Homeowners set to be able to extend mortgage payment holidays
Those struggling to pay their mortgage due to coronavirus are set to be able to extend their payment holidays for three more months, or start making reduced payments, in proposals published today.
On 17 March, banks agreed with the Chancellor that they would offer 'forbearance' (tolerance and help) on mortgages, meaning they all should offer those struggling a three-month 'holiday', allowing customers a temporary break from having to make mortgage payments during this time.
Over 1.8 million mortgage payment holidays were taken up, and the first of these will be ending in June. But an extension of another three months will now likely be available.
The Financial Conduct Authority's (FCA's) new draft guidance also includes an extension of the application period for an initial mortgage holiday until 31 October 2020, so that customers who haven't had a payment holiday and are experiencing financial difficulty will be able to ask for one.
The current ban on repossessions of homes will be continued until 31 October as well.
See Coronavirus Finance & Bills Help for information on mortgages and other debts, rental help, energy top-ups and more.
What does Martin say?
Full info on what the FCA expects mortgage lenders to do?
At the moment, these proposals aren't confirmed. The FCA says it welcomes comments on them until 5pm on Tuesday 26 May, and then expects to confirm them shortly afterwards. Here's what it's proposing:
- If you've not had a mortgage payment holiday, you'll have until 31 October 2020 to apply. Customers who are making repayments now but get into financial difficulty later will be able to request a payment holiday until 31 October.
- If your payment holiday's ending, you can ask for another three months if you're still struggling. Lenders should continue to support customers who have already had a payment holiday where they need further help, unless granting a further mortgage holiday would create its own financial difficulties.
Firms are expected to contact customers on mortgage payment holidays and find out what they can repay and, for those who remain in temporary financial difficulty, offer further support. As part of this, firms should consider a further three-month payment holiday.
- If you can make full or partial payments, you should do so. At the end of a payment holiday, firms should find out if customers can resume payments, or part payments. If so, your lender should contact you to agree a plan on how the missed payments will be repaid, which could include spreading the cost of payments over the remaining mortgage term, or extending the mortgage term.
- The current ban on repossessions of homes will be continued until 31 October 2020.
- Payment holidays and partial payment holidays won't go down as a missed payment on your credit file. However, the FCA says that
The FCA adds that these recommendations are minimum standards and that they don't stop firms from going above and beyond, for example, by offering reduced interest.
Buy-to-let mortgages aren't technically covered by today's announcement as they're not regulated by the FCA. Yet if a lender is regulated for its residential mortgage business, the FCA says it also looks carefully at how these firms carry out their unregulated buy-to-let business, so it's hoped that some mortgage lenders will offer the extensions to their landlord customers too.
As Martin and the FCA have pointed out, while mortgage payment holidays won't be marked as missed payments on your credit report, they could still have an impact on your wider creditworthiness, as lenders can find out about them through bank statements or 'Open Banking' data, and can factor them in. As Martin says...
'We wait to see how substantial the impact will be – but those who need a mortgage holiday should still do it'
The FCA has confirmed, sadly, that while credit files shouldn't be impacted by mortgage or other payment holidays, lenders are still allowed to take them into account when making their acceptance decisions.
It's impossible to say yet how widespread this will be or how substantial the impact will be – we'll start to learn that over the next year. Each lender's assessment process is different; it's a dark art that's hidden from the public and never published, so this is likely to be yet another factor applicants will need to navigate.
Certainly many new challenger financial firms talk about their new, more sophisticated customer assessment models, that they believe are better than just relying on credit files. It's that very fact that sparked me to look at this in the first place. And as they will be able to see that someone has temporarily not paid their mortgage, they can spot payment holidays.
My hope is that as these holidays are specifically for the short-term financial hit of coronavirus – and as the practice is so widespread – it won't be used by many firms, and where it is it won't tarnish individuals' credit reputation for too long. But there's no real way to know.
Most importantly, I don't believe this should stop anyone who needs a mortgage holiday from getting one – if it's crucial for cash flow, just do it. Yet for those on the border, who may find it temporarily useful but can cope without it, add this to the fact that interest racks up during the payment holiday and I'd err on the side of caution.
What does the FCA say?
Christopher Woolard, FCA interim chief executive, said: "Our expectations are clear – anyone who continues to need help should get help from their lender. We expect firms to work with customers on the best options available for them, paying particular attention to the needs of their vulnerable customers, and to provide information on where to access help and advice.
"Where consumers can afford to restart mortgage payments, it is in their best interests to do so. But where they can't, a range of further support will be available. People who are struggling and have not had a mortgage payment holiday will also continue to be able to apply until 31 October."