If you have negative markers on your credit file, it can make it more difficult to get a mortgage, car finance or credit card, as well as other financial products and services. It is, therefore, common for people to look for a way to erase signs of a bad credit history, particularly if their situation has now improved and they feel the negative entries aren't a fair reflection of their current creditworthiness.
However, while it may be desirable to clean up your credit report, there are limitations to the actions you can take. In this article we explain what your credit report shows, how to correct errors on it and how to challenge unfair entries.
What is a credit report and what does it show?
The first thing to note is that there isn't one, singular credit report that outlines your credit history. Instead, you have separate credit reports with the three main credit bureaus in the UK: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. While they will tend to all include the same basic information, including your name, date of birth, address and whether you are on the electoral roll, there can be significant differences in the reporting of past borrowing and credit agreements. This is because not all lenders report to each of the credit bureaus. Similarly, lenders may not refer to all three agencies when assessing your creditworthiness. Each credit bureau may also present the information they have on different scales, so your credit score will be different across all three reports.
This is important when you are trying to manage negative markers as it means you need to assess the reports from all three bureaus to get the full picture of what factors may be negatively impacting your score and hampering your chances of accessing credit at reasonable rates in the future.
What could be damaging my credit score?
You will probably be aware of major red flags on your credit file from events such as bankruptcy, county court judgements (CCJs) or individual voluntary arrangements (IVAs), but your score can also be impacted by defaults on mortgage payments, utility bills, car finance or personal loans. Late or missed payments on credit cards are also likely to feature, as well things like late payments for your mobile phone bill.
It is also possible that your score will be downgraded by inaccuracies in any personal information the report has recorded for you, as well as showing if you aren't on the electoral roll.
Can I get negative entries on my credit report removed?
The short answer is, you can't eradicate legitimate entries on your credit report, particularly for major incidents like bankruptcy or defaults. Indeed, it is difficult to amend anything on your report unless it is inaccurate or in some way unjust. Two exceptions are:
You can get a CCJ completely removed from your file if you pay it off in full within one month of the judgement. In order to do this, you will need to provide proof of payment to the county court hearing centre which issued the judgement, whereby they will issue a certificate of cancellation that can be used to remove the CCJ from public record, as well as from your credit report.
Requesting a goodwill adjustment for a missed payment
If you are a loyal customer with a history of making repayments on time, your lender may consider removing a one-off missed payment from your credit file. To do this, you will have to contact them asking for a "goodwill adjustment", which will serve to erase the errant missed or late payment. Lenders can be more likely to accept this course of action if you also agree to take steps to avoid missing future payments, perhaps by setting up an automatic monthly direct debit.
How can I correct mistakes on my credit report?
A surefire way of getting something amended on your credit file is if you can prove it is inaccurate. You can do this by:
- Scrutinising your reports from all three credit bureaus to look for inconsistencies or errors
- Finding evidence to support your claim that the item is wrong, perhaps a receipt to show a debt has been paid or correspondence with your creditor that demonstrates that an entry has been duplicated
- Raising a complaint with the credit bureau, which will then investigate and, if satisfied that a mistake has been made, amend it
If the credit bureau doesn't accept that a mistake has been made, you will still have the opportunity to include a short note next to the disputed entry explaining why you think there is an error. This won't be reflected in your credit score, but will be visible to lenders when they are assessing your file.
What can I do if an entry on my credit report is unfair?
People will often feel that the entries added by their creditors are unfair and may wish to challenge them. If this is the case, it is worth getting advice from a debt charity or the Citizen's Advice Bureau, who will be able to give you an idea of how likely your complaint is to be upheld and whether the process of challenging something with your creditor could have other implications, for example, by incurring additional fees.
Examples of situations where you may be able to challenge a negative entry include:
- When the debt wasn't yours in the first place
- If you can prove that you didn't know about the debt
- If you shouldn't have been given a loan in the first place because of affordability issues
- If the default date is wrong, meaning the entry should already have dropped off your credit report
How long will negative markers stay on my credit report?
If you can't remove something from your credit report, it will be a case of waiting for enough time to elapse for it to come off your report. The standard length of time for most entries is six years, after which time it won't be visible to lenders and your credit score will begin to significantly improve. The good news it that the impact of a negative entry is most acute when it first features on your report, with your credit score typically improving gradually even before the six years has passed.
While you are waiting, it's a good idea to seek ways to boost your credit score. There are ideas in the following articles:
- How to improve your credit score quickly
- LOQBOX review - should you use it to improve your credit score?
- Experian Boost review - can it really help improve your credit score?