An abuser may have:
This may have left you with debts you can’t repay.
There are a number of solutions to coerced debt that you can explore with a qualified debt adviser. These include explaining the circumstances to the lender and asking them to write off the debt. This is not a guaranteed solution. It is important to speak to an adviser about all your options and the best option for you.
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You are in debt to a lender (a creditor) if there is money owing on a credit agreement in your name. The credit agreement is a legal obligation to repay the debt.
If you have been coerced into taking out the credit agreement, or if the abuser’s behaviour has forced you into spending more credit than you can afford, repaying the debt may feel extremely unfair. By working with a qualified debt adviser, you may be able to find a solution that is manageable for you and helps relieve the pressure of the debt.
Some people decide to ask the lender for a debt write-off. This is successful in a small number of cases, however there is no legal obligation on the lender to write off any money owed to them. Whether this is the right course of action for you will depend on your personal circumstances. If it is something you wish to pursue, it will help to do this with the support of a qualified debt adviser. You can discuss with them other options, including debt management and insolvency. We have resources on these topics, and on challenging the liability for coerced debt if this is something that you wish to consider.
All debt solutions, including seeking a write-off, can have long-term consequences depending on your circumstances. If you wish to ask a lender to write off money you owe, it is advisable to do this with the support of a qualified debt adviser.
It is not easy to convince a lender to write off a debt that is owed to them. However, some people have successfully asked the lender to write off a debt by explaining the circumstances of the abuse. It is not always successful and the response you receive will vary from lender to lender. Some lenders may refuse while others agree.
Sometimes, a lender may be sympathetic to your situation. Others may need to be convinced that there is no hope of the money being repaid and so it is not worth pursuing the debt.
Requesting a debt write-off can be more difficult if you have assets, such as a property, in your name. When a debt adviser requests a write-off, they will usually send the lender an income and expenditure form to show that you don’t have assets or surplus income. The lender may be less likely to agree to a debt write-off if you have money left over or assets.
The UK Finance 2021 Financial Abuse Code outlines on how banks and building societies should respond to financial abuse. This includes recommending that firms provide support for customers with debt and arrears. It advises banks to respond to customers on a case-by-case basis. It also advises them to adapt usual processes where appropriate to help customers experiencing abuse.
These good practice guidelines place no legal obligation on lenders to write off any customer’s debts. A decision on whether to write off a debt is at the lender’s discretion.
The Money Advice Liaison Group gives guidance on how debt can have a negative impact on mental health. They have produced Good Practice Awareness Guidelines for helping consumers with mental health conditions and debt. The guidelines say that lenders should consider writing off debt when:
If you have experienced mental health difficulties, asking for a debt write-off on these grounds may be another option for you.
If coerced debt is affecting your mental health, a qualified debt adviser may suggest that you consider using the Debt and Mental Health Evidence Form. This is a short form that can be completed by health and social care professionals to confirm the effects of the debt on your mental health. It can help lenders understand your situation and assess what support they can offer.
“I was so relieved when my debt adviser explained the situation to the creditor and they agreed to write it off. It’s one less thing hanging over me while I start my new life. Before, I was constantly anxious about whether I would have enough money in my account to make the payments every month.”
The abuser may have taken out credit in your name without your knowledge. They may also have withheld information about credit agreements in your name from you.
Information about your credit record is held by credit reference agencies. You can request a copy of your credit report from them. The agencies may each hold different information. You may wish to get a copy of your report from each of the three main credit reference agencies in the UK – Experian, Equifax and TransUnion.
As part of the UK Finance 2021 Financial Abuse Code, all lenders are also advised to support people with information on accounts held with them.
Before writing to a lender to ask for a debt write-off, speak to a qualified debt adviser and explain your circumstances to them. It is important to let them know the details of your situation along with as much information as you can about debts in your name, so that they can best advise you on all the options available. There are organisations that can support you to find a qualified debt adviser.
Asking a lender for a write-off a is not a guaranteed solution to debt. There is no formula for what to say to lead to a successful outcome. The response you receive will vary from lender to lender. However, a qualified debt adviser can support you to draft a letter that shares the details of your circumstances. This will make the lender aware of the situation so they can make a decision.
In your letter, you may wish to include:
“My daughter thought that she may be entitled to have the debts written off. When she contacted the companies to explain the situation, though, they advised that because the debts are in her name it’s her responsibility to pay them off in full.”
If you receive a response from the lender, it is important to discuss this with your debt adviser and to speak to them about your next steps. There are a number of ways in which a lender may respond to a request for a debt write-off.
With your debt adviser, you may wish to reply to the lender to ask them to explain why they have refused to write off the debt, if they have not given reasons in their reply.
In some cases, the lender may decide that, based on the information you have provided, they are able to write off the debt that is owing on credit agreements in your name. It is important to keep any letters confirming that the lender has agreed to write off the debt. Check your letters with a debt adviser to be sure that this is what the lender is offering.
The lender may agree not pursue you for the money owing, but this does not mean the debt is written off. Money is still owed and the debt may still appear on your credit file. If you receive a letter that states you will not be pursued for the amount owing, show this to your debt adviser. They can discuss this further with you.
If the lender does not reply to your request, this does not mean that the debt is written off. They could get back in touch with you to pursue the rest of the money owing at any time.
Remember that getting a debt written off can have a long-term effect on your credit rating. Lenders may record the write-off on your credit report using the terms ‘settled’ or ‘partially settled’. This may affect your ability to get credit in the future. Before writing to a lender to ask for a debt to be written off, you should speak to a qualified debt adviser.
“I had been putting off speaking to anyone as I didn’t know how to approach these companies. But with the help of my debt adviser, I was successful in removing a contract in my name and the debt was written off in full.”
Asking a creditor to write off your debts is successful in some cases and not in others. It is not right for everyone. It is important to speak to a qualified debt adviser about your circumstances and all your options.
Other debt solutions may be available, including challenging the liability of the credit agreement, a debt management plan or insolvency. We have resources on these topics. The right option for you will depend entirely on your circumstances, so advice from a qualified debt adviser is essential. We have details of some organisations you may wish to contact for support.
Through the Economic Justice Project, SEA has been working to challenge debt that has been coerced. This includes working with domestic abuse and money/debt advice services, creditors and other financial services as well as influencing policy.
Last updated July 2021
If you are experiencing economic abuse, you are not alone. We have more information that can support you to take steps towards safety and begin to regain control of your finances.
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