FCA enable firms to provide mortgage breathing space

The FCA has moved quickly to make changes to its rulebook to support key commitments made by lenders at last week’s mortgage summit held by the Chancellor.

Lenders will be able to offer borrowers:

  • a switch to interest-only payments for 6 months
  • an extension to their mortgage term to reduce their monthly payments, with the option to switch back within 6 months

Both can now be offered without an affordability check.

The measures are designed to provide relief for people dealing with higher interest rates, but borrowers should be aware that making changes, even temporary ones, will very likely result in higher monthly payments in the future or paying back more overall. 

To meet their commitment under the government’s charter, lenders who have signed up should make these options accessible. It is important they provide clear information on the impact taking these options might have, including on changes to future payments, in line with FCA rules. 

The government’s charter also makes commitments relating to borrowers’ credit scores. Engagement is ongoing between government, lenders, credit reference agencies, and the FCA to agree how this can be implemented.

Sheldon Mills, Executive Director for Consumers & Competition FCA, said:

'Last week’s summit built on the substantial work the FCA has previously carried out to prepare for a higher interest rate environment.

'If you can keep up with your mortgage payments, you should, as changing your contract could lead to higher payments down the line. But if you are worried about making your payments, contact your lender as soon as possible as they have a range of options to help.

'Regulation cannot stop rates from rising, but the wider measures we’ve put in place over the past decade will make sure people get the support they need, when they need it.'

Although arrears and repossessions currently remain low, lenders need to demonstrate how they are preparing for a rise in borrowers experiencing financial difficulty and the action they are taking to support their customers. Mortgage lenders must provide them with tailored support if they are worried about or already struggling with their mortgage payments.

Since this increased scrutiny from the regulator, lenders have stepped up and proactively contacted customers around 16.5 million times to discuss support options, with this figure expected to rise to more than 20 million over 2023.

The FCA has also seen more than 2 million customers provided with active support by their lenders to manage their finances. This includes budgeting tools, debt advice and, in some cases, mortgage forbearance, such as reduced payments, lengthened loan terms or switch to interest only. 

The FCA’s Consumer Duty, which takes effect at the end of July, will also mean lenders must offer support that meets their customers individual needs, communicate clearly with people about their options and provide decent customer service. 

Notes to editors

  1. PS23/8: Mortgage Charter: enabling provisions
  2. The FCA will review the changes in a year.
  3. The FCA has information for borrowers worried about rising interest rates.
  4. As well as contacting their lender for support, worried borrowers can also visit MoneyHelper for useful money tips, budgeting tools and to find free, expert debt advice.
  5. Away from mortgages, the FCA has been working hard to help manage the cost of living for consumers: 
    • Our overdraft overhaul has saved people almost £1bn since 2019.  
    • We’ve worked with over 100 credit providers on how they treat borrowers in financial difficulty and told many of them to improve. We’ve secured up to £47m of redress for over 195,000 consumers.
    • We’ve warned insurers not to rip off people making claims and they’ve been told to support people struggling with premiums. 
    • We’re sharing our own experience and expertise with other regulators. The aim is to achieve an approach across all regulated sectors where, as we require in financial services, firms consider debt from the perspective of the consumer.
  6. Find out more information about the FCA.