FCA Publish New Mortgage Information for Consumers

Posted 25 March 2020 by Katie Sakka

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) have issued new guidance on how they expect mortgage lenders and administrators to treat customers fairly during the coronavirus (Covid-19) situation as of March 20th 2020.

Payment holidays

A ‘payment holiday’ means you agree with your lender that you will not have to make mortgage payments for a set amount of time. Payment holidays are designed to help you when you may experience payment difficulties – in this case because of the coronavirus situation.

It is important to remember that you still owe the amounts that you don't pay as a result of the payment holiday. Interest will continue to be charged on the amount you owe.

This means that, at the end of the payment holiday, you will have to make up the missed payments. There will be various options for doing this, for example by increasing your monthly payments slightly, or by adding a short extension to your term. Your lender will be able to explain to you what options it offers.

Applying for a payment holiday

You should contact your lender if you think you may potentially experience payment difficulties as a result of the coronavirus situation. Your lender shouldn’t need any evidence that your income has been affected by coronavirus.

Interest on your mortgage during the payment holiday

You will still be charged interest during the payment holiday, unless your lender has told you otherwise.

When the payment holiday ends

At the end of the agreed payment holiday, you will continue to make payments. And you will need to agree with your lender a manageable way to make up the missed payments given your circumstances. Your lender will explain to you the options that they offer.

If you are still not able to make your full mortgage payments due to coronavirus, then it may offer you a further payment holiday if appropriate to your circumstances.

Your credit score

FCA guidance makes clear to firms that they should ensure that taking a payment holiday will not impact your credit score.

Agreeing the payment holiday

Lenders are expected to offer payment holidays to borrowers who may experience payment difficulties as a result of the coronavirus. Many lenders have already committed to this.

Your lender may also offer other options if they are more appropriate for your circumstances, and where it is in your interest.

If you are behind with your mortgage payments

You can still have a payment holiday. You will need to discuss this with your lender. It will consider whether a payment holiday is appropriate as well as any measures that are already in place to help you through your payment difficulties.

How long do I have to apply for a mortgage holiday?

If you think you may experience payment difficulties and may need a payment holiday, you should speak to your lender in good time before the next payment is due. Please be considerate of others when contacting your lender and allow those with much closer dates into the queue first.

You can apply for a payment holiday at any time before this guidance is reviewed in 3 months. The payment holiday will not start, however, until it has been agreed with your lender.  

Contacting your lender at this time

Lenders have committed to responding as quickly as possible, but due to high levels of demand and staff having to work from home, service levels might be slower than usual.

Repossessions

Lenders are temporarily stopping repossession actions

During this current period of unprecedented uncertainty and upheaval the FCA do not think people should be at risk of losing their homes. They therefore expect lenders to stop repossession action. This applies to all mortgage borrowers at risk of repossession, whether or not their incomes are affected by coronavirus. Many lenders have already committed to this. 

If you already have a repossession order on your home

We would not expect the lender to go ahead with the repossession, unless you want them to. Please contact the lender to discuss your situation.   

Choosing for your home to be repossessed

You may choose for your home to be repossessed if you believe it’s in your best interest – for example, because you’ve already made plans for alternate accommodation. If this is the case, please contact your lender so that it knows this.

Interest during this period

You will continue to be charged interest on the amount you owe, plus any fees and charges you owe according to your lender’s tariff of charges.

Financial implications if repossession is stopped

The amount you owe will increase because interest will continue to be charged. This means that you are likely to get less back if and when your property is repossessed and then sold by your lender.

If property prices go down between now and the time your property is sold then you might get even less back, or nothing if your property is sold for less than you owe.

Your lender will be able to give you more information on how this affects you.

If you do not want repossession to be stopped, contact your lender immediately.

Who does this guidance apply to

To meet the challenges coronavirus could pose to borrowers the FCA expects all regulated mortgage lenders and administrators to comply with their guidance. 

Where there are companies that are unregulated (and technically out of scope of FCA guidance) that make decisions that affect mortgage borrowers, given the current emergency, they are expected to adopt this guidance on a voluntary basis as an appropriate response. Many of these firms are responsible for the mortgages of individuals often known as ‘mortgage prisoners’, who could be vulnerable.

The FCA will consider the extent to which they have adopted this guidance in assessing the FCA's regulatory approach and whether those companies, or senior individuals within those firms, are fit and proper as part of any future application for authorisation.

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