On 26 March 2019, we published a consultation paper proposing changes to rules to reduce regulatory barriers to consumers who are up-to-date with payments, and not looking to borrow more, switching to a more affordable mortgage. The rule changes, which came in to force on 28 October 2019, aim to reduce the barriers to switching these consumers face now or could face in future.
The new rules allow mortgage lenders to undertake a modified affordability assessment for eligible consumers, and require lenders and mortgage administrators to notify certain categories of customers of the possibility that they may be able to switch.
In response to consultation feedback we set up an implementation group of trade associations, lenders, intermediaries, and third-party administrators. This group will assist the industry’s preparation allowing them to take advantage of the proposed modified assessments we announced last year. The remit of the group has subsequently expanded to also promote greater lending flexibility by firms not using the modified assessment.
This page will provide summaries of the group’s discussions after each meeting.
Meeting summary: 1 May 2020
We provided an update on the extension to the deadline for contacting customers due to the impact of the coronavirus (Covid-19) crisis, and reiterated that we wanted to see switching options for consumers who previously lacked these in the market as soon as practicable. We also provided an update on our guidance which was published on 20 March.
The Group noted that the extension to the deadline for contacting consumers will be beneficial. The Group updated that lenders have had to divert resource to deal with the impact of the current crisis, and lack capacity to offer new switching options. They highlighted that additional communications from firms might prove confusing or risk being ignored by consumers at this time. The Group also noted that issues around the valuation of properties could make switching more difficult.
The Group highlighted the need to keep this extension under review, to take account of developments regarding the coronavirus and potential shifting lender risk appetites. We noted, as outlined in our Statement, that we would keep the extension under review.
The Group discussed issues relating to the process for contacting consumers, including the required communications strategy and which consumers should be contacted. We reiterated that the deadline for agreeing a communications strategy is 1 May 2020.
The Group noted the importance of potential switching options being available, and consumer information resources (e.g. webpage/tool) being operational by the time eligible customers receive a communication letting them know that they might be able to switch their mortgage. We agreed and confirmed our expectation that a tool will be in place before communications are sent out.
May 2020 Update: Extension to deadline for contacting consumers
The coronavirus (Covid-19) crisis has had a significant impact on the mortgage market. Lenders have reported that they will be unable to offer a range of switching options or support remortgaging for mortgage prisoners as quickly as originally anticipated.
Our rules based on pre-Covid-19 conditions require firms to write to those who may be eligible letting them know they may be able switch their mortgage. However, given lenders’ inability to offer new switching options to mortgage prisoners it would be wrong to require letters to be sent to consumers at this time. We are therefore extending the window during which we expect firms to contact consumers about switching options by 3 months to 1 December 2020.
We do not want mortgage prisoners to receive communications encouraging them to switch, when there are no suitable products available for them. We will keep this under review alongside other measures to support mortgage borrowers and are committed to working with industry to see this product development happen as soon as practicable.
We are firmly committed to ensuring better outcomes for mortgage prisoners, and are working with the industry to ensure switching options are brought to market as soon as possible.
We issued guidance in March 2020 in response to the coronavirus. This guidance ensured a halt to repossessions, unless the borrower wanted to proceed, and that all borrowers had access to payment holidays where needed.
We have also written to mortgage lenders and administrators managing closed mortgage books about variable rates. This sets out our expectation that lenders critically review their variable rates of interest against their funding costs, contracts terms and any other factors that may apply and take any necessary action.
We will update on the planned arrangements for compiling a list of interested intermediaries in the coming weeks.
Meeting summary: 25 February 2020
Several new members joined the group, these firms looking to help achieve better outcomes for consumers but without using the modified affordability assessment. The objectives and aims of the group have been amended to reflect this broader ambition.
We provided an update on recent conversations had with business-to-business tool providers. The group had asked for these conversations to ensure that tool providers were aware of the range of different ways in which lenders may be offering options that could help consumers previously unable to switch.
