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Legal proceedings can be expensive, so it’s not surprising that some Australians take out personal loans to cover their legal costs.

When it comes to taking out personal loans for legal costs, some lenders will give you the loan and then leave the rest to you - much as they would if you were taking out a personal loan to, say, pay for a holiday or school fees.

However, there are other personal loan lenders in Australia that offer a specialist legal finance product.

What that means is that they will work with you to create a personal loan that suits your specific legal matter and then transfer the funds directly to your lawyer.

If your case goes on longer then expected, your loan term might be extended.

In some circumstances, if you win money from your legal case, and this money exceeds your legal costs, your lawyer might transfer some or all of this surplus money to your lender. That way, just as the lender would be making it easier for you to pay your lawyer, your lawyer would be making it easier for you to repay your lender.

Conditions vary from lender to lender, but the sort of cases for which you might be allowed to take out legal loans include:

  • Class actions
  • Contested probate
  • Family law
  • Personal injury

Please note that you might be required to disclose your finance arrangements to the other party in the legal proceedings.

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What do lawyers charge for?

Why do legal costs add up so quickly? Partly, it’s because lawyers often charge high rates. Another reason is that they may charge you for a wide range of services.

According to the Federal Court of Australia website, your lawyer may charge you for:

  • Appearing in court
  • Travelling to court
  • Research
  • Reading documents
  • Preparing documents
  • Copying documents
  • Correspondence
  • Administration
  • Witness expenses

As a result, you might feel you have no choice but to take out a personal loan to cover your legal costs. Before doing so, you might want to ask your lawyer to estimate how much your legal proceedings are likely to cost.

How to take out personal loans for legal costs

  1. Use a comparison website to find a list of personal loan providers
  2. Contact the personal lenders to ask if they offer a specialist legal finance product
  3. Complete an application by sharing your personal details, employment record and financial position

The pros and cons of personal loans

When done properly, taking out a personal loan can be a beneficial exercise. Although you’re required to ‘buy’ money, this could prove to be a value-for-money decision if:

  • A personal loan is the best solution to the problem you’re trying to solve
  • You shop around to get the most suitable personal loan
  • You’re able to repay the personal loan as per schedule

However, taking out a personal loan could backfire if:

  • Your problem could be solved without having to ‘buy’ money
  • The personal loan has an excessively high interest rate or harmful conditions
  • You struggle to repay the loan

So make sure you do your research before taking out a personal loan. It can also be a good idea to seek advice from a finance professional.

What are the features of a personal loan?

    • Interest rate - e.g. 7.95% per annum
    • Interest type - variable or fixed
    • Loan term - e.g. three years
    • Loan type - secured or unsecured
    • Fees - upfront, ongoing, early exit and others

Frequently asked questions

What is a personal loan?

A personal loan sits somewhere between a home loan and a credit card loan. Unlike with a credit card, you need to sign a formal contract to access a personal loan. However, the process is easier and faster than taking out a mortgage.

Loan sizes typically range from several hundred dollars to tens of thousands of dollars, while loan terms usually run from one to five years. Personal loans are generally used to consolidate debts, pay emergency bills or fund one-off expenses like holidays.

Can I get a personal loan if I receive Centrelink payments?

It is hard, but not impossible, to qualify for a personal loan if you receive Centrelink payments.

Some lenders won’t lend money to people who are on welfare. However, other lenders will simply consider Centrelink payments as another factor to weigh up when they assess a person’s capacity to repay a loan. You should check with any prospective lender about their criteria before making a personal loan application.

Where can I get a personal loan?

The Australian personal loans market contains dozens of lenders offering several hundred different products. Personal loans are available through a range of institutions, including:

There are three main ways to access personal loans. You can go through a comparison website, such as RateCity. You can use a finance broker. Or you can directly contact the lender.

How long do personal loans take?

Depending on the lender, some personal loan applications can be approved in as little as one hour, or you may need to wait until the next business day. If approved, you may receive your money on the same day, the next business day, or within the week.

How are personal loans regulated?

Personal lenders in Australia are regulated by ASIC (the Australian Securities & Investments Commission) and must follow responsible lending rules. That means they can’t lend money without making “reasonable inquiries” about a borrower’s financial situation and ensuring the loan is “not unsuitable” for them.

What are the pros and cons of personal loans?

The advantages of personal loans are that they’re easier to obtain than mortgages and usually have lower interest rates than credit cards.

One disadvantage with personal loans is that you have to go through a formal application process, unlike when you borrow money on your credit card. Another disadvantage is that you’ll be charged a higher interest rate than if you borrowed the money as part of a mortgage.

Can you refinance a $5000 personal loan?

Much like home loans, many personal loans can be refinanced. This is where you replace your current personal loan with another personal loan, often from another lender and at a lower interest rate. Switching personal loans may let you enjoy more affordable repayments, or useful features and benefits.

If you have a $5000 personal loan as well as other debts, you may be able to use a debt consolidations personal loan to combine these debts into one, potentially saving you money and simplifying your repayments.

What is a bad credit personal loan?

A bad credit personal loan is a personal loan designed for somebody with a bad credit history. This type of personal loan has higher interest rates than regular personal loans as well as higher fees.

Should I get a fixed or variable personal loan?

Fixed personal loans keep your interest rate the same for the full loan term, while interest rates on variable personal loans may be raised or lowered during your loan term.

