Figuring out whether or not you’re in debt can sometimes get quite confusing. They may be from a long time ago or you may be unclear about the terms of your agreement.
Leaving debt unaddressed is definitely not a good idea since this can have dire consequences for you in the future if you’re contacted by creditors.
In this post, I’ll be looking at how you can find out if you’re in debt, who you owe the debts to and what you can do about it.
Checking if You Have Any Debts
There are mainly two ways through which you can end up being in debt: the first one being if the law says that you have to pay the debt. This could be in the form of council tax bills, tax credit overpayments, etc.
The second one being if you entered into a contract that involved you obtaining a loan which you have to pay back over an agreed-upon period of time. Some examples of this would be credit cards, personal loans, etc.
Being in debt can be called “being liable” for it. This means that you are legally obligated to pay back those debts. It’s important to note that if you’re not liable to pay back the debts, you can dispute your creditor’s claim.
What are Creditors?
Creditors can be any person, organisation or legal entity to whom you owe money to. A creditor can be a close friend that you loaned money from or it could be a credit card company that’s contacting you regarding the outstanding balance on your credit card.
How do I Find Out if I’m in Debt?
When you’re trying to find out what debts you have (if any), the very first thing you should do is go through your credit file.
Your credit file is a record of your financial dealings and it has all information regarding your debts, payments and other financial affairs.
It also has details about your loans, bank accounts, credit cards and any other forms of credit which you may have opted for.
In order to get a copy of your credit record, you can contact any of the credit reference agencies that are currently operating in the UK. There are currently three credit reference agencies in the UK that you can contact. These are:
- TransUnion (formerly Callcredit)
All three of these agencies offer online services that you can avail to get a copy of your credit file.
These services are the following:
- TransUnion’s service is called Credit Karma
- Equifax provides you with an online service that is run by a company known as ClearScore
- Lastly, Experian offers a service known as Credit Matcher
Of course, just like most free online services, these will contain adverts based on your credit history.
You can also choose to request a hard copy of your credit file but please note that this will take much longer.
Why does My Credit File not have Information Older than Six Years?
This is something that’s very important to keep in mind: credit reference agencies only store financial information about you for the past six years.
This means that information regarding your debts will only show for a period of 6 years after they’re paid off or the account defaulted.
If you’ve checked your credit file with all three credit reference companies and still feel you owe debts, the next thing to do would be to check old letters and emails that you may have received from your creditors.
Another important thing to note is the fact that some lenders don’t even bother to add information about the debts you have to them into your credit report. This is because they are not obligated to do so. Examples of this include utility providers and insurance companies.
Hence, your credit report is not an exhaustive resource regarding the debts you have. You’re going to have to look towards other sources to be completely sure about whether you owe money to anyone or not.
You can also try contacting the creditors directly and asking them about your debts and their status.
When am I Not Responsible for a Debt?
You might not be liable to pay back a debt if:
- It has been 6 years or more since you made a payment towards that debt or were in contact with the creditor. Unsecured debts that are older than 6 years are said to be ‘statute-barred’. This means that creditors cannot pursue you for these debts as they have become unenforceable
- There was some issue when you were signing the agreement. For example, if you were pressured or coerced into signing it or if you didn’t fully understand what the agreement meant
- The creditors did not assess whether or not you could afford your repayments properly
- You’re under the age of 18. You can only be liable for debts under the age of 19 if those debts are for something that you need on a day-to-day basis. Examples of this could be clothes or food.
- You’re an additional cardholder on someone else’s credit card. Please note that only the primary cardholder of a credit card is responsible for its outstanding balance.
How can I Find out if I have a County Court Judgment?
If a creditor has taken out a County Court Judgment against you, this information is also stored in your credit file.
However, if you can’t find it in your credit file, then you can opt to check the public register of Judgments that is maintained by the Registry Trust. You can find out more information about your case by going here.
The register will give you information such as the date of the judgment, the amount owed and the name of the court that issued the judgment.
The register won’t give you information regarding your creditors but you can get in touch with the court for more details.
When creditors contact you after a long time, it can be difficult to determine whether you actually owe the debts they’re talking about or not.
This is why it’s extremely important to know how to confirm whether you actually owe the debts you’re being contacted about or not.