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Experts back rental exchange in call for data to boost credit scores

The Financial Inclusion Commission backs Big Issue Invest-supported scheme that could improve access to cash for millions of tenants

Leading experts have backed The Big Issue’s rental exchange programme and have said that it is helping millions of tenants to improve their credit score.

The Financial Inclusion Commission (FIC) – a cross-party campaigning body – praises the programme and highlights that more than 75 per cent of tenants have the potential to see their credit score rise under the scheme.

Rental exchange helps tenants to build a good credit score by taking into account the rental payment history on their credit file.

The influential FIC findings also report that there has been an increase from 39 per cent to 84 per cent in digital authentication for social tenants could be achieved when rent data is included in credit files.

The scheme has been established in a collaboration between Big Issue Invest and credit reference agency Experian and has the potential to help 3.4 million social housing tenants by improving their credit score.

This will mean more ready access to credit, for things as simple as white goods, so borrowers won’t be forced towards rapacious lenders.

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The scheme has led to a move to help many more renters, not just those in social housing. Big Issue founder and cross-bench peer Lord Bird has been actively pushing for the new Creditworthiness Assessment Bill starting in the Lords. It aims to make it compulsory for lenders to take rental payment and council tax payment into account when assessing potential borrowers. At present this is not mandatory.

The impact could be huge. It will mean people with thin credit records are offered the same benefits as their wealthier, home-owning fellow citizens.

The FIC report also recommends that regulators and industry figures educate mainstream lenders of the benefits of wider data sources in the credit process and that the government educates the public about the purpose and benefits of open data.

As a result of greater access to public sector information, an addition 4.8 million consumers could become more attractive to mainstream, and importantly, lower cost lenders, according to the FIC – a cross-party campaigning body of MPs, peers, social policy leaders and industry experts supported by Mastercard.

This could be achieved by lowering the lending threshold from £15,000 to £12,000 per annum.

It is hoped that the massive rise in authentication will help stop the likes of migrant workers and young people, who tend not to have a credit file, from being forced into poverty after turning to loan sharks and illegal money lenders.

The benefits to low income consumers and wider society are too great to be ignored

Sir Sherard Cowper Coles, Chair of the FIC, said: “Our 2015 report, Financial Inclusion: Improving the Financial Health of the Nation, found that an estimated six million people are unable to access mainstream credit in the UK, leading them to borrow from unscrupulous lenders and worsening their financial exclusion.

“New sources of public sector data can be used to widen access to affordable credit, and the roll out of Universal Credit provides an opportune moment for this.

“We call on the government to take action in this area to make better use of data and information sharing. The benefits to low income consumers and wider society are too great to be ignored.”

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