Being on the electoral roll isn't just necessary if you want to vote – it can make it easier to get accepted for loans and credit agreements.
And at a time when prices are going up all around us, thanks to soaring inflation (opens in new tab), it's never been more important to improve our credit scores (opens in new tab), keeping them in tip top shape so that we can get the best interest rates (opens in new tab) if we need to borrow money.
Paula Roche (opens in new tab), managing director at credit reporting agency Equifax UK, says: “One of the first things lenders need to know about a potential borrower is that they are who they say they are, and live where they say they live. These identity checks are important because they reduce the risk of fraud and identity theft.
“The more confident lenders are that the identity information provided is correct, the more confident they are to lend money. While there are many ways a borrower can prove where they live, being on the electoral roll is one of the quickest and most secure ways to provide this proof.”
What is the electoral roll?
The electoral roll, also known as the electoral register’, lists the names and addresses of everyone who’s registered to vote. Being on the UK electoral roll doesn’t mean you have to vote in elections, it just means you are eligible to if you want to.
From July each year Electoral Registration Offices (EROs) contact households, by letter or email, to check if the details on the electoral register are correct. This is called the annual canvass.
The council may send you a ‘household confirmation’ letter if it’s matched your household records to its database.You don’t need to respond to this unless you need to make changes. If the council isn’t sure who lives at your address, it will send you a ‘canvass form’. You must complete and return this form even if there are no changes to the information on it.
If you don’t respond, the council will follow up with two letters, potentially followed by a home visit.
It’s a criminal offence to refuse to complete the registration form or to give false information, carrying a fine of up to £1,000. You won’t be fined if you have a valid reason for not registering such as a long stay in hospital.
If you move house, you shouldn’t wait for the annual canvass to update the electoral roll with your new address. Use the ‘register to vote’ service as soon as possible to update your details.
There are two versions of the electoral roll: the full version and the ‘open register’ (also known as the ‘edited register’).
The full register
The full version includes everyone registered and is used for things like credit checks, selecting people for jury service, and for sending out poll cards for elections. The full version is confidential and can’t be searched by members of the public. If you are asked to register, you must. Otherwise you could face a fine.
The open register
The open register is more public and the data on it can be bought by individuals or businesses, for example a direct marketing company who wants to promote it's product or service to you. You can opt out of the open register if you have concerns about privacy.
Am I already on the electoral roll?
It’s easy to check if you’re already on the electoral roll. Contact yourlocal Electoral Registration Office (opens in new tab)if you live in England, Scotland or Wales, or the Electoral Office for Northern Ireland (EONI) (opens in new tab)if you live in Northern Ireland. These organisations can also help you opt out of the open register if you want to.
If you’re not listed on the register, you can complete a form online or on paper and then your local authority will add you to the electoral roll. You can also be added to the electoral roll by using the government’s register to vote (opens in new tab) service. You’ll need to provide your name, address, date of birth and National Insurance number.
It’s your responsibility to ensure you are on the electoral roll. It’s a myth that signing up for council tax or other household bills will mean you’re automatically included on the register – that’s not the case.
Why should I be on the electoral roll?
Being on the electoral roll means you’ll be able to vote in local and general elections – so you can have your say on how the country is run. The electoral register also helps prove your identity and home address to both money lenders and other types of organisations.
Kelli Fielding (opens in new tab), managing director of consumer interactive at credit agency TransUnion, says: “The electoral register contains the names and addresses of registered UK voters, so it allows the lender to quickly check that a consumer lives at the address they have given on their application form, and for how long.”
Schools might use the electoral register to check you live within their catchment area, while the council can check the register if you request a resident’s parking permit. Your council can also use the register to check whether you are eligible for a council tax reduction.
Being on the electoral roll is also important for your credit score (opens in new tab). In fact, if your name is not on the register, you may struggle to get accepted for a credit card, a mortgage or a mobile phone contract.
Why does being on the electoral roll improve my credit score?
Being registered to vote can both boost your credit score and speed up credit applications. If a lender can’t confirm your details via the electoral roll, it may ask for other forms of identity and proof of address which can delay your application.
A higher credit score means you’re more likely to be accepted for loans, mortgages and other credit agreements. You’ll also be offered credit at cheaper interest rates.
James Jones, from credit agency Experian, says: “Many lenders use credit scoring to help decide which applications to accept and, sometimes, what terms to offer successful customers.
“By terms we mean, for example, what credit limits to set and what interest rates to charge. The headline ‘teaser’ interest rates you will see advertised only have to be offered to 51% of successful applicants, which means 49% are likely to be charged more.”
Lenders also like to see ‘stability’ when they lend money. The longer you are registered at one address for voting, the better.
How much can my credit score go up by if I’m on the electoral roll?
Being registered to vote at your current address will typically add around 50 points to your Experian credit score. But the other credit reference agencies say it’s tricky to put an exact number on how much being registered to vote will impact your credit score.
“It’s not possible to give an exact number, as it will depend on the individual, their financial history, and the other information in their credit report, but most consumers signing up to the electoral register for the first time in a new address may see their score increase,” says Equifax's Paula Roche.
Your credit score (or credit rating) isa three-digit number that reflects how reliable you are when it comes to repaying money. The higher your credit score, the better your chances of being accepted for credit, and at the most favourable rates.
“A credit score is created using a set of rules which take information from your credit report about your credit history, repayment of debts and your financial standing. It can help finance providers assess your creditworthiness when they’re reviewing an application for finance,” explains Kelli Fielding from TransUnion.
But in the UK, people don’t just have one single credit score. There are three credit reference agencies in the UK (Experian, Equifax and TransUnion) and each use a different scoring system. Experian scores people up to 999, Equifax scores people up to 700 and TransUnion scores people out of 710.
An Experian credit score of 721 to 880 is deemed ‘fair’; 881 to 960 is ‘good’, and 961 to 999 is ‘excellent’. People with an excellent credit score will generally have access to the cheapest credit deals.