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How to get a mortgage with defaults

So you're thinking about purchasing a new home. That's great, but do you meet the requirements for owning your own home?

What’s in this guide – at a glance

Do you have a poor credit history that will prevent you from getting the mortgage you need for your dream house? If you do not have good credit, this article is for you.

In this complete guide to getting a mortgage with defaults, we’ll take you through three key areas:

  1. Discover exactly what a default is and how they occur, and how they can impact your credit score.
  2. We’ll look at what you need to do to get ready to apply for a mortgage with a default and the steps you can take to improve your chances.
  3. We’ll also look at a range of some of the most commonly asked questions around mortgages and defaults, to help you get a good understanding of how the process works and where you stand.

What is a mortgage default?

A mortgage is a loan that lenders offer to borrowers who want to buy homes but cannot afford the total payment. Under the mortgage agreement, the lender pays the bulk sum, and the borrower must pay it back to the lender in monthly instalments. These monthly instalments come with interest, and if the borrower does not meet the terms, the lender can claim the property.

A default occurs when a borrower fails to pay at the appointed time and even after the grace period. Depending on the severity of the default, the lender may claim the property. These defaults appear on your credit record and may make it difficult to secure a mortgage in the future.

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How do defaults occur?

A default doesn’t just happen once you’ve missed a payment or two, it’s actually a lengthy and formal process and as such, if you do end up with a default then it’s a significant event.

More than one payment missed

The first step on the road to getting a default is to miss a repayment, to make a payment late, or to pay less than the full amount due. You won’t be immediately given a default notice just for one missed payment though – initially your mortgage lender will be in touch to try to understand why you have failed to make your monthly mortgage repayment on time, and what, if anything, they might be able to do to help you get back on track.

Failing to respond to your lender

If you manage to catch up with your repayments or come to an agreement with your creditor, that’s great. But if you continue to fail to make your proper payments on time then the issue will become more serious. If after around 3-6 months your mortgage lender feels they’re not getting anywhere or you’re not responding to their attempts to contact you, they may issue you with a default notice.

What is a default notice?

A default notice is a warning, in writing, in the form of a letter from your creditor, that officially warns you that you are behind with your payments and need to take action.

Two weeks to resolve the issue

A default notice normally gives you at least two weeks to put the situation right by paying any outstanding balance in full and resuming your monthly repayments. At this point, you can offer to make payments on the balance in instalments, but your lender is under no obligation to accept your offer at this point.

One strike and you’re out

The default notice itself will not be recorded on your credit file, but if you then fail to clear the debt and the account defaults, this definitely will go on your file. A default is effectively your credit account being closed. This means that it can only happen once – you can’t have multiple defaults on one credit account as once the account has defaulted, that’s it.

What happens once my account has defaulted?

If you’ve been issued a default notice, have been unable to pay off the debt in full, and your account has defaulted, there are a few options for things that can happen next.

  1. If the default occurred on a hire purchase account, such as a car, your creditor may take you to court to take back the vehicle or other goods.
  2. They may also decide to pursue court action to get back the cash amount outstanding.
  3. Or they may pass the debt onto a debt collection agency.

Does a default affect your credit rating?

Yes, a default will affect your credit rating. The severity, however, will depend on how often you defaulted and how long you went without paying.

The key factors that a lender will look at when considering your defaults are:

  1. How many defaults you have on your credit report
  2. How long ago they occurred
  3. Whether they have now been paid off in full
  4. What amounts were involved
  5. What your financial record has been like since

The more payments you miss, the worse it gets

If you only miss a single payment, your credit score may drop a little. However, if you miss multiple or substantial payments, your score may come down by a more significant amount – potentially even three digits.

Whether your current score is good or bad, having a three-digit drop is not something you want, as it will make lenders wary. However, you can develop a financial strategy that allows you to clear your debts and improve your credit score within a few years. Consider meeting with a lender who will offer you a mortgage with default if you have a few years to spare.

Your home could be repossessed

You can improve your credit score, but this would take time and significant effort. The longer you stay without making payments, the more aggressive your punishment will be from the lenders. The worst punishment is usually having your property repossessed, which will put a significant dent in your credit history. With a bad credit score due to failed mortgage payments, getting any other loan for any other reason will be difficult.

