New research by price comparison service uSwitch.com has revealed that around 2 million British consumers have been left in debt by their ex-partner after a relationship came to an end. The survey of around 2,000 people also found that many consumers aren’t taking enough precautions to protect their finances and credit rating from potential abuse by their former partner.
Key findings from the poll included:
- Almost 6% of people surveyed said that their ex-partner had left them with debts or fees on a joint credit card
- The total amount of credit card debt was estimated at £1.2 billion, with the average debt level standing at £457
- Meanwhile, the average figures for mortgage debt, overdrafts on joint bank accounts and online shopping arrears were £463, £313 and £327 respectively
- 40% of people left with debt took more than 6 months to pay it off, whilst 10% were making repayments for more than 5 years – longer than the relationship itself in many cases
- Only 19% of people who opened a joint credit account with a partner had any idea of what their financial history was like
- 32% of people who shared a PIN number with an ex still hadn’t got round to changing it, whilst almost two thirds admitted that joint accounts were still open five years after the relationship ended
- Half of everyone polled said they thought they were now worse-off as a result of sharing finances with an ex, with almost a third reporting adverse information appearing on their credit file due to their former partner’s behaviour.
Andy Gorton, Managing Director of debt advice company, Bankruptcy Clinic, comments: ‘Relationship break-ups are one of the main factors that cause people to plunge into debt. No matter how good you are at managing money, a vengeful former partner with access to your joint accounts can wreak havoc with your credit rating by running up large bills that they then don’t pay off. As a joint account holder, you’re equally liable for these debts so there is other option but to repay them yourself.’
Of course, not all debts run up by exes are done so maliciously. It’s a fact of life that when two people who shared a home go their separate ways, one or both partners will often find it difficult to make ends meet on a single income. As a result, debts are often run up in single or joint names that neither partner can afford to pay off.
Adds Andy: ‘The average amounts of debt revealed by the uSwitch.com survey may not look very much, but in some cases will be far more than this. Add in the likelihood that there are at least two different types of debt involved, plus a reduced disposable income as household expenses are no longer shared, and it’s easy to see why so many newly-single people end up in financial trouble.’