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Repairing and Building your Credit for a Mortgage

See how expert advice could help secure a mortgage even with bad credit, and help you rebuild your report

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Pete Mugleston

Author: Pete Mugleston - Mortgage Advisor, MD

Updated: June 16, 2022

The following tips on how to improve credit score are based on the personal opinions and experience of the bad credit mortgage advisers working with us. Credit scoring for mortgages itself is an unknown and impossible process to predict, as each and every lender uses different information about the applicant and then also interprets that information in a different way. Each lender also has a different pass level of credit score for mortgage applications, so a virtual 500 may be ok with Aldermore mortgages, not ok for Nationwide mortgages.

First off, if you’ve found this page via Google because you’ve been declined elsewhere, don’t panic. Every lender is different and they don’t base their decisions to lend based on the score provided by a credit referencing agency. Credit scores, and the things you do to improve them, are a generalised but imperfect indicator of likelihood. You may be eligible for a mortgage now. To find out what your options are now or (if you’re not eligible) what you’ll have to do to become eligible, make an enquiry.

On the whole, one or two problem areas listed below in isolation may not prevent you from getting a mortgage with anyone, but they may be the thing that lowers your score with a lender, and the thing that means you can’t borrow 5x salary, or be offered a 95% mortgage for example.

Get your credit file

It is an impossible task to accurately predict how each lender will interpret your file, until an initial score is completed by them. A good broker however, will be able to read your credit file like a map, using it to find the best lender most likely to offer you what you need, without multiple aimless mortgage credit checks with the different lenders on the high street. Get in touch today and let a specialist point you in the right direction.

You can sign up for free  – we recommend getting hold of all 3 of the Experian, UK Credit Ratings, and Equifax reports as often they show different information, and lenders all use different agencies themselves – this can be vital in getting the best advice and can really help us get you the mortgage you need.


You will NOT be penalised or scored any differently for searching your own credit file with these agencies, credit score is only affected by applications for credit. AND – ITS FREE! Sign up for the free trials and order your reports now.

If you’ve never borrowed anything before, your ability to repay will be unknown to a lender, and thus can harm your chances of a successful application. One of the easiest ways to prove you can borrow and repay debt is by taking out a credit card. Just buying general things like your shopping or petrol on the card, and then making your card payments on time every month will help to show you can borrow responsibly and within your means.


TOP TIP: One of the best things you can do to increase your credit score is to obtain an adverse specific credit card, and spend and repay in full on a monthly basis – this helps to prove you can borrow and live within your means at the same time, and you’ll notice your score improve over the coming weeks and months.

There are 2 options here, the first is a standard credit card specifically for those with bad credit, the second is for those who are declined for standard cards and need a guaranteed-acceptance card (usually if you have had more severe and more recent adverse credit). Most people opt for the Aqua card first, then go for the CashPlus if declined.

Spring clean – Make sure you’re up to date

If you’re applying for a mortgage or a remortgage with bad credit, go through your credit file in detail and make sure its all up to date before you begin.

Check linked names, addresses, and your payment history. Check all your open accounts and make sure they are current and relevant – if any old accounts remain open, get them paid up and closed. It could also be an issue if old accounts registered at previous addresses remain open.

Get credit report errors put right

If anything like payment history/ arrears/ CCJ’s/ defaults etc are inaccurate, then challenge with the provider and obtain written confirmation they have made an error, and ask them to correct this with Experian/ or other credit reference agencies like Equifax or call credit (if they use these).

Register on the voters roll

This helps a lender know where you are, and can more easily track your history if your addresses from which you have ever taken any credit or had post sent to etc, are all registered. This maybe one of the most important things you can do to help your score and is also the easiest to change.

Make sure your monthly payments are made on time

Do this as long as possible to create a good track record. If your history shows regular late payments and recent defaults, it’s going to really affect your score. Having 6-12 months up to date payments and well ran accounts can be the difference to a scoring system and to a mortgage underwriter (banks case-by-case decision-maker who reviews appealed declined applications) deciding whether or not you’ve changed your ways since being in any trouble.

Try to avoid multiple searches

A common question asked is, ‘do credit searches harm my credit score?’ it’s a valid question and the answer is yes and no. Never having credit can be seen as a bad thing, so applying for the right thing would be a good idea. Having too many applications in a short space of time (last 6-12 months), can have a big impact on reducing your score. Read our article on credit searches here.

Control your spending

Stay out of your overdraft – Overdrafts are great, and using it once or twice to cover unexpected payments shouldn’t be too much of a problem. But, using it as a lifeline, constantly living in the negative, and going up to the limit, can have a negative impact on your score.

Don’t go past your borrowing limits – Even more important than keeping control of an overdraft, is not excessing and going past your pre-defined limit on overdrafts, credit cards, store cards etc. This shows a potential lender that you aren’t living within your means and will almost certainly have a negative impact on your credit score.