Satisfied versus unsatisfied defaults explained

There are different types of mortgage defaults, which are divided into two broad categories. These are satisfied defaults and unsatisfied defaults.

Satisfied defaults

A satisfied default is when your account has defaulted, but you have gone on to repay the debt in full.

Unsatisfied defaults

An unsatisfied default shows when you have an account that has defaulted, but there is still money outstanding. Interestingly, defaults will only show on your credit record for six years from the date the default occurred, regardless of whether or not you have paid them off or not.

Partially-satisfied defaults

If you end up agreeing to pay a creditor a smaller amount to clear the debt, this will be recorded as ‘partially satisfied’. You should not confuse debts marked as ‘satisfied’ with those that show on your credit record as ‘settled’.

Settled debts

A settled debt is simply a normal debt that has been paid in full and the account closed. For example, if you take out a loan over two years and make the repayments on time every month, the account will be closed and the debt shown as settled once the two years are complete. Settled is used for credit card accounts, loans, mortgages and other credit that has not defaulted.

What is a note of correction?

A note of correction is a note of up to 200 words long that you can add to any item on your credit report, including a default. A note of correction is useful if you feel that lenders looking at your report would benefit from understanding the context of a credit issue.

If for example you had an accident or illness that meant you were unable to work for a period of time, and this caused you to get behind on your financial commitments, it might be worth adding a note to this effect. You will normally see the option to add a note of correction when you’re checking your own credit files.

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How to get a mortgage with a default

You can get a mortgage even with a default if you find the right lender. However, there are some steps you must follow and some things you need to understand about defaults and mortgages to avoid making a mistake and having your mortgage application declined.

Find a reliable bad credit mortgage lender 

The first step to getting a mortgage with default is finding a lender willing to give you a loan. Many banks and credit institutions offer home loans, but only a few provide adverse credit mortgages. Even among the bad credit mortgage lenders, some will offer more favourable terms than others.

Research the market

To find the best lenders to offer a mortgage despite your bad credit history, you must research thoroughly. Go online and find out more about these lenders from unbiased sources. Are they reliable? Are their rates ideal? How often do they foreclose on a property? Find the answers to these questions and read testimonials and reviews from those who have enjoyed their services.

Ask for recommendations

Beyond internet research, it also helps to ask people you know about a prospective lender. After all, word-of-mouth marketing from people with nothing to gain from the company is one of the most reliable sources of information. You could also consider using a bad credit mortgage broker – this is a great way to take the stress out of the process as they will do all of the research and negotiation on your behalf.

Be patient & aware of charges

It is important not to go with the first lender you see. Reduce your options to at least the top three and choose the best of the three. Find out which lender offers the fairest annual percentage, whether there are hidden charges, what supplemental charges you will have to pay, and what the penalty is for delaying monthly payments.

If all of this sounds a little too complicated then don’t worry, there is an easy way to find the best bad credit mortgage lenders without having to worry about hours of research comparing terms and conditions.

Use a bad credit mortgage broker

A mortgage broker is a financial professional whose job it is to research a whole range of mortgages and compare the products and deals that are best for you.

Speak to a specialist

If you have bad credit, including defaults, then your best bet is to use a mortgage broker who specialises in securing bad credit mortgages. They’ll have good connections with specialist bad credit lenders and understand their specific eligibility requirements.

Save time & money

Using a broker not only saves you huge amounts of time, but it can also save you a lot of money. You might think that a difference of half a percentage point for example might not make a lot of difference, but even very small differences in interest rates can equate to thousands of pounds over the term of a loan, so it really is worth using a broker to help you find the best bad credit mortgage rates.

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It's also worth bearing in mind that some bad credit lenders will only accept applications made through a broker, so without a broker you are cutting off access to some of the lenders who might actually be the best fit for you.

Are mortgage brokers expensive?

Not necessarily. Some actually do not charge a fee at all as they will make their money through referral fees from lenders. Others work on a flat fee basis and some charge a fee based on a percentage of the mortgage amount. A good broker will give you a clear idea of their fees before you agree to work with them. Get in touch and we can tell you more about how we work.

Should I check my credit reports if I have defaults?

