Phantom addresses occur when a person experiences difficulty finding their address while filling in an online form and using the auto fill-in function, or when giving their postcode over the phone. Their exact address may not come up when they do so, or it may be inaccurate – such as missing out the flat number or using an outdated name for the building.
But Ian Williams, spokesman for Ocean Finance, warned: “Living at a phantom address might seem like nothing more than a mild inconvenience, but it can have serious consequences for residents.
“Lenders, credit agencies and many other service providers rely on consumers having an up-to-date address registered, and if they are unable to find it on their database or if the details they have don’t match up, they may be more prone to turn down an application or request. Indeed, one in 10 residents of phantom addresses have experienced just this, when failing a credit check.”
The Ocean research found that 16% of people have experienced difficulty locating their postal address when online, or have been told their address could not be found when on the phone.
The problem was most apparent among those who live in buildings that have been converted into apartments, which may suggest that the new addresses have not been correctly added to the Land Registry, or that Royal Mail has not listed the properties as being multiple occupancy.
More than two-fifths (43%) of respondents who have at some point lived in a building converted into apartments said they have experienced phantom address syndrome. This was substantially more than the one in 10 (12%) people who have had the issue when living in a house.
The main difficulty inhabitants of phantom addresses said they had was finding their postcode, with nearly a quarter (22%) of these respondents claiming they were unable to. One in five (20%) revealed they could not find their street, while nearly the same figure (18%) discovered that the number or name they were given for their home was different to the one they used.
As well as being inconvenient, phantom addresses can cause serious problems for occupants. Nearly one in five (19%) inhabitants of phantom addresses said they failed a credit check as a result. Meanwhile, a third (30%) of these people were unable to obtain certain services, such as broadband, because their address could not be located, and 17% found they could not register for utilities. One in 10 (11%) phantom address residents claimed they could not complete a job application because of it, while the main problem people encountered was missing mail; which 40% complained of.
Williams added: “If your address turns out to be a phantom, there are various things you can do. First, visit the electoral roll and check that your details are registered and that they’re correct. It should only take a couple of minutes to update them if you need to.
“You could also make sure that the major credit reference agencies have your details listed correctly and request that they’re changed if necessary. By doing this, hopefully your address will be resurrected to the land of the living.”