A reader, Mr D, asked:
My partner and I have a combined income of £56,000, We have a deposit of £28,000 (inheritance) and are looking to become first time buyers at a price of £230,000. We have defaulted debts that are being paid off, and previous history of payday loans from over 2 years ago from a time when our financial situation was much more difficult.
The defaults are about 18 months old. We started to try and tidy things up when we knew the money was coming to us. We currently owe around £9,000 on the defaulted debts.
I have an active credit card, and we both have a mobile phone contract in our own names, but that’s all apart from the defaults.
What are the chances of us being offered any kind of mortgage at a reasonable rate?
When is a default “recent”?
Obviously a default a few months ago is recent and one 5 years ago is old. But many people have defaults in the middle, like Mr D.
Mortgage lenders in general care about two things:
- when did the default happen? the longer ago it was the less likely it is to show you have current problems.
- when did you repay the debt? High street lenders do not like you to have unpaid defaults, even small ones. And the longer ago the debts were cleared, the more obvious it is that you are now fine.
Pre pandemic, there was a common approach used by many high street mortgage lenders that defaults were OK on your credit record if they were all over three years old AND they had been repaid for more than a year. Mr D currently fails on both of those requirements.
Now, mortgage rates increasing in 2022-23, some lenders are being tougher on assessing affordability. To get an OK rate from a high street bank it is good to have settled the debts at least two years before the application.
With recent defaults, your only option may be a bad credit lender
The suggestions below will take some time to improve your mortgage chances.
If Mr D wants a mortgage straight away, he will have to go to a “bad credit” broker. There are three big problems with doing this.
1. It costs more
The fees to arrange the mortgage will be larger. Be very clear about what the fees are before you sign anything. Can you get your money back if a mortgage is not arranged?
Also the mortgage is likely to be at a much less good rate.
2. You may not be able to remortgage with a normal lender
Some people are told:
“This will just be for a couple of years, then you can re-mortgage with a high street lender at a better rate.“
You can’t rely on that happening!
Your own financial situation may be more difficult in a few years – perhaps you have a baby on the way which will affect the mortgage affordability calculations.
And even if you are fine, who knows what the mortgage market will be like in a couple of years after the first lockdown? Will the economy and lending be back to normal? If house prices fall from their current highs, your 15% deposit may reduce to 5 or 10%
3. If you can’t remortgage, your interest rate may jump a lot
If you can’t remortgage at the end of the fix, then you will be stuck on your lender’s standard variable rate (SVR).
Anyone thinking that they can manage a bad credit mortgage needs to ask the lender what their SVR is at the moment. If interest rates go up over the next couple of years – which is what most economists are predicting – SVRs will also go up.
And there is the horror scenario that you may find a bad credit lender’s SVR is increased even when other mortgage rates are dropping. This happened to many people in 2009 and 2010.
Sorting out the old debts
Paying off the defaults
Paying off the defaults is the first key step towards getting a mortgage at a reasonable rate from a high street lender. These debts don’t have to be paid in full – a partial settlement may be acceptable to some mortgage lenders.
You want to pay them off as soon as possible so a mortgage lender can see that your problems were all in the past.
When the defaults have all been settled more than a year ago and you have had a year free of any credit record problems, you are more likely to be able to get an OK mortgage offer.
If Mr D already has the inheritance in his bank account, then it would be best to use some of that right now and repay the defaults, then start resaving the deposit money that has now been reduced.
Say you can afford to pay £400 a month off your debts – that would take 15 months to clear the defaults. If you clear them now and then save that £400 a month, in 15 months time you will have your current deposit back, but your credit records will be looking much better as you will have had 15 months clear of any problems.
Getting defaults removed by winning affordability complaints
If you can win an affordability complaint, defaults and missed payments are usually removed. And you may get the balance reduced or cleared or even cash refunded.
For affordability complaints what matters is your financial situation at the time you took the loan or the credit card lender increased your credit limit, not what your finances are like now. And you can win a complaint even if you made every payment on time, because you may have been robbing Peter to pay Paul, so your debts were getting worse.
See Asking for refunds, which has a different article for each type of debt. This isn’t fast, but if you are looking at some time before a mortgage as your record is too poor, it’s worth trying to clean up as much as you can.
Defaults not showing on your credit record also need to be settled
This reader doesn’t have old defaults, but some people will have debts where the default was over 6 years ago so it has already dropped off their credit record.
These old debts still matter if they haven’t been settled, see “Can mortgage lenders see old debts, no longer on my credit record? for details.
Check the default date is correct
Paying off the defaults doesn’t actually help your credit rating and it won’t make the defaults disappear. They will stay for six years from the first default date.
So it’s worth checking if you think the default date is correct. If any of them should have been earlier, see if you can get the default date changed as that means the debt will vanish sooner.
It also helps if the defaults are older. A mortgage lender would rather see you had problems 5 years ago than problems last year.
What about old payday loans?
If the payday loans are already over two years old, most mortgage lenders won’t care that much about them. And if you are taking the next year to improve your general position then they are getting even older.
However, how much did you use payday loans? If it was a lot for a period, then you should read my article on Can I get a payday loan refund? and see if you might be able to get any compensation. If you do win a complaint about these, the lender will sometimes delete the record from your credit file and will always delete it if there is a default or a missed payment.
Any money you can get back will mean you have a bigger deposit – and the larger your deposit is, the more lenders there will be that may lend despite the defaults on your credit records.
If Mr D clears some of the old debts and then wants to rebuild their deposit, the best way would be by regular monthly saving into a Lifetime ISA. You can have one if you are aged 18-39 and this will be the first property you buy. MSE has a good guide to LISAs.
Whilst you are saving there four good things happen:
- the defaults are getting older;
- your deposit is getting bigger
- you are getting a bonus from the government; and
- it is showing a future lender that your money problems really were in the past and you can afford to put money aside from your income.
Of course during this period you also need to be fanatical about making sure all your credit cards and bills are paid on time. The last thing you want is a new late payment showing on your file…
Then talk to a broker
When you have saved your deposit up again and the defaults have got older, you need to talk to a mortgage broker.
Some high street lenders say they won’t consider a mortgage with defaults in the past three years. Some won’t lend to you at all with defaults – you need to avoid applying to these lenders. A broker will be able to advise you – at this point though you shouldn’t need to go to a bad credit broker.
In late 2022, there are some 5 % mortgages on offer, but you need a very clear credit record.