We also gave a readout from discussions at the FCA/Industry working group. Group members were made aware of the current thinking for developing a resource to allow consumers to identify intermediaries who may be able to help them access new borrowing options. Intermediaries would be invited to express interest to be part of this. This resource would support a customer journey based on potentially eligible consumers receiving a communication (the group commented on a further version of drafting that firms might want to adapt or use), which then directed consumers to relevant pages or a telephone number.
The group noted that the modified rules had now been available for several months, enabling lenders to start to make business decisions. We raised the importance of new options becoming available for consumers as soon as possible, and the need to understand and monitor market readiness was discussed.
We talked the group through two additional data profiles derived from the information collected previously from firms. These indicated the potential for helping additional groups of consumers, and we agreed to publish these additional profiles.
The meeting concluded with discussion of several questions of interpretation regarding the modified rules published in October 2019. These touched on topics such as the means of checking that consumers were eligible under the rules, using the rules to switch from an interest-only mortgage to a retirement interest-only mortgage, and the nature of costs that might be included in a product or arrangement fee.
Meeting summary: 20 January 2020
The group discussed plans for a model communication to help administrators when making the required contact with consumers who might benefit from a modified affordability assessment. Further drafting changes suggested by the group, and by consumer representatives, had been incorporated so the model communication was close to being finalised. The outstanding action was to confirm how to make the communication available to administrators. Group members identified various ways in which firms might add to or tailor the content, for example if a lender wanted to refer to particular distribution partners. We confirmed that the communication requirement allows firms to include additional messages.
The group saw an important role for intermediaries where there are customers who may be able to benefit from the modified affordability assessment. Options to develop the customer journey and help these borrowers find appropriate intermediaries were considered.
The group then considered our newly published data on the mortgage prisoner population. As requested by the group this analysis covered both mortgages owned by an unregulated entity and those mortgages in a closed book held by an active lender. The presentation of the data reflected profiles previously identified by the group. In the discussion that followed there was a view that some additional profiles would be helpful. We agreed to consider this.
We reiterated our determination to see the rules used to help as many consumers as possible, and for the group to be a means of ongoing support for firms planning to adopt the modified affordability assessments.
We asked about any practical implementation challenges and said we were willing to collate and address questions arising from the group.
Supplementary meeting for intermediaries - 28 November 2019
As a number of intermediaries joined the implementation group discussions this meeting recapped on the objectives for the group and the discussions to date. We explored the role intermediaries could play in helping eligible consumers to find a lender likely to make use of the modified affordability assessment.
The group considered a presentation on a possible web-based tool for helping identify if a consumer might be helped. This had the potential to draw knowledge both of underwriting standards in the market and credit file information. It could supplement the proposed question set that any consumer is likely to be directed to in communications from inactive lenders and administrators for unregulated entities.
The group concluded the next logical stage in the consumer journey would be to contact an intermediary. Practical challenges were seen identifying those intermediaries willing and able to take on consumers. This was something the intermediaries involved agree to further consider ahead of the next group meeting.
We gave an update on the data collected regarding customers of unregulated entities, and explained how this was being further analysed.
Meeting summary: 25 October 2019
The group discussed issues relating to the upcoming Policy Statement, which would set out our response to feedback on its proposed changes to the responsible lending rules. The Policy Statement has since been published and can be found here.
We gave an update on the data collected regarding customers of unregulated entities. The initial findings were discussed, recognising that more work was needed to ensure data quality.
The group again discussed the form of consumer communications to be made by inactive lenders and administrators of unregulated entities. The group agreed that the input from consumer groups would improve the model communication that had been developed. There was also a concern that the communication should not over-promise or raise expectations amongst those consumers who are not likely to find a remortgage option.
The group also considered a draft webpage with suggested filtering questions for potentially eligible consumers. The questions were intended to enable consumers to understand whether they may be able to get a new mortgage deal and provide them with information about their options if not. The discussion covered the importance of keeping the questions short and straightforward to complete.
The group discussed the potential for a web-based solution that would give borrowers an early indication of whether they would be able to switch to a new lender. The group was positive about the use of such a tool; group members agreed to seek views and determine the interest from industry to support such a service.