A fixed rate personal loan keeps your repayments consistent, which can help keep your budgeting consistent. You won't have to worry about higher repayments if your rates were to rise. However, on a fixed loan you’ll also potentially miss out on more affordable repayments if variable rates were to fall.

How much can you borrow with a bad credit personal loan?

Borrowers who take out bad credit personal loans don’t just pay higher interest rates than on regular personal loans, they also get loaned less money. Each lender has its own policies and loan limits, but you’ll find it hard to get approved for a bad credit personal loan above $50,000.

How long does it take to get a student personal loan?

Completing an online personal loan application can often take anywhere from 10 minutes to 1 hour. Depending on your lender, processing your personal loan application may take anywhere between 1 and 24 hours. If your personal loan application is approved, you may receive the money in your bank account the following business day, or, in some cases, the same day.

Is a personal loan a variable or fixed-rate loan?

Depending on the personal loan lender, you may be able to choose between a fixed and a variable interest rate. But, there are a few distinct differences between the two, so it’s important to weigh up the pros and cons before deciding on what’s right for you.

A fixed interest rate loan gets you the convenience of knowing exactly how much you need to repay each fortnight or month. On the other hand, you generally won’t be able to make lump sum or advanced payments to close your personal loan early - or at least not without a penalty.

With a variable interest rate personal loan, you may be able to get a longer loan repayment term, with the option of paying off the loan early. You typically won’t need to pay any additional charges for an early full repayment either. The potential disadvantage with an interest rate that can change is that your repayment is not entirely predictable, as it can fluctuate with the market. However, you’ll likely have more options as more lenders offer a variable interest rate personal loan.

Can I merge my personal loan with my home loan?

Yes, you can refinance your home loan and, in the process, merge or consolidate your personal loan and home loan. By doing so, you can lower the number of debts you have, and you may also reduce the total interest you have to pay.

However, you should consult a financial advisor or a mortgage broker to confirm that you are decreasing your total outstanding debt, including interest payments. The repayment term for a home loan can be much longer than that for a personal loan, and by merging the two, you could be repaying a higher amount over the full term.

Can I repay a $3000 personal loan early?

If you receive a financial windfall (e.g. tax refund, inheritance, bonus), using some of this money to make extra repayments onto your personal loan or medium amount loan could help reduce the total interest you’re charged on your loan, or help clear your debt ahead of schedule.

Check your loan’s terms and conditions before paying extra onto your loan, as some lenders charge fees for making extra repayments, or early exit fees for clearing your debt ahead of the agreed term.

What is the average interest rate on personal loans for single parents?

Like other types of personal loans, the average interest rate for personal loans for single parents changes regularly, as lenders add, remove, and vary their loan offers. The interest rate you’ll receive may depend on a range of different factors, including your loan amount, loan term, security, income, and credit score.

Can unemployed single parents get personal loans?

It can be more difficult for unemployed borrowers to successfully apply for a personal loan. Most lenders require borrowers to have a regular income available to cover the cost of loan repayments.

If you’re self-employed, or if less than half of your income comes from Centrelink, you may not be eligible for some personal loan options. Consider contacting the lender before applying.

Does refinancing a personal loan hurt your credit score?

Personal loan refinancing means taking out a new loan with more desirable terms in order to access a more competitive interest rate, longer loan term, better features, or even to consolidate debts.

In some situations, refinancing a personal loan can improve your credit score, while in others, it may have a negative impact. If you refinance multiple loans by consolidating these into one loan, it could improve your credit score as you’ll have only one outstanding debt liability. Your credit may also improve if you consistently pay the instalments on time.

However, applying to refinance with multiple lenders could negatively affect your credit if your applications are rejected. Also, if you delay or default the repayment, your credit score reduces.

What are the Westpac personal loan eligibility criteria?

The process to apply for a personal loan from Westpac is simple and can be done online. To be eligible for a Westpac Bank personal loan, you must meet the eligibility criteria. These include:

  • You should be over 18 years old
  • You must be a permanent resident or hold a valid visa with confirmed employment in Australia
  • You should earn a regular and permanent income of at least $35,000 before taxes

If you feel you meet these eligibility criteria, you can apply for a personal loan with Westpac. With your application form, you’ll also have to submit the following documents:

  • Personal details including name, contact information, and residential address 
  • Proof of identity such as drivers licence or passport details
  • If you’re self-employed, you’ll need a list of assets, savings, investments, and liabilities as well as your most recent tax return information
  • If you’re an employee you’ll need to submit information related to your employment and finances like bank statements and payslips

Westpac Australia personal loans are available for amounts from $4,000 up to $50,000 and loan terms of up to seven years.

Can I get a bad credit personal loan with a guarantor?

Some lenders will consider personal loan applications from a borrower with bad credit if the borrower has a family member with good credit willing to guarantee the loan (a guarantor).

If the borrower fails to pay back their personal loan, it will be their guarantor’s responsibility to cover the repayments.

Do student personal loans require security?

While some personal loans can be secured by the value of an asset, such as a car or equity in a property, student personal loans are often unsecured, which typically have higher interest rates.

Some lenders also offer guarantor personal loans to students. These loans have lower interest rates, as a guarantor (usually a relative of the borrower with good credit) will fully or partially guarantee the loan, taking on the financial responsibility if the borrower defaults.