Dealing with debt is never fun. However, a large percentage of people in the UK owe money to someone, which means it’s something many of us have to do. It can be stressful getting a debt notification at home, particularly if it’s for long-overdue payments. However, it can also be distressing getting wrongly contacted. We take a look at receiving debt collection letters for someone else and what you can do about it.
It’s not your fault. Complaints to the Financial Ombudsman have risen this year from 830 to 2,006, so it’s safe to say that you’re not alone.
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Is the debt yours?
Many creditors and debt collection agencies use automated systems to send out debt collection letters. So, if you default on a payment, you’ll usually receive some sort of notification within a month or two at the most. However, these systems are far from infallible. They’ll usually automatically send such letters without checking whether the details are right. As a result, you could end up receiving debt collection letters for someone else.
The first thing you should do when you receive a letter about debt is to check whether it’s actually yours. Although it may have your address on, it might not necessarily have the rest of your details correct. It could also be addressed to someone with the same or a similar name to yours.
Finally, it’s worth checking whether you’ve guaranteed a loan for someone else or have a joint credit agreement. This could mean that you’re liable to pay some of the money.
Don’t worry, here’s what to do
You could get rid of debt collectors by writing off your debt. I’ve put together a 4 question debt calculator which will tell you if you’re eligible:
How to clear a debt that’s not yours
If you think that the debt has been placed in your name by mistake, there are a few things you can do. The first thing you should attempt is to check your credit file with a credit reference agency. If there are any missed payments, defaults, or court actions against your name, they’ll appear here.
If the debt definitely isn’t yours, but it appears on your credit file, you’ll need to get it removed. Such black marks against your name can be costly. The best thing you can do is to contact the credit reference agency and correct any mistakes that they might have.
What if I’m being chased for debt at my address?
It can be frustrating when someone moves out of your address and doesn’t update their details with their creditors. This can often mean that the creditor wither writes to you or sends a debt collection agency round to your property to collect the money. Of course, this is far from ideal and can be stressful for everyone involved.
You don’t have to legally provide proof that you’re the resident at the property. However, doing so can help to settle the matter. You can usually send something like a copy of your council tax bill to whoever is chasing the debt, and they’ll desist.
Find your best debt solution
Is all this information starting to feel overwhelming? Don’t panic! I’ve put together a 4 question debt calculator so you can quickly and easily find the best solution for you. Answer the four questions now.
Dealing with creditors
If creditors are writing to you or phoning you, you might want to take some other steps to get them to stop. The action you take will vary depending on the methods they’re using to contact you:
Dealing with letters
Perhaps the easiest way of dealing with letters is to leave them unopened (if they’re not addressed to you) and write ‘not at this address’ on the envelope. You can put this back in the post box, and it will be returned to the sender. You won’t have to pay any postage fees for doing this.
If they keep writing to you, you can write to the company directly to ask them to stop. You can write a formal complaint either to their email or postage address.
Follow my ‘prove it’ guide with letter templates and get them to prove that you owe the money.
Dealing with calls
Calls can be quite annoying to deal with, as debt collection companies and creditors tend to be persistent. Again, the first thing you should do is explain to them that you’re not the person they’re looking for. Ask them to immediately stop contacting you.
If this doesn’t work, you can make a written complaint to the company, either by email or post. This should make them stop, but if not, you can also block their number on your mobile.
Can the bailiffs visit?
In some circumstances, the original creditor will get permission for the bailiffs to visit a property. If this happens and they have the wrong address, it could mean you get a visit based on someone else’s debt. If this does happen, you shouldn’t let them in. Instead, talk to them through your letterbox or from a distance outside your house.
Often, showing proof of your council tax bill will make them leave. However, if they refuse to leave, you can make a complaint about them. Remember, no matter what, they cannot seize goods on behalf of someone else’s debt who doesn’t live there.
Am I responsible for someone else’s debt?
Of course, there are some instances where you might be liable for someone else’s debt. For example, if you acted as a guarantor for someone else’s rental agreement or credit and that person hasn’t paid, the creditor may turn to you.
Similarly, if you’ve taken out a joint credit agreement, you’ll be responsible for repaying that even if you no longer have any relationship with that person.
So, if you do receive contact about missed payments of either of these, you shouldn’t ignore them. Instead, you should contact the other person involved and make them aware of the situation.
Where can someone get debt help?
Thankfully, no matter who has the debt, there are several help options available to help them deal with it. There are two main routes you can think about – getting help and advice or using financial solutions:
Help and advice
There are several debt charities and similar organisations that you can turn to for help and advice, including:
- StepChange. This debt charity can give you all kinds of help and resources when it comes to managing your money.
- Citizens Advice. If you want to speak to someone on the phone or in-person, Citizens Advice is a good choice.
- National Debtline. Another charity that offers free and independent debt advice on the phone and online.
If you’re struggling with a lot of debt, there are a few methods you can think about to reduce your payments and write-off some of what you owe:
- An IVA. With an IVA, you can potentially write off up to 90% of your debt. However, you have to owe at least £15,000 to three different creditors to be eligible.
- A debt consolidation loan. With this type of loan, you combine all of your debts into one and make a smaller monthly repayment.
- A debt management plan. This method helps you manage your debts and pay them off in a way that’s more affordable for you.