How long does an IVA stay on your credit file?

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Overview:

This guide will cover IVAs in more depth, including how long they stay on your credit file and how you can rebuild your credit rating after you make your final payment.

An Individual Voluntary Arrangement (IVA) is a popular debt solution that can protect you from the people you owe money to (your creditors) and write off a portion of your debt.

But while an IVA can help you settle your debt and improve your financial situation in the long run, it will affect your credit score and your ability to get credit for several years.

What is an IVA?

An Individual Voluntary Arrangement (IVA) is a formal debt solution designed to help you repay your unaffordable debt by consolidating it into a series of smaller monthly payments based on your income and expenditure.

During an IVA, all interest and charges on the debt will be frozen and your creditors won’t be able to contact you or take legal action against you. This can make it easier for you to make your monthly payments on time and with minimal distractions.

When you apply for an IVA, you’ll be assigned an Insolvency Practitioner (IP) to set up and manage your arrangement. They will work out how much you can afford to pay towards your debt and distribute your monthly payments among your creditors.

How long does an IVA last?

Most IVAs last five years, which is equivalent to 60 monthly payments, but an IVA can be extended to six years if you don’t pay what was agreed within this time (e.g. you have a payment break or missed payments).

IVAs can also last less than six years if you have the funds to repay your balance in full with a single lump sum payment. This is called a ‘full and final settlement’ and may be an option if you receive an inheritance or lottery win that is equal to or more to your remaining IVA balance.

However, it’s important to remember that how long an IVA lasts is not the same as how long an IVA stays on your credit file.

How long does an IVA stay on your credit file?

Because an IVA is considered a serious form of insolvency, it will be added to your credit file for six years from the date it is approved to let lenders know that you are repaying your debt through a legally binding arrangement.

This means that, if your IVA lasts the standard five-year period, it will stay on your credit file for another 12 months after you exit your arrangement, making it difficult to access most forms of credit.

However, after you’ve left your IVA, it will go from being marked as ‘active’ on your credit file to being marked as ‘complete’. This will let lenders know that you have successfully completed your IVA and may increase your chances of getting credit.

Once six years have passed since you entered the IVA, it will be automatically removed from your credit file and you’ll be free to move on from the debt and make financial decisions without any restrictions.

How does an IVA affect my credit score?

When an IVA is added to your credit file, it will automatically lower your credit rating and affect your ability to get credit for the next six years. During this time, you’ll struggle to find a lender willing to give you a loan, mortgage, phone contract, or even a bank account.

This is because an IVA on your credit file indicates that you’ve struggled with debt in the past and could potentially default on future repayments, putting your lender at risk of not being paid the money they are owed.

When you apply for credit, lenders look at a number of factors to determine whether or not to approve your application. One of the first things they look at is your credit history as this gives them an indication of your overall creditworthiness and lets them know if you’ve been a reliable or high-risk borrower in the past.

IVAs are also added to a public register from the Insolvency Service called the Individual Insolvency Register (IIR), which is an online database containing details of all individuals who are bankrupt or in an insolvency solution. The IIR can be accessed by anyone but is generally only used by lenders, employers, and landlords when they need to look into your financial history.

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Can I get an IVA removed from my credit file?

Once an IVA has been added to your credit file, it will stay there for six years before being removed by the relevant credit reference agencies. There is no need to do anything to get the IVA removed as it will happen automatically.

Even if you repay the debt during this time, the IVA won’t be removed from your credit reports – it will simply go from being marked as ‘active’ to being marked as ‘complete’ to let lenders know that the debt has been repaid.

Sometimes, an error will occur that causes the IVA to stay on your credit file for longer than six years. When this happens, you should report the mistake to the appropriate credit reference agency and request that your credit report be updated accordingly.

They will require proof that your IVA has ended (e.g. a completion certificate) before they can remove it from your credit record. Some financial experts even recommend sending a copy of your completion certificate to all of the credit reference agencies (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion) as soon as you receive it to ensure your credit file is updated as soon as possible.

Can I still apply for credit with an active IVA?

There are no rules saying you can’t apply for credit whilst you’re in an IVA, but there are some limitations you should know about.

For example, you’ll need permission from your IP if you want to borrow more than £500. Borrowing more than £500 without your IP’s approval is considered a breach of your IVA and could lead to it being terminated.

When you inform your IP that you want to apply for credit, they will perform a full financial health check and consider all your circumstances before making a decision (e.g. if you need a car for work or childcare purposes or if you’ve had a financial emergency).

