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It can be worrying if you get calls or letters about a debt that has nothing to do with you. But you should be able to resolve the problem quickly by letting the creditor, court or debt collector know. If you’re chased for a debt you don’t recognise, it’s important to check you’re not responsible for any outstanding joint debts or agreements you acted as a guarantor for.
Most creditors are very understanding and will stop contacting you once it's established you're not the person they're looking for. If they don't, there are steps you can take to prevent further unwanted contact. Find out about your rights when dealing with creditors.
You should first check that the debt definitely isn’t yours. If you’ve had any joint credit agreements or you have guaranteed a loan, or other contract for a third party, you could be liable for repayments.
Check your credit file with the credit reference agencies. All recent missed payments, defaults and court action taken to recover debts will be recorded there.
If you’re sure the debt isn’t yours, you don’t need to worry about clearing it, but you can get it removed from your credit file if it’s recorded there. You can raise any issues with the credit reference agencies, and tell anyone chasing for these debts to update their records.
Find out more about disputing debts with creditors.
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When a person moves home they should update their creditors with their new address. This doesn’t always happen, or there may be a delay while their creditors update their records. During this time they may write to you or visit your home to collect the debt.
You’re not legally obliged to provide proof that you’re the current resident of the property. However, you can offer to send a photocopy of your council tax bill to the court or bailiff to prove that the person they’re looking for is no longer a resident. Doing this should prevent further contact.
The important thing to remember is that you are NOT liable for debts owed by someone who lived in your house before you.
If you receive letters that look like they’re from a bailiff or about a County Court judgment (CCJ or other court letter, don't ignore them. Call the court or bailiff and let them know the previous occupant no longer lives at this address to speed up the process of them updating their records.
If someone calls your number looking for payment on someone else’s debt:
Should a bailiff (or a sheriff officer if you live in Scotland) visit the property to take control of goods for someone else’s debt, we recommend that you do not let them in. Instead, you can either talk to them through your letterbox or ask them to go to the end of your driveway where you can talk at a safe distance from your front door.
Showing the bailiff your council tax bill to prove your identity is usually enough to make them leave.
They cannot legally take goods that the person they’re pursuing doesn’t own. If they’re within viewing distance of a window, you can put your council tax bill against the windowpane for them to see.
If the bailiff refuses to leave, you can consider making a complaint about them. Find out more about making bailiff complaints.
If a debt collection agent visits, please keep in mind that they are not bailiffs and don’t have any right to enter your house and seize goods. Visits from debt collectors are relatively rare as they’re more likely to contact people by phone in the first instance.
Find out more about the differences between bailiffs and debt collectors.
If this happens to you, you should immediately contact the credit reference agencies and tell them you’re a victim of identity fraud. They should investigate and update your records.
You can also call Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040, use the Action Fraud online reporting tool, or visit the FCA ScamSmart website.
Sharing an address with someone does not make you liable for their debts.
Previous debts associated with your address are also not your responsibility. You can only be liable for joint debts which are in your name, or in joint names with you and someone else.
If you’ve allowed someone to use your address to receive mail (for example, if they don’t have a permanent contact address) and you get letters for them chasing debts, tell them about the letters and urge them to get debt advice.
If the person being pursued for the debt is vulnerable or otherwise unable to deal with it, you may be able to deal with their debts on their behalf. This is called power of attorney, and it still does not make you liable for that person's debt.
If you guaranteed a credit or rental agreement you are responsible for repaying the full amount owed if the third party falls behind with payments.
When you take out a joint loan or other joint credit agreement you are still jointly responsible for the repayments even if you no longer have a relationship with the other person you signed the agreement with, such as following divorce or separation.
When you apply for a guarantor loan on behalf of someone else, you will start receiving letters if that person falls behind with payments. It’s important that you don’t ignore letters about a guarantor loan you’ve taken out. You would now be expected to cover the amounts they’ve missed.
Find out more about being a guarantor.
Maybe you’ve taken out a joint loan with a partner but have very little to do with that debt, other than your name being on the credit agreement. Should your partner or ex-partner reduce or stop payment on this debt, the creditor is allowed to pursue you for payment because you’re ‘joint and severally’ liable.
This means that the creditor can pursue either of you for the full amount.
Both of your credit scores will also be affected by any reduced payment on a joint debt, and if one person goes bankrupt, or takes on any other type of insolvency solution such as a DRO, IVA or trust deed, the other becomes solely liable for any remaining balance.
Both your credit score and that of the other person named on the agreement will be affected by any reduced payment on a joint debt. If one person goes bankrupt, or takes on any other type of insolvency solution such as a DRO, IVA or trust deed, the other becomes solely liable for any remaining balance.
If you’re worried about not being able to deal with repayments to a joint debt or one you’ve acted as a guarantor for, get free debt advice online.
When a person dies, their debts will be settled from their estate (the money and assets they left behind). If their estate is not enough to clear the debts, the remainder will usually be written off.
If you’re administering the person’s estate, you are NOT liable for their debts, unless you don't administer the estate properly, such as by making distributions to beneficiaries before settling the debts.
The only other exception to this is if any of the debts were in joint names with you and the deceased person. Sending a copy of the person’s death certificate to the creditor may be enough to end further contact.
If you have other debts that you need help with, take two minutes to answer a few simple questions, so we can understand the right way to help you. If you prefer, you can speak to one of our advisors over the telephone.
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