Can Your Roommate Ruin Your Credit?

04/27/2012 04:09 pm ET | Updated Jun 27, 2012

Jim has a question about his roommate and credit information.  Jim is careful to always pay his bills on time, keep his credit balances low and has a pretty good credit score.  Rick, his roommate, is quite the opposite and is frequently late with his credit payments and has several credit cards with high balances. (If you don't know already, you'll want to learn how credit scores really work.)

Jim heard that it's possible that some of Rick's credit information may end up on his credit report given they have the same address and thus negatively impact his credit rating.  Can this happen?

Generally speaking, it is unlikely that the information reported on Rick's credit accounts will randomly show up on Jim's credit file -- even though they currently have the same mailing address.

The credit reporting agency databases and reporting processes are constructed at the individual level -- not a household level. For example, a person has established credit in his/her name before they get married. That individual credit (or any new credit they open in the future in their name only) will be linked to their individual file only even though they are married and live at the same address.  Any joint credit they open together would be reported on both of their credit files.

As such, a roommate's credit history should not be intermingled with their roommate's credit report information and vice versa even though they live at the same address. The only way an account would show up on both parties' reports is if the two people opened joint credit together.

As a general practice, everyone should periodically check their credit report to ensure the information being reported is accurate.  I would suggest this is an even more important exercise when you are living with roommates as they potentially have access to your personal identity information (SSN, account numbers, etc.) and can use this information to falsely assume your identity to gain access to your credit.

If you find inaccurate information on your credit file, follow the dispute resolution instructions provided by the credit reporting agencies so that it can be investigated and resolved. In addition, be aware and careful about safeguarding your personal information when living with others. Contact the credit bureaus and local authorities if you feel you are the victim of fraud abuse.

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