I moved house recently - a hectic day of shifting boxes and trying to get the sofa to fit through the front door. By the end of it all, I was exhausted, but as I flopped down onto a chair for a well-deserved break, something caught my eye. Underneath all the chaos were some presents left by the previous owner. Not the traditional bottle of bubbly or a welcome card, but balls of fluff and chewed-up dog toys left under the radiator.
It's not the first time I've received an unexpected 'surprise' from a previous occupier. Back in the late 1990s, I was alarmed to find a poster for the band Steps and a brochure for naturist holidays lurking under the mattress in a flat I'd just rented. Don't get me wrong, there's nothing wrong with people who like Steps OR naturist holidays, but cheesy 90s pop and a liberal attitude to clothing are not my thing.
While all this sounds quite trivial, there is a serious point to be made. One of the many challenges of moving into a new home is dealing with the legacy of who lived there before - whether it be dodgy decor, naturist holiday brochures or, more worrying, all manner of unpaid bills and debts run up by the previous occupier.
In fact, one of the questions I am asked most is how to handle people chasing unpaid debts for someone who used to live in your house. The prospect of opening the door to a couple of blokes who want to repossess a sofa you don't even own is a very serious worry for many people who have recently moved. They worry that they will be held responsible for paying the debts of the previous tenant, that their credit record will have a 'black mark' put on it, and most of all they worry about debt collectors coming to their door. It's time to dispel those worries.
Your credit report is all about you, not your address, not your family members, not even your pets, just you. If someone who lived at your address before didn't pay their bills this won't turn up on your credit file, it will turn up on theirs. So that's one less thing to worry about.
You are not responsible for paying debts that someone else has run up before moving on. If you are getting letters sent to your house mark them as 'Not Known At This Address'. If you are concerned that a debt collector may call at your house, keep a copy of your tenancy agreement or purchase documents, and some proof of ID to hand.
To help make sure everyone knows when you moved in and hopefully avoid whatever trouble the previous occupier left behind, make sure you tell utility providers when you moved in and the meter readings at the time. While you are at it make sure you change all your other addresses too; your employer, the bank, your credit card provider, insurers, the DVLA and also HMRC. Making sure everyone knows you have moved will avoid missing any of your post long after you have finished paying for a Royal Mail redirection.
Moving house is about the most stressful thing there is. Once you have unpacked the TV, the kettle and the kids, the last thing you want is more stress. If you let everyone know you have moved, send back any post that isn't for you and in the worst case keep proof of occupancy to hand then you can relax, take your clothes off and listen to your Steps album at full volume - without worrying about any other 'Tragedy's.