Finally, it was agreed that there should be a separate meeting to explore the role that intermediaries may play in helping eligible consumers find remortgage options.
Meeting summary: 29 August 2019
We spoke about consultation feedback on how a new mortgage might be identified as ‘more affordable’ under the proposed rules. A simplified approach to this was discussed.
The group discussed in detail the information that would need to be available to consumers to raise awareness of the modified rules if made by the FCA Board and the possibility that consumers may have new remortgaging opportunities. This covered:
- Which consumers should be contacted about possibilities presented by the new way of assessing affordability.
- How to explain the changes.
- Questions for consumers to assess if they may have new remortgaging opportunities.
- Information or guidance needed to support these questions.
Benefit was seen in getting a wider set of views on the messages for consumers. A further sub-group meeting was agreed to develop a potential approach with the intention to get input from other key stakeholders on these messages.
The meeting also considered how lenders will communicate their use of any modified rules, and the support available to intermediaries. The group’s view was that existing means of explaining product availability and eligibility should be used rather than creating an additional standalone tool for intermediaries. It was proposed that distribution issues be considered at the next group meeting, with intermediary involvement in the discussion.
Meeting summary: 2 August 2019
Members agreed the aims and objectives of the group.
We gave a summary of responses to CP19/14 and the proposed rule changes confirming the outlined modified affordability assessment would be available if consolidating first and second charge mortgages. Also discussed was whether it was clear how ‘more affordable’ would be assessed for new mortgage products with a discount variable rate.
We invited views on where clarity on current thinking would be most helpful to lenders in preparing to make use of the proposed new rules. The topics identified could then be considered at future meetings.
The meeting talked through necessary actions for all parties to prepare for, and act on, changes, including:
- confirming our policy position, along with any rule changes
- lenders deciding on their individual approaches to making use of any modified rules
- lenders providing transparency on their approaches to other stakeholders eg intermediaries
- simple and engaging communications direct to consumers
- any necessary consumer resources to inform subsequent decision-making eg webpages and tools
- support available from intermediaries
A sub-group was proposed for lender representatives to explore how individual approaches to the modified rules can be clearly communicated.
A further sub-group was proposed to identify and begin working up the key messages to be conveyed throughout the customer journey.
Objective and aims (updated in February 2020)
The objective of the implementation group is to:
- enable market-readiness for making use of the modified affordability assessment rules
- promote the availability of switching options for consumers who previously lacked these
To achieve the above objective the implementation group aims to:
- act as forum for market participants to discuss and facilitate the delivery of new switching options
- provide a channel for raising and resolving questions of interpretation regarding the modified affordability assessment rules
- address how the possible availability of switching options is explained to consumers
- keep under review increases in the availability of new switching options, including how this can inform consumer communications
- develop a cross-industry approach to ensuring successful consumer engagement on the availability of switching options
At the first meeting (2 August 2019) we explained that whilst initial membership was drawn from lenders and administrators there was a willingness for this to expand over time to other interested parties such as intermediaries. This has happened, so that the group members currently are:
- Building Societies Association
- UK Finance
- Association of Mortgage Intermediaries
- Hinkley and Rugby Building Society
- Ipswich Building Society
- Buckinghamshire Building Society
- Furness Building Society
- Tipton and Coseley Building Society
- West Bromwich Building Society
- OneSavings Bank
- UK Asset Resolution Ltd.
- Leeds Building Society
- Kensington Mortgages
- Yorkshire Building Society
- Link Asset Services
- Mortgages Plc
- Principality Building Society
- Key Advice
- John Charcol
- SimplyBiz Group
- Mortgage Advice Bureau
- United Trust Bank
- Charter Court
- Royal Bank of Scotland
- Lloyds Banking Group
- Nationwide Building Society
- Morgan Stanley
- Danske Bank
- Co-operative Bank
- Pepper Money
Email [email protected] if you are an authorised mortgage firm and would like to know more about the group, including the possibility of joining.
- 24 April 2020