Advice: Can I get my elderly mother out of the credit agreement she unwittingly signed up to?

Jaclyn Glover, Deputy Manager, Citizens Advice Newtownabbey.

Jaclyn Glover, Deputy Manager, Citizens Advice Newtownabbey.

By Jaclyn Glover, Deputy Manager, Citizens Advice Newtownabbey

Q: Someone came to my elderly mother’s home last week and pressured her into signing up to a credit agreement, she was unaware of what she had agreed to until I explained it to her. Can my mother get out of this agreement?

A: When you borrow money you should be asked to sign a credit agreement. This is a legal document which sets out what both sides are agreeing to, including how the money you’re borrowing should be paid back.

Borrowing money includes things like using a credit card, taking out a loan or a bank overdraft, buying goods on credit and taking out a mortgage.

If you don’t pay the money back or fall behind with your payments, the credit agreement usually gives the lender the right to take you to court and make you pay back what you owe.

However, if you signed the agreement under certain circumstances, you may be able to argue that you shouldn’t have to pay the money back.

These circumstances include where:

• you were pressured, bullied or persuaded to sign against your will by someone else

• you suffer from mental illness or a learning disability.

Did you sign a credit agreement against your will?

If you signed an agreement to borrow money because you were pressured, bullied or persuaded to by someone else, the lender may not be able to force you to pay the money back.

This can apply if:

• the lender knew what was going on or put pressure on you to sign

• someone forced you to sign a mortgage or other loan secured on your home. This could have been, for example, in order to fund your partner’s business or pay off debts which only they were previously responsible for

• someone persuaded you to sign the agreement by lying to you. For example, if the lender lied to you about the terms of the agreement or didn’t explain them to you properly. As it’s likely to be your word against theirs, any written proof you have will help you.

Did you understand what you were doing when you signed a credit agreement?

If you weren’t able to understand what you were doing when you signed a credit agreement and the lender knew or should have known this, they may not be able to force you to pay the money back.

Reasons why you might not have understood what you were doing include because:

• your ability to understand was affected by drink or drugs

• you suffer from mental illness or a learning disability.

You’ll need to be able to prove that you signed the agreement against your will or didn’t understand what you were doing at the time.

You may be able to get evidence from your doctor or other medical professional to support you.

You’ll also have to show that the lender knew or should have known you didn’t know what you were doing. For example, the lender might already have been told that you didn’t know what you were doing before you signed the agreement. Or it may have been obvious from your behaviour at the time that you didn’t understand what you were doing.

If you think you signed a credit agreement under any of these circumstances, you should get advice from the Citizens Advice. There may also be other reasons why you might not have to pay back money you are being chased for.

• Get free, confidential and independent advice from your nearest Citizens Advice – go to www.citizensadvice.org.uk/nireland or call at: Citizens Advice Newtownabbey, Dunanney Centre, Rathmullan Drive, Rathcoole, Newtownabbey, BT37 9DQ. Telephone advice is available 9am – 4pm each day on 028 9085 2271 (Lunch 1pm - 1:30pm). Email advice is available at enewtownabbey@citizensadvice.co.uk