The UK home mortgage industry has welcomed a decision by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) to remove the need for an affordability assessment on home owners taking out hybrid lifetime mortgage products. The FCA said it has made the modification because it does not consider that an affordability assessment is required where there is no risk of arrears and repossession in the event of missed payments. ‘The modification works by dis-applying the requirement to carry out an affordability assessment where interest payments are anticipated or required, providing that the specific lifetime mortgage allows the consumer to exercise at any time an option to convert the product to interest roll-up,’ the FCA said. Lifetime mortgage contracts that give consumers the option to pay interest for a period became subject to affordability rules based on the requirements of providers following the Mortgage Market Review in 2014. But the Equity Release Council has been campaigning for the FCA to review its affordability assessment of these products and said it is pleased the argument has been taken on board. ‘This has the potential to help more consumers make use of options already offered by equity release providers in later life and encourage further innovation within the market,’ said Nigel Waterson, chairman of the Equity Release Council. ‘The optional payment of interest within a lifetime mortgage is different to that of a residential mortgage with the opportunity for consumers to switch to roll-up when they wish,’ he explained. ‘This change highlights the growing recognition that equity release has an important part to play in the planning of funding for later life and we look forward to continuing to work with the FCA in the future,’ he added. The Council of Mortgage Lenders also welcomed the decision. ‘This may look like a small change, but it is a really significant one that should allow the lifetime mortgage market to develop in a far more sensible and consumer friendly way. It removes one barrier to the provision of sensible, safe and worthwhile lifetime mortgage products,’ said Paul Smee, CML director general. Alice Watson, product and communications manager at Retirement Advantage Equity Release, said she believed that the affordability assessments were an unintended consequence of the Mortgage Market Review (MMR) and added an extra and unnecessary step to the application process. ‘The FCA’s decision is yet further recognition that the equity release market continues to grow and is a serious option for increasing numbers of over 55s across the country. The good news is that ultimately it is consumers who will benefit from this change, which will make access to lifetime mortgages more straightforward for more people and should allow providers to develop even more innovative solutions,’ she pointed out. Continue reading
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