Article by Richard Catlin - 19th May 2020

Does The Electoral Roll Matter During Covid-19?

The Electoral Roll has long been a vital and established component of every Credit Report and that remains true today, even in the midst of the unprecedented coronavirus crisis.

In the current climate, your presence – or lack thereof – on the Electoral Roll probably comes a long way down the list of priorities for many people, especially with both house purchases and rental moves having ground to a halt.

But with the first phase of lockdown restrictions being lifted in mid-May and the property market itching to get back to life, it feels like an apt time to highlight again the important role that the electoral register plays in getting approved for credit.

Things will, eventually, settle down to whatever the new ‘normal’ is. That should mean that people can move house, buy cars and generally use credit facilities like loans and credit cards for things that make life better, rather than simply to help with ‘getting by’.

When that happens, not only is the importance of being on the Electoral Roll going to move up that list of priorities, but there is also likely to be something of a rush to do all the things that have been on hold – and those people that get things sorted sooner rather than later will be the ones that find themselves able to press ahead that much faster.

What’s changed in 2020?

Traditionally, there is a set process for when and how updates to the Electoral Roll are administered.

The Annual Canvass – where local councils pass updated Electoral Roll information to each of the Credit Reference Agencies – takes place between August and November, with the agencies themselves typically completing the upload in the first month or so of the new year.

The timing of the coronavirus breakout and subsequent national lockdown came a few weeks after the update had been completed and so there should be no impact on listings relating to the main update.

The main difference this year is how the Rolling Register (the means by which the Electoral Roll database is maintained between annual updates) is being managed.

In a typical year, people are moving house, and therefore needing to update their Electoral Roll listing, all the time. That sees information pass from local councils to Credit Reference Agencies on an on-demand basis. Basically, if your details change, you can inform your local Electoral Registration Office of your new address and that will find its way onto your Credit Report, usually within a couple of months.

The restrictions placed on both the property and rental markets by the UK lockdown mean that the number of people needing to update their details will have been considerably lower, but at the same time, the processing power behind the updates has also been severely limited.

Updates have generally been limited to online, with no walk-ins, limited phone coverage and no postal forms being sent out.

The May 2020 elections have also been postponed, meaning that the usual uplift in registrations will be missed this year. The December 2019 general election is likely to have resulted in a large spike, but most of these will have occurred after the Annual Canvass.

The upshot is that in the short-term at least, there are potential delays in getting listed on the Electoral Roll and increased scope for errors and omissions.

What about now that people can move house again?

It seems that as soon as the restrictions were lifted in mid-March, people jumped at the chance to be able to move house again almost immediately. Property portal Rightmove reported a 45% increase in visits on the first day that viewings were permitted again.

The number of people applying for mortgages has also spiked, suggesting that the uplift in property details being viewed is going to translate into more than just tyre-kicking. Each one of those mortgage applications will involve the lender checking the applicants presence on the Electoral Roll as part of the credit check.

With so much more scope than usual for people to not show as a current resident at their current address, there is also a greater chance that applications will be declined because of it.

What can I do to check everything is correct?

The key thing to remember is that there isn’t just one version of the Electoral Roll when it comes to your Credit Report and what potential lenders will check.

There are four Credit Reference Agencies in the UK that report Electoral Roll information as part of your Credit Report. Each updates and maintains its own version separately, and so it’s quite possible to see differences, depending on which you check.

The only way to be sure that you are correctly recorded across the board is to check for yourself. Only checkmyfile shows data from all four agencies together in one report, allowing side-by-side comparison and a single point of contact should you need to dispute or get advice on any element.

You can try checkmyfile free for 30 days, then for £14.99 a month. You can cancel easily whenever you like, online and without fuss.

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