Settle your debts

Clearing a loan, card balance, overdraft may help, and if you have had more serious problems in the past and are wondering ‘should I pay back a default/CCJ that wasn’t my fault’, then purely in terms of improving your score, the answer is usually yes.

It may have been a mistake or dispute, but nevertheless, it indicates you’ve overstretched and we’re unable to repay borrowings, not good when applying for more finance. The quicker these are settled, and the more time that has passed since it was registered, will show a recovery and the problem has less of an impact. For instance, an unsettled CCJ of £2,000 one year ago, maybe much more negative than if it was registered 4 years ago. Also, if unsettled it can be much worse than if it has been paid back.

Remember, time is a healer and the longer you have a clean, up to date credit history, the better.

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Get one, well ran bank account

View top bank account comparison tables here

If you have multiple sources of income, and accounts all over the place, not only is it harder to manage for you, but it may be prudent in the eyes of a lender to have everything ran through one main account, so try moving your income/ direct debits/ standing orders etc into one account.

The idea here is to develop one good account profile with a particular bank, and make sure there are no excesses, and that all bills are paid on time. If you have credits paid into an account, your profile with that bank automatically improves. The higher your account turnover the better, so a history of good figures coming in and everything going out on time, can really help. Most clearing banks update their customers profiles once a month, so this may take a few weeks/months to improve things.


Is there a credit blacklist?

No, only a credit file. Everyone has one, and it holds all the information about the accounts and borrowings and agreements you have with any financial institution. It will show how up to date your payments have been, and record any missed payments, defaults, CCJ’s, Bankruptcy etc. The ‘blacklist’ doesn’t exist, but if you have a serious adverse history on your file, this can mean that anyone considering lending or offering financial service, may decline your application.

How do I get a mortgage with a low credit score?

If your credit history is not perfect, if you’ve had no credit problems but recently been declined for a mortgage due to credit score, don’t worry. There are hundreds of reasons why you may have been declined with that lender, and the good news is there’s plenty of lenders out there, who consider even the worst of credit histories.

In certain circumstances, of there is proof that something registered on your credit file is there in error, then this can

A) be appealed with the institution registering it

B) be appealed directly with the credit reference agency (ie Experian/Equifax/ Call credit etc…) the other alternative

C) is to find a more flexible lender, possibly not from the high street, and show to them the evidence supporting the fact it wasn’t your fault.
They will usually need written evidence and not just take your word for it, so if it was a phone bill defaulted because it wasn’t cancelled properly for example (very common), then if you have written communication from that provider that it was their fault, it may be enough for your new lender to still consider you despite being declined.

Joint Mortgages and Credit Scores

If you’re looking to apply for a mortgage and are wondering what joint credit score is needed for a mortgage or if you suffer from a low score but your partner has good credit it may still be possible to apply for a mortgage, there could still be many options available to you as mentioned it may all depend on the severity of the bad credit, or the reason for the low credit score.

If something is registered in error on your credit report and is affecting your credit score as mentioned above you can appeal directly to the credit referencing agencies (Experian, Equifax and Call Credit) they can look into it for you and potentially remove it and that may help your score increase.

How do credit scores work?

Lenders assess a potential borrower to protect themselves against the risk of money lent not being paid back. To work out if you are worthy of anything like a card/loan/account/mortgage, A lender will look at your track record, your current situation (income/other commitments etc), and they basically take all of this information, from the details you provide when applying, any information they may already have about you (ie. if you have accounts there), and from your credit report.

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We know everyone's circumstances are different, that's why we work with mortgage brokers who are experts in bad credit mortgages.

Ask us a question and we'll get the best expert to help.

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About the author

Pete, an expert in all things mortgages, cut his teeth right in the middle of the credit crunch. With plenty of people needing help and few mortgage providers lending, Pete found great success in going the extra mile to find mortgages for people whom many others considered lost causes. The experience he gained, coupled with his love of helping people reach their goals, led him to establish Online Mortgage Advisor, with one clear vision – to help as many customers as possible get the right advice, regardless of need or background.

Pete’s presence in the industry as the ‘go-to’ for specialist finance continues to grow, and he is regularly cited in and writes for both local and national press, as well as trade publications, with a regular column in Mortgage Introducer and being the exclusive mortgage expert for LOVEMoney. Pete also writes for OMA of course!

Read more about Pete

Pete Mugleston

Mortgage Advisor, MD

FCA disclaimer

*Based on our research, the content contained in this article is accurate as of the most recent time of writing. Lender criteria and policies change regularly so speak to one of the advisors we work with to confirm the most accurate up to date information. The information on the site is not tailored advice to each individual reader, and as such does not constitute financial advice. All advisors working with us are fully qualified to provide mortgage advice and work only for firms who are authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. They will offer any advice specific to you and your needs.

Some types of buy to let mortgages are not regulated by the FCA. Think carefully before securing other debts against your home. As a mortgage is secured against your home, it may be repossessed if you do not keep up with repayments on your mortgage. Equity released from your home will also be secured against it.

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