However, even with your IP’s permission, there’s no guarantee that a lender will approve your application and you may be advised to contact specialist lenders who have experience helping individuals with IVAs and poor credit histories access credit.

Once your IVA is complete and has been removed from your credit file, you should have no problem getting approved for credit. Some lenders will ask if you’ve ever had an IVA and your credit score may still be damaged but this shouldn’t matter too much as long as you can prove that you’ve successfully repaid the debt.

What happens at the end of an IVA?

Several things happen at the end of an IVA. We’ve provided a brief guide to what you can expect after making your final IVA payment below:

Any remaining debt will be written off

When your IVA comes to an end, any remaining debt not paid through the IVA will be written off and you won’t be required to make any more payments towards it – almost as if it doesn’t exist anymore.

There is no limit to how much debt can be written off with an IVA and your write-off amount will depend on how much debt you have and how much your creditors agree to being repaid each month.

Your credit score will improve

Throughout an IVA, your credit score will gradually improve as long as long as you continue to make monthly payments towards your debt as agreed.

This means that, once your IVA comes to an end, your credit rating should be higher than when you first started and you’ll be in a good position to start rebuilding your credit history to its pre-IVA level.

You’ll receive a completion certificate

The best way to prove that you have successfully completed your IVA is with a completion certificate. This is a document that recognises the end of your IVA and can be used as proof that you are no longer bound by the terms of the agreement.

Usually, you’ll receive your completion certificate in the post within three months of making your final payment and after your IP has completed all the necessary paperwork required to discharge you.

Your details will be removed from the IIR

The IIR retains details of all individuals in IVAs until three months after they have made their final payment.

However, while this should be an automatic process, delays are common. Once three to four months have passed, access the register and request a free copy of your credit file to confirm that all evidence of the IVA has been removed.

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How can I improve my credit score after an IVA?

There are several things you can do to boost your credit score after an IVA. We’ve outlined some of the most important actions below:

Register to vote

When you register to vote on the electoral register, your personal details are added to your credit report. This makes it easier for lenders to confirm your address and your credit score will increase as a result.

This also rules out identity fraud and reassures lenders that you’re not trying to obtain credit unlawfully.

Check your credit file

Some people assume that because the information contained on their credit report is compiled by credit reference agencies, it must be correct.

However, errors are common and something as simple as an old address or misspelled surname could mean your credit score is lower than it should be.

Report credit errors by contacting the relevant credit reference agency directly with evidence of why the mistake should be corrected.

Make payments on time

Even after you’ve cleared your debt with an IVA, it’s important to keep up with any other financial obligations you have, including your rent or mortgage payments and utility bills.

By avoiding further debt, you can prove to lenders that you’re a responsible borrower and are capable of making repayments on time. This can make them more likely to approve you for a mortgage or a loan.

Limit credit applications

Generally, you should only apply for credit after an IVA if it’s absolutely necessary or if not doing so would cause serious financial hardship for you or your family.

Making multiple credit applications within a short space of time can make it seem like you’re reliant on credit and this will make lenders wary of entering into another credit agreement with you.

Find out if an IVA is suitable for you

Conclusion

Entering into an IVA is a serious commitment that can impact your credit history and make it difficult to access credit for up to six years.

While an IVA is visible on your credit file, you’ll find it challenging to get loans, mortgages, bank accounts, and even mobile phone contracts.

Once an IVA has been removed from your credit file, your credit score will gradually improve and you should have no problem accessing credit if you need it.

Key Takeaways

An IVA is a legally binding agreement between you and your creditors to repay your unsecured debt through a series of affordable monthly payments
Most IVAs last between five and six years, after which time any remaining debt will be waived
An IVA will stay on your credit record for six years regardless of whether the debt is repaid
Paying the IVA will see it go from 'active' to 'complete' on your credit file
After an IVA, it's important you take steps you rebuild your credit score
Maxine McCreadie

Maxine McCreadie

Author/Debt Expert

Maxine McCreadie, prominent personal finance writer featured in Vogue and Yahoo News, delivers practical guidance, simplifying money management and championing financial literacy.

How we reviewed this article:

HISTORY

Our debt experts continually monitor the personal finance and debt industry, and we update our articles when new information becomes available.

Current Version

May 28 2024

Written by
Maxine McCreadie

Edited by
Ben McCormack

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