Yes, it’s time to get your head out of the sand and face the music. We get it, no one enjoys having bad credit, and it can be tempting to just try and pretend that those defaults don’t exist, but you’re not doing yourself any favours by keeping yourself in the dark.

As a worst-case scenario, not checking your credit reports means you don’t know exactly what bad credit you have, and you end up getting your mortgage application declined.

Get a copy for peace of mind

The best thing to do is to be brave and get copies of your credit reports before you even think about looking at potential mortgage lenders. There are three main credit reference agencies in the UK – Experian, Equifax and TransUnion – and you can either go to each company for copies of your report from each, or you can use a service like checkmyfile. Checkmyfile pulls together information from all three of the big players and collates your credit information into one big file. This can be useful as it’s all your information in one place in a very easy-to-read format.

Sign up for a free trial

Although most of these credit reference agencies will charge an ongoing monthly fee for you to check your credit reports on a regular basis, they all offer free trials in the first instance, so you can go and check your files for a period of time, check for accuracy and get yourself up to speed with your financial situation.

Check all information is correct

The first thing you should do when you check your credit reports is to make sure that all of the information that’s held about you is correct. Mistakes have been known to happen on credit reports, and it would be incredibly frustrating to not check and to have your mortgage rejected because of a credit issue that wasn’t even accurate.

Will checking my credit report affect my credit score?

No. A lot of people avoid checking their own credit reports because they’ve heard that any kind of check can have a negative impact on your credit score. This isn’t actually true. Checking your own credit report has no effect on your credit score, so you can check the status of previous defaults as many times as you want without it even showing up on your report.

The type of checks that can have a negative effect on your score are hard checks run by third parties.

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It's time to get ready with your deposit

Once you’ve checked your reports and have a broker ready to help you, it’s time to start thinking about the logistics of getting a mortgage with a default, namely how much money you’ll need to have saved as a deposit, the sort of rates you might need to pay and how much you’ll be able to afford to borrow.

While lenders are happy to help you purchase a home, they still need to see some financial capabilities on your end. This is why all borrowers must pay a percentage of the house's value as a down payment. If you need more money saved for the down payment and your credit score is bad, no lender will help you.

Ask your lender how much you need

The amount you should set aside for a down payment will depend on the terms of the loan and the value of your house. Lenders go through the financial records of their prospective borrowers to assess the severity of their credit situation. If it is an old default or a single missed payment and records show that you have improved since then, you will pay a lower down payment than someone with a more recent default or something more significant such as an IVA or bankruptcy.

A standard deposit in the UK is around 10%, although you can get a mortgage with as little as a 5% deposit depending on your other circumstances. If we take a 10% deposit as an example, this means that if you want to buy a house worth £300,000, you’ll need £30,000 to put down as a deposit.

You may need a bigger deposit

Although most of these credit reference agencies will charge an ongoing monthly fee for you to check your credit reports on a regular basis, they all offer free trials in the first instance, so you can go and check your files for a period of time, check for accuracy and get yourself up to speed with your financial situation.

Typically, those with poor credit ratings need to set aside a higher deposit than someone with no defaults on their credit record. This could mean that you’ll need as much as 15% to 20% of the property's value as a down payment before getting any support from the lender - £45,000 - £60,000 on a property valued at £300,000.

The actual amount will depend on the rest of your financial circumstances. Your broker will be able to tell you exactly what this means for you.

Will I pay higher rates for a bad credit mortgage?

Unfortunately, yes. You may well find that your default means that you have to accept a higher mortgage interest rate. This comes back to the issue of risk – just like lenders will ask for a larger deposit, they’ll often ask for higher interest payments to balance out some of the additional risk they face in taking on a borrower who has failed to make repayments on debts in the past.

Switch and save in the long term

Once you’ve had your mortgage in place for a while and your defaults have had time to come off your credit file and you’ve built up a history of making your repayments in full and on time, you should be able to remortgage to a cheaper deal. This will bring down the amount you have to repay each month and will also reduce the total cost of the mortgage over its full term.

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Which lenders offer mortgages to people with defaults?

Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as giving a list of mortgage lenders who do and don’t offer mortgages to people with defaults.

Each lender has their own eligibility criteria and policies around how they assess mortgage applications, and they can also be flexible around their assessment depending on your situation.

