4th September 2015
Nearly a million people are in danger of having their homes repossessed as a result of having no back-up plan to pay-off their interest-only mortgages, Citizens Advice has warned.
New research from the national charity estimates 934,000 people have interest-only loans and have no way of paying it off when the term ends.
As a result some people will either have to sell their homes, find the capital to pay off the debt or risk having their home taken away from them.
Some of the people who came to the charity said they were not made aware that they would need to repay the capital at the end of their term. The average shortfall was previously estimated to be £71,000.
The charity says that in the UK there are 3.3m mortgage holders who have interest-only products. Through polling it commissioned to YouGov, it estimates:
Rules were tightened in 2012 to ensure interest-only mortgages were no longer available without a repayment plan, which has resulted in a major drop in the number of products sold. While the charity supports this change it said people who already hold these mortgages need more support.
The charity is concerned that interest-only mortgage holders do not have the same protections when their term ends than when mortgage holders fall into arrears. A protocol was launched three years ago which gives lenders a legal obligation to consider alternative options before starting possession action, including extending the length of a mortgage, changing the type of mortgage and giving people reasonable time to sell their property if necessary.
But these protections do not apply to interest-only mortgages at the end of the term, at the point when many customers discover they are in trouble.
Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice, said: “People buy a home for stability – but interest-only mortgages have forced many into a financial black hole. It is good rules around these mortgages have changed, but there are many people who previously took out these products and face losing their home.
“Lenders have to exhaust all other options when borrowers get into arrears – it’s time to level the playing field so that interest-only customers get the same protections when their mortgages mature. It is also important that people can get independent advice, guidance and support about how they can plan and manage their finances.”
City watchdog, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has said that due to previous peaks in the sale of interest-only mortgages, it expects there to be waves of potential repossessions between 2017-18, 2027-28 and in 2032.
In 2013 the FCA called on banks to contact all borrowers with interest-only mortgages ending before 2020 about how they plan to repay. But only around 30% of borrowers responded.
Citizens Advice has urged that lenders should have to do more preventative work to help customers prepare for the end of their mortgage. It urges companies to phone customers or offer of a face to face meeting.
The charity also recommends that lenders should have to follow steps before taking an interest-only borrower to court, including: