Most of us will have been contacted about a debt that isn't ours – a utility bill that wasn't paid by a previous tenant or homeowner, for example – but it can still be irritating and even worrying when you're being chased for money you don't owe.

For those situations, here’s our step-by-step guide to dealing with creditors contacting you about someone else’s debt.

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If the debt isn't yours, just contact the company you received the letter from and let them know, so they can update their records.

1. If a debt isn’t in your name

Sometimes a previous occupier doesn't inform their bank or lender that they have moved. This can lead the bank or lender to believe the debt is still linked to your address, which is why you might receive a letter about a debt that isn't in your name.

The person contacting you will mostly likely be from the company that lent the money or from a debt collection agency. If the debt isn't yours, just contact the company you received the letter from and let them know, so they can update their records. If you have any forwarding details for the previous occupier, please provide them to the company that's trying to get in contact with them.

Citizens Advice Bureau has more information here.


2. If your name is on the credit agreement and you do owe the money

If the debt is in your name, it is possible that you’ve simply forgotten about the money owed. This can be confusing as you may not recognise the name of the company contacting you even if it is your debt.

For instance, store credit card debts are often administered by a different lender and not the shop itself.

If the creditor can prove the debt is yours, they will continue to pursue you for payment. 


3. If you think you’ve been a victim of fraud

If you are being contacted for a debt you do not recognise, contact the company and let them know. They will be able to help you.


4. If the debt is in the name of a friend or family member

Sharing an address with someone doesn’t mean you have to pay off their debts. You’re only liable for your own debts, or if you took out a joint loan or acted as a guarantor.


5. How to deal with joint debts

If you took out a joint loan with someone or share a credit card, it is the responsibility of both of you to repay the outstanding amount, as you are both jointly and severally liable.

Unfortunately, you are liable for money owed on any shared debts, even if you’ve paid your half. And if payments are missed, your credit rating may be affected.


6. If you acted as a guarantor

When you act as a guarantor on a loan, you’re agreeing to make any payments if the person should fall behind or can’t afford to pay the money back. If you start receiving letters it most likely means that person has missed a payment.

Speak to the person you acted as a guarantor for, to make them aware that you’re being chased for payments. If they can’t afford to pay it, you will be responsible for making repayments.


7. If you’re receiving letters for somebody who has passed away

When someone dies, any outstanding debts should be paid from their estate. If you’re receiving letters, let the collection agency or lender know that the person who owes money is deceased. By sending a copy of the death certificate to the collection agency or lender, it will speed up the process substantially.


8. Check your credit score

If you’re being chased for payments – even if the debt doesn’t belong to you – it might impact your credit score. Check your credit report with all three credit reference agencies, and contact them directly if there’s a mistake.