To give you an idea of how criteria might vary between lenders, we’ve pulled together a few examples at the time of writing (February 2023) that show how different banks, building societies and specialist lenders might approach defaults.

Generation Home

Generation Home won’t accept defaults registered within the last three months but if you wait until the three-month mark then they will be prepared to overlook defaults where the amounts are less than £100 and the default is now satisfied.

Aldermore

Aldermore has three product levels, with different terms and eligibility criteria attached. You will qualify for Product Level 1 if you have no defaults recorded in the last 12 months, a maximum of one satisfied default in the last 13-36 months, up to £500.
Product Level 2 requires no defaults in the last 12 months, and up to two in the last 24 months, totalling no more than £5,000. Product Level 3 is the most lenient and so will have the highest interest rates attached – no defaults in the last 6 months and up to four, totalling no more than £5,000, in the last 2 years.

Leeds Building Society

Leeds Building Society will allow a maximum of one default satisfied within the last three years, as long as it’s not more than £500 in value. They will allow up to four defaults or CCJs satisfied over three years ago, not exceeding £20,000 in total. Unsatisfied defaults are not acceptable.

HSBC

HSBC will not consider any defaults at all registered in the last three years.

How to actively improve your credit score

Having a few defaults on your credit history doesn't mean you should be careless about future credit.

Check it & challenge any mistakes

First, examine your credit history to ensure everything is correct. If any mistake can affect your credit score, contest it with your credit card company so your history can be adjusted accordingly.

Pay bills & build it back up

When you know your credit history is accurate, build a better report. Pay all your bills before the due date, paying special attention to those that are subject to review by regulators. Lenders will analyse everything in your report to see if you have made active efforts to improve and manage your credit more efficiently.

Stop using Credit Cards

Apart from paying your bills on time and checking your credit history, you can also improve your credit score by minimising your use of credit cards. Use cash as much as possible, limiting credit card use to the most necessary bills. You are more likely to pay your credit card bills if you use them for necessities rather than luxuries.

Pay what you owe in full

Another way to improve your credit score is to opt for the pay-to-delete offer. Some creditors will remove the bad debt from your report if you pay the debt in full. However, this option is at the creditor's discretion and is usually granted out of goodwill.

Could you maximise your income?

One key factor to consider when getting a mortgage is affordability. Irrespective of your poor credit score, the lender wants to know if you can afford the repayment of the loan.

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Study all your spending

Mortgage lenders will look at your bank and credit statements to find out exactly how much you earn and how much you spend monthly. They'll also look over your savings and investments. Make sure you reveal every detail they need about your income stream. This will help the lender see that you can afford the repayment.

If you currently need to earn more to buy a house, one option is to wait until you do. This will also give you a chance to save for the down payment. The last thing you want to do is pay a down payment and eventually lose your home to the lender because you defaulted on the mortgage.

Ask for a pay rise

Alternatively, you could look at different ways to increase your income and increase the amount that you can borrow. A simple way to do this is to ask for a pay rise. Of course, you can’t just go into your boss and say you need to be paid more to afford a mortgage, you’ll have to think about whether it’s due, whether you’ve taken on extra responsibility lately perhaps, or have proved your worth through a big project.

Work extra hours

Another way to increase your income is to take on additional hours at your existing job or consider a second job. This could be something as simple as a couple of evening shifts at a local bar, or it might be time to try that side hustle you’ve had in mind for a little while.

Don’t forget about benefits

Don’t forget too that some benefits can be included in a mortgage application as income, and other money you have coming in such as child maintenance payments or income from investments could also be eligible.

Find out how much you can borrow

People with mortgage defaults typically have access to less money from lenders than those with clean records. It would be best to determine how much you can get from your lender. Find out what different lenders offer and pick the one that matches your needs.

Minimise your expenses

Lenders will compare your gross earnings to your expenditures to determine how much you can borrow. They will factor in other variables like property taxes and lenders' mortgage insurance policies. Also, they will consider your ongoing credit card payments, insurance premiums, and any other association dues you are obligated to pay.

Partners can borrow more

If you are buying a house with your partner, they will also have to look at your partner's records. The lender will check for the same things on both sides before determining how much they are willing to release for your home loan. Depending on their findings, the final amount could be lower or higher than your request.

