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Equifax and Experian are the two major credit reference agencies in the UK. They keep credit files on virtually every adult in the country.
Almost all companies that provide credit will supply information about you to one or both of these two credit agencies. Therefore, your credit file is likely to contain information on all your existing credit and loan arrangements, such as your mortgage, personal loans, bank accounts, credit and store cards, etc. Your credit record will also contain information on any late or missed payments and the amount of the original debt still outstanding.
The credit reference agency files also contain electoral roll information for your address and court records relating to you. This means companies who you want to get credit from are able to confirm your address and also see if you have any outstanding CCJs.
Whenever a mortgage lender is assessing an application for a mortgage, they will check the details held on your credit record by Equifax and/or Experian. The reason they do this is because legislation prevents them from requesting any information about you from any other companies with whom you have a credit agreement. Also, by contacting one of these two agencies they can gain access to your entire credit history with just one request rather than having to gather information from several different sources.
Whenever a mortgage lender (or other financial institution) makes a search of your credit file, that search is recorded on your credit file, leaving what's called a credit check "footprint". This means that whenever you apply for credit, it is easy for the lender to see if you have been "shopping around" for credit. If you have applied for credit from lots of lenders in a short space of time, this in itself could be a deciding factor in whether or not the current lender will agree to give you a mortgage.
Your credit file will also show details about other people who live at your address if they are financially linked to you, or if the credit reference agencies think they are financially linked to you. In this way, another person's bad credit history can sometimes lower your credit score. But if you find you are wrongly linked to another individual, you can write to the credit reference agencies and ask them to correct the mistake.
Under the terms of the Data Protection Act, the credit reference agencies must give you a copy of the information in your credit record in return for a small administration fee. At the time of writing, the fee for each agency is £2.
Your credit file details are supplied by post, but you can request a copy of your file by telephone, post or email. Details or how to apply can be found on the Equifax and Experian websites. Remember that because some companies supply information to Equifax, some to Experian, and some to both, you will need to order copies of your file from both agencies in order to get a complete picture of your credit record.
Alternatively, the online credit report services available from companies such as
checkmyfile.com will allow you to undergo a free credit score check, as well as download (for a fee) a copy of your full credit report.
If you find that your credit report contains errors, you can raise the matter with Equifax and/or Experian and ask them to correct the mistakes. Full details of how to correct mistakes on your credit file are available from the credit reference agencies.
A lot of people think that there is a credit "blacklist" you can end up on if you have a particularly poor credit history, and that if you are on this credit blacklist then you will automatically be refused credit.
This is simply not true - there is no such thing as a credit blacklist. If you have been refused a mortgage or other form of credit, the reason will be because your credit score was not high enough.
When a lender requests information about you from a credit reference agency, they apply a mathematical formula to that information in order to give you a credit score. Different lenders will use slightly different factors to come up with a credit score for you. Also, the definition and thresholds of a good or acceptable score will vary from one mortgage lender to another. Therefore, it is quite possible to be turned down by one mortgage lender but be accepted for a mortgage by another.
Each time you approach a lender about a mortgage and they run a credit check on you, you are potentially worsening your credit score due to the footprints this will leave on your credit record. And given that different lenders will have different criteria for assessing your credit worthiness, it makes sense to take expert advice right from the start if you are looking to take out a mortgage but suspect you may be hampered by a poor credit rating.
So if you're worried that a poor credit record may affect your ability to obtain a mortgage or
remortgage, use our online enquiry form to get in touch with a specialist mortgage adviser or broker who understands the issues surrounding credit ratings.