When your individual voluntary arrangement (IVA) finally ends you're well and truly free and clear and your money is your own again. A happy day indeed!
You can also pat yourself on the back, as getting through an IVA can be far from a walk in the park. You should feel good about the fact you did what was best by your creditors as well as yourself.
The hard work isn't over just yet however. Now comes the fiddly task of tidying up your credit file. Don't worry; you can use these tips to get you back on track.
This advice is strictly for those coming out of an IVA, be it a lump sum IVA or five or six year term IVA.
The first thing you'll need from your Insolvency Practitioner (IP) is your IVA Completion Certificate. The certificate will be signed by your Insolvency Practitioner and is proof that your IVA is officially done and dusted - hurrah!
The record of your IVA will be marked as 'Completed' by The Insolvency Service and they'll update their records to reflect this; once this is done you can start the job of smartening up your credit file.
It's a good idea to see what's actually on your credit file first.
There are three credit reference agencies (CRAs) in the UK: Callcredit, Equifax and Experian. We'd recommend that you access your credit report via all three agencies. You can get a one-off 'statutory credit report' from each of them online, or by post, for just £2.
Once you receive the reports it's important to check the details carefully on all three, and compare each against the other two. Usually it should be the same information on all three reports but it's possible that there might be some slight differences. It's also good to remember that credit reports only stretch back around six years.
Check for any adverse information after your IVA started. There shouldn't have been any new information added about your debts since your IVA was recorded by the CRAs but if there are anomalies on there you should address these straight away.
It's worth bearing in mind that not all accounts listed on the credit report will be CCA-regulated companies (or "lenders" to you and me). For example your payments to your mobile phone provider (if you're on a contract) and to utility companies can also be seen your credit report.
Your IVA will stay on your credit file for six years from the day it started. So if your IVA was five years long then the record of it will only stay on for a further 12 months after the IVA ends.
Once your IVA and defaults have passed the six-year mark you will find that they are no longer listed on your report. This doesn't automatically mean that you will be left with a clean rating and be able to get credit again instantly though.
When it comes to your actual credit rating, you're essentially starting from scratch and will have to slowly but surely build a credit file that's attractive to lenders. Read How to Improve Your Credit Rating for help.
Living for five or six years without any form of credit (except possibly a mortgage) is a real achievement in this day and age. It would be understandable if you felt that you never want to take out credit again.
However it's still wise to make sure that you repair your credit file to the best of your ability. You never know what's round the corner and an improved credit rating can help with getting a mortgage after an IVA, as well as insurance and mobile phone contracts.