Clear your default before applying for your mortgage

Bad credit mortgage lenders will give you the loan you need whether or not you have cleared your default. However, clearing your default will increase your chances of getting the loan. It will show the lender that you are now financially stable and will do what you can to repay your mortgages on time.

Be prepared to pay more

Existing uncleared defaults on your record may force the lender to demand a higher down payment and yearly interest. On the other hand, some lenders may offer the same terms whether the default has been cleared or not. They are more concerned with the severity of your defaults than whether you have cleared them.

Pay debts in instalments

If your default debt is too large to clear at once, meet with your creditors and ask them to offer a flexible payment plan different from the initial agreement. Most creditors allow you to split heavy debts into small instalment payments and spread them across months or even years.

Mortgage Default FAQ’s

Should you wait the default out?

When you have defaults on your credit history, it takes six years for these defaults to clear. After six years of building your low credit score by paying bills regularly, you can apply for a regular mortgage. If you currently can't find a mortgage lender and can't afford the down payment for the house of your dreams, consider waiting it out.

If you wait until your bad credit clears, you will also have time to save enough money for the down payment. For regular mortgages, you will need to keep just 5% to 10% of the down payment before a lender agrees to give you a loan. This is much easier than the 15% to 20% for default mortgages.

Can I get a joint mortgage if my partner has defaults?

Yes, it’s possible, but it will work just as if you had defaults yourself. Unfortunately, you can’t avoid them having to go through the same financial and credit checks as you. This means that any credit issues such as defaults will have just the same impact on your mortgage application as if you had them yourself.

Be open and honest

One of the main issues that partners run into when applying for a joint mortgage with bad credit is that one person isn’t fully aware of the other’s credit history. It’s important therefore from the start to be honest with each other and openly share your credit reports so that you can be very clear about how you might fare with lenders.

Explore every option

If you are a very high earner and could get the mortgage you need on your own, it might be worth exploring whether or not you could take out the mortgage as a sole applicant mortgage. The only difficulty here is that many lenders prefer to only offer joint mortgages to married couples. Talk to your broker about what your options might be if only one of you has defaults.

I’m self-employed and have defaults – can I still get a mortgage?

Yes, you may be able to get a mortgage even if you’re self-employed and have defaults, just keep in mind that it might be more difficult and add an extra layer of complexity.

Three years of accounts needed

Being self-employed can already make you higher risk in the eyes of mortgage lenders, especially if you’ve only recently gone freelance and don’t have three years’ worth of accounts yet to show.

Explain your circumstances

Talk to your broker about your circumstances and they may be able to find a lender who will be sympathetic. As the gig economy grows and freelancing becomes more commonplace there are certainly plenty of lenders willing to approve self-employed mortgages, it will just depend on the details of your work and the defaults on your credit record.

Can you remortgage with defaults?

It depends on whether you’re remortgaging simply to get a better deal or to release additional equity but yes, in theory it should be possible to remortgage with defaults. In fact, you’ll often find it is a more straightforward process to remortgage than to get a new mortgage from scratch. It will definitely help if you’ve managed all of your mortgage payments well in the last few years and have built up more equity in your home since taking out your original mortgage. This will give you a lower loan to value ratio, which lenders prefer.

Can you get a buy to let mortgage with defaults?

It is possible to get a buy to let mortgage if you have defaults, but you’ll need a decent amount of money saved. The typical buy to let deposit in the UK is already 25%, even if you have a squeaky clean credit record, so if you have a record of defaults then that requirement could be even higher.

Interest rates on buy to let mortgages are normally higher than for residential mortgages so, again, expect to pay even higher mortgage interest rates for a buy to let mortgage with defaults. You may well need to find a specialist lender who can factor in your previous credit issues.

Get expert advice and speak to a specialist

Now that you know everything there is to learn about defaults and mortgages, you can assess your situation. Examine your financial records to see if you qualify for any available bad credit mortgages. Consider talking to a bad credit broker directly to get an idea of your options.

We hope that apart from anything else, this comprehensive guide to mortgages with defaults has reassured you that you can still get on the property ladder even if you’ve had credit issues in the past.

Whatever your history of defaults, with the right support and research there could still be light at the end of the tunnel.

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