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Joint debts

How can joint debts affect me?

There many different types of joint debts including credit agreements, joint loans and bank accounts. In most cases you’re both jointly responsible for repaying all of the debt, regardless of who spent the money or what was bought with it. 

These debts can cause problems if one person can’t afford or won’t pay a joint debt, as it leaves the other person with the whole debt to pay. This can be particularly difficult if a relationship breaks down or there’s disagreement about who should pay a debt.

Joint credit agreements

By taking out a joint debt, such as a personal loan, you’re agreeing to pay back the whole debt if the other person can’t or won’t pay. You’ll be responsible for the whole amount borrowed, regardless of how the money was spent. This is known as ‘joint and several liability’.

If one person is unwilling or unable to pay anything towards a joint debt, it’ll fall to the other person to pay the full amount.

Joint bank accounts and overdrafts

Joint bank accounts allow you and someone else, such as your partner, to have shared access to your money. Many couples run a joint account to pay household bills and living costs, for example.

Some joint accounts come with an overdraft facility which lets you borrow money in the same way as other unsecured debts.

Sharing your money with someone else can be risky. If the account becomes overdrawn you’re both responsible for paying the money back.  Either person named on the account can also withdraw money they want from it, even if the money was paid in by the other person.

We recommend you think carefully before opening a joint bank account with someone, even if you’re in a relationship. Some couples prefer to keep their own bank accounts and just transfer an agreed amount into the joint account to cover shared costs.

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Does being married make me liable for my partner's debts?

Marriage or a civil partnership doesn’t make you responsible for your partner’s debts even if you live at the same address.

Any debts or financial obligations that your partner has in their name will stay in their name only, and responsibility for their debts does not pass to you.

Joint credit cards

Credit cards can’t be taken out in joint names.  There’s always a main cardholder who’s responsible for paying off the credit card debt in full.

Sometimes you can have an additional cardholder who’ll be given their own card to spend on but this person isn’t legally responsible for paying towards the debts; they just share the credit limit on the card.

How do joint debts affect my credit file?

If you take out a joint debt your credit files will be linked together or ‘associated’. This means that if you apply for credit in the future the lender can take into account the other person’s credit history, even if you’re applying for credit in your name only.

The payments you make towards joint debts will affect both credit files. For example if one person stops paying a joint debt and there are missed payments, these will be marked on both credit files. It doesn’t matter who missed the payment, it falls to both people to keep the payments up to date.

Having a good payment history towards joint debts will benefit both people named on the account. It will help show lenders that both of you can be ‘trusted’ to pay your debts on time, and this may make it easier to get credit in future.

Help and advice

If you have a joint debt with someone and you're struggling to pay it, or the other person can't or won't pay your debt we can help.

We’ll help you put together a budget and work out the best way to deal with your debts. Use our online debt advice tool to get advice on the best option for your situation.