When you apply for a credit card, mortgage or other form of loan, you need to give the lender permission to check credit rating information on you at any credit reference agency. These agencies don’t decide who gets credit. Instead, they just offer lenders the detailed account of your financial life that they have on their records. Each lender uses the information present in credit reports differently according to internal policy. Some lenders refuse to offer good credit cards and mortgages to applicants with anything less than an excellent. It’s the lender that decides whom to do business with. Credit reference agencies only offer information to base their decisions on.
Does your credit report carry information from the local electoral register?
One of the first things that lenders do when they pick up a copy of an applicant’s credit report is to verify that the name and address on it match what they see on the application form. They need this information to check the applicant’s identity and also to remain in compliance with anti-money-laundering laws. Credit reference agencies are able to provide name and address information on their credit reports by looking them up on local electoral registers.
How the electoral register works
In England, Wales and Scotland, electoral registers are made publicly available by local councils. Local councils keep their electoral registers up-to-date by canvassing all households in their area between August and November each year for the names of residents eligible to vote. They publish their refreshed register on December 1 each year.
If you’ve just moved to a new home in an area, you need to contact your local council to put your name down on the local electoral register immediately. This way, you won’t need to wait to apply for credit until the next time the electoral register comes out. You can simply get on with it. If you need to apply for credit before the local council can register you and the creditreference agencies can update their records on you, you will need to provide the lender with identity and address information of your own – a tax bill, a utility bill, a tenancy agreement or other such document.
What if you are registered to vote but the information still won’t appear on your credit report?
Sometimes, clerical errors at credit reference agencies can result in their failure to update a credit report with information available on the local council’s electoral register. This kind of mistake is easy to correct. You only need to contact the customer desk at the credit reference agency and inform them of the problem. Since every agency has access to the electoral register, they won’t need you to provide identity or address – they can quickly update your report on their own. Any lender who wishes to check credit rating information on you, then, will be able to access all the information it needs.
What if you need to access credit, but cannot register to vote?
If you are a foreign national who cannot vote in the UK or are too young to vote, you will need a workaround to get address and identity information on your credit report. Your first step should be to add a Notice of Correction to your credit report explaining why your name isn’t on the electoral register. You can mention that you have other documents- a passport, utility bills and so on – that you can show the lender to prove your identity and your address. Any lender that you apply to for credit may look at your note and decide to give you a chance. While it can take lenders longer to process such information, they usually come through if your application is otherwise in order.
A lot depends on being on the electoral roll
Not being on the electoral roll can affect much more than your credit report. Utilities that supply home broadband connections, mobile phone companies and legal services require electoral information, too. Some employers need to see electoral roll registration, too. Not being on the electoral roll can stall your life in a number of ways.
Sam Jones advises on the UK credit industry. He often recommends the advice and information section of comparison website uSwitch for people who want to check their credit rating