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Credit history problems after divorce

Credit histories should attach to the person rather than the address

It is always unsettling, many years after a divorce has been finalised or your ex-partner has moved out, to receive letters in their name.  This is especially the case when the letters are from creditors or debt recovery agencies chasing outstanding payments.

My virtual postbag received the following from Elsa:

I’ve been divorced for 7 years, but recently have been receiving letters addressed to my ex husband from debt collectors. I have phoned them to tell them, and they have said they will not send any more letters. But what about the ones that they have sent? He hasn’t lived with me for 7 years but still seems to be using my address. Why are the credit companies not checking the validity of the documents they are given? Won’t this compromise my credit score? If there are debts lodged against my address?

OK.  The first thing to note is that so long as the debt is in Elsa’s ex-husband’s name, it remains his debt and his debt alone.  Provided the debts are not jointly owed by Elsa (what is termed joint and several liability – which means the creditor will chase whichever of the joint debtors is most likely to cough up) there should be no problem.

However, Elsa should check to see if any of the loans or credit agreements giving rise to the debts were taken out by her ex-husband after he moved out of the former marital home.  He should not have been claiming to still live at the property when taking on those liabilities.  I think Elsa would benefit from obtaining a credit report from one of the main providers such as Experien UK.  In my experience, lenders and commercial loan companies tend to be more sophisticated in their assessment of someone’s credit worthiness than used to be the case.  They do seem to focus more on the individual rather than the address.  But, Elsa may well find that her credit record is linked to her ex-husband’s especially if they did have joint loans in the past.  if she finds that this is having an adverse impact on her credit history she can submit a financial dissociation request so that her financial history is separated out from her ex-husband’s.

Strictly speaking, Elsa should not open the letters addressed to her ex-husband as they are not her property.  Better to mark them: “Gone away – return to sender”.  The letters should soon dry up.