Cost of living – Mortgage lenders’ commitments to borrowers

The Chancellor met with major lenders, Martin Lewis, and the FCA to discuss how lenders can support those who may encounter problems paying their mortgage

Rising costs and interest rates across the economy are a cause of concern for consumers in many areas of their lives, but the government understands that mortgage borrowers may be particularly worried about increases to their monthly mortgage payment, which is likely to be their largest monthly outgoing payment.

Wednesday 7th December 2022, the Chancellor met with leaders of the UK’s major mortgage lenders, the Chair of the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), and Martin Lewis of Money Saving Expert. They discussed how lenders provide support for those who encounter problems paying their mortgage.

At the meeting, lenders committed to help all their customers by:

  • enabling customers who are up to date with payments to switch to a new competitive, mortgage deal without another affordability test (see further information
  • providing well-timed information to help customers plan ahead should their current rate be due to end
  • offering tailored support to those who start to struggle with payments which will vary by lender, but may include extending the term of the mortgage to make monthly payments lower, a short term reduction in monthly payments or accepting interest-only payments for a period where appropriate
  • ensuring highly trained and experienced staff are on hand to help where needed

The government confirmed:

  • action to make Support for Mortgage Interest easier to access; if you are on Universal Credit you may be able to receive help with your mortgage interest payments after three months
  • record levels of funding for the Money and Pensions Service to provide debt advice in England

The FCA announced:

  • a consultation on draft guidance clarifying how lenders can support borrowers impacted by the rising cost of living
  • information for borrowers on the options and support available if they are struggling with payment

Sound money and a stable economy are the best ways to deliver lower mortgage rates, more jobs and long-term growth. Economic stability relies on fiscal sustainability and the Autumn Statement delivered on 17th November 2022 puts the public finances onto a sustainable footing, with debt falling.

Mortgage lenders, the FCA and the government will continue working closely together to ensure that the mortgage market works well for all homeowners, in particular those facing financial difficulty. Discussions will continue to take place with lenders on what more they are able to do to inform and support their customers going forward. However, if you are worried about making your mortgage repayments, it is important to speak to your lender as soon as possible.

Martin Lewis, founder of MoneySavingExpert.com:

“The major concern for people’s mortgages – and the knock-on impact of mortgage increases on rents – is the situation in the spring, when we expect interest rates to be higher, energy prices to be rising, and other cost of living impacts. 

“So the most important thing is that now the conversations have started about what flexibility and forbearance measures can be put in place to help those struggling. The commitments today set a good direction, and after helpful conversations I’m hopeful that further progress will be made. For those worried about making mortgage repayments, the sooner you communicate with your lender the better.”

Debbie Crosbie, CEO of Nationwide Building Society:

“We are a mutual and helping members buy and stay in their home is central to what we do. We’ve reduced rates for those reaching the end of their deals so they can access a fixed rate below 5%, regardless of LTV or tenure. For additional support, our options include term extensions and forbearance tailored to individual circumstances. We’ve also given an additional £1 million to debt charities and partners to support people in financial hardship.”

David Duffy, CEO of Virgin Money:

“We know that many of our customers will have to make difficult decisions in the current economic environment, and we are being proactive in offering our support to those in need. Today’s commitments represent an important step in ensuring that consumers are well supported in the coming period.”

Matt Hammerstein, CEO of Barclays UK:

“We are committed to helping every borrower manage their repayments while adjusting to the current environment. The announcements made by the Government and mortgage lenders today to ensure support is available for those who may or do encounter challenges making mortgage payments, both now and in the future, are a critical part of that.

“At Barclays, we always work with our customers to find any feasible way to keep them in their home, which is why we have a dedicated team who are trained to offer dedicated and tailored support to each individual borrower, using a wide range of support options. We also have a variety of tools and information available to help customers directly manage their finances and stay in control, as we know some prefer to do that on their own, including information on what steps to take if they are struggling. We also know some customers may be more comfortable speaking to an independent third party, so we also help customers be in touch with our debt advice partners, including Citizens Advice, StepChange and the National Debtline.”

Mike Regnier, CEO of Santander UK:

“We welcome HM Treasury’s involvement to support mortgage borrowers through the challenges posed by the increase in cost of living and are keen to continue to work collaboratively with the Government, supervisors, and the wider industry on this issue.

“We remain fully committed to supporting customers who may face additional pressures on their finances over the months ahead.”

Alison Rose, CEO of NatWest Group:

“Through these incredibly difficult times it is our priority to support people, families and businesses throughout the country and help navigate them through this economic uncertainty. We encourage anyone who is experiencing financial difficulty or is just worried about the future to get in touch and talk to us. We have highly trained colleagues who are there to listen, understand and work with them to find a way forward.

“Support for our customers will be tailored to their individual needs, and could include such things as forbearance, breathing space, repayment plans, or if it’s right and affordable for the customer, extending a mortgage term to spread payments or a temporary switch to an interest only mortgage. We have proactively contacted customers 8 million times so far this year to help them to get more control over their finances, and we will continue to play an active role in supporting customers and communities across the country.”

Jasjyot Singh OBE, CEO of Consumer Lending, Lloyds Banking Group:

“We’re committed to making homeowners feel supported in the coming months. We want to talk to anyone who feel like they might be facing difficulty so that we can find appropriate, tailored solutions. The earlier we talk to someone who might be struggling, the more tools we have to help. We will continue to work closely with the Government and the FCA to ensure the best support for our mortgage customers.”

Ian Stuart, CEO of HSBC UK:

“HSBC UK has a programme in place for proactively reviewing where hardship might be on the horizon, and helping prevent customers from falling into financial difficulty. We also work closely with customers already experiencing financial difficulty to understand their individual circumstances and identify the right solution for them.

“For mortgage customers experiencing financial difficulty we stand ready to help and have a number of options available that are tailored to individual circumstances. We would strongly encourage people not to wait until they are in financial difficulty before seeking help. The earlier they can engage with their lender the better.”

Sheldon Mills, Executive Director of Consumers and Competition at the FCA:

“Most borrowers are able to keep up with their mortgage payments and should continue to do so. But if you’re struggling to pay your mortgage, or are worried you might, you don’t need to struggle alone. Your lender has a range of tools available to help, so you should contact them as soon as possible.”

PAYadvice.UK 7/12/2022

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