers to be deleted from your credit file. See Affordability refunds for info on how to make these complaints for different sorts of credit including payday loans, Provident, guarantor loans, car finance, large bad credit loans and even catalogues.
Hundreds of thousands of these complaints have worked.
Sometimes the lender will only remove “negative information” such as defaults and missed payments. Sometimes the whole credit record will be deleted.
Here is a comment from a reader who made a successful complaint against Satsuma, a payday lender:
I accepted Satsuma’s offer on 2nd January and received the cheque on 17th January. The negative information was removed from my credit file as well which made my credit score jump by 100 points :)
“I was in an abusive relationship”
Many people, usually women, have been pressured to take out credit for a partner or had a joint account with an abusive partner. Financial abuse is now recognised as a serious problem and most banks now subscribe to the Financial Abuse Code of Practice published in 2018.
If you feel the debt and the default resulted from an abusive relationship, I suggest going to your local Citizens Advice and asking for their help to see if the debt could be written off and the default removed.
When it is very unlikely a default will be removed
“The lender agreed to reduced payments but still added a default”
This can feel very unfair, but legally they can do this when the arrears reach 3-6 months.
This applies if you have payments arrangements with one or two lenders or a debt management plan through a DMP firm. See How does a DMP affect my credit rating for more details.
And although you may hate that default, it may actually be better for you than an Arrangement To Pay (AP) marker on your file! A defaulted record disappears after 6 years, an AP marker stays for 6 years after the debt is settled.
“The lender is adding a new default every month!”
This may make your credit report look dreadful but it is normal and it doesn’t matter:
- the later defaults don’t make your credit rating worse because lenders’ scoring systems only look at the first one;
- the debt will drop off 6 years after the first default, the later ones don’t affect this.
“I agree with the default, but six years is too long!”
If you just had a temporary problem, perhaps you lost your job, or couldn’t work when you were unwell, but after a year you were sorted and back making payments it can seem very hard for this black mark to stay on your credit file for so long.
But there is nothing you can do to make the default go away sooner.
You can add a Notice of Correction to your credit file to say why the problem happened.
As the default gets older, some lenders will be less worried about it. But for some creditors, eg many high street mortgage lenders, any default, even five years ago, may result in a rejection.
Usually the best you can do is settle the debt as soon as possible. This doesn’t get rid of the default and doesn’t improve your credit score, but it will mean that more lenders are willing to give you credit.
When the lender has gone bust and can’t be contacted
This is a special case.
If the lender will not respond to the Credit Reference Agencies, then you can ask the CRAs to “suppress” the credit records. If this happens, although the records are still there, they will not be shown to any other lenders making a credit check on you.
Read How to correct credit records if the lender has gone under in detail and see if you think it can help you.
Don’t try to do this if the lender is still going. Or if it is the early stages of an administration – then it is better to put in a claim in the administration to get a refund for unaffordable lending. If your claim is upheld, the default will be deleted, and often the administrators just delete the credit record as it is simpler.