Mortgage Express ‘Right to Consolidate’

Sell One, Sell Them All

It’s not just owner occupiers who face the serious threat of repossession. Landlords can too, and regardless of what you think about buy to let landlords, there are far reaching consequences that can affect numerous families in other properties owned by the same landlord – even if the landlord is up to date on their mortgages!

There’s been a lot of talk on landlord forums recently about Mortgage Express and their alleged ‘right to consolidate’. What does this mean is plain English?

Basically, it means that even though buy to let borrowers who took out mortgages with Mortgage Express prior to their bankruptcy in 2008 were being offered those mortgages on a property by property basis, the Government’s lawyers (UK GOVT owns most of MX – that means us the taxpayers own it)  have found something in the small print that means they can influence what happens to a landlord who wants to sell one of his/her properties.

Innocent Tenants and Landlords Affected

We may all be familiar with the obvious fact that if a landlord defaults on some mortgages in their portfolio that the lender is likely to ask the court to be given custody of ALL the properties so that it can claim back the money borrowed. This means that tenants (who may have done nothing wrong and paid their rent on time each month) may be evicted by the lender because of actions of the landlord.

Sometimes the landlord is the innocent party and has been victim of so-called professional tenants, but just as often the landlord simply has not kept up the mortgage payments for personal reasons. Many landlords believe that they should be allowed to hold on to those properties that are not in arrears. The mortgage lenders quite logically, think otherwise. They claim that a landlord could easily allow poor quality properties in negative equity to go into arrears – giving them a headache of repossessing – whilst leaving the landlord to cherry pick their best properties to hold on to.

The human cost of this, however, is that once a BTL landlord gets into arrears on one property, the lender is likely to take control of all them, and in the case of zombie banks like Mortgage Express will do its utmost to sell the properties and get its money back, even if that means evicting otherwise innocent tenants in the process.

My Landlord is Not Facing Repossession

What is less well known is that even where a landlord wishes to sell one of his/her properties that is mortgaged with Mortgage Express, this zombie bank is now invoking a clause which says ‘sell one, sell them all’. In other words their Terms & Conditions allow MX to force a landlord selling one property to sell ALL of them and redeem ALL the mortgages at the same time. Clearly, that is impractical but the net effect of this would be the same as the lender taking control of the properties in a repossession and evicting tenants.

Why is this troubling? Well as a tenant you may breathe a sigh of relief that your landlord is one of the many good landlords who follow the regulations, behave ethically towards their tenants and always pay their mortgages on time. But, we’ve come across many examples of such landlords falling foul of MX’s new policy and only finding out at the last minute.

Even Landlords Not in Arrears Can Be At Risk

Mortgage Express state that they don’t wish to invoke this clause forcing borrowers to repay ALL loans if repaying only one, but they are then using this as leverage to insist that if a landlord sells a property that ALL proceeds from the sale must go to Mortgage Express.

To be clear this includes all money over and above the amount that the borrower has secured against the property he/she is selling. So, where landlords took out mortgages one by one over time, MX is now effectively bundling these properties together as one big loan.

Of course MX is not taking the profit and keeping it from a sale – it is using it to pay down outstanding debts on the other properties (reducing the Loan to Value and monthly payments) left in the portfolio, but it is removing the fundamental right of the property owner to decide how and when he or she sells their properties and pays down their mortgage before the term ends.

Whilst not strictly a repossession issue, this does highlight a further unstable element to the private rental sector which may easily effect tenants as well as landlords.

How can Mortgage Express act like this when they’re owned by the taxpayer? Well, that is also the perfect excuse. They can probably claim to be duty bound to provide the best possible value to the taxpayer whilst reducing their mortgage debts on their books and that this is what is driving this new policy.

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Some Facing Repossession Still Think Their Homes Are Worth More

Sometimes it’s best to sell up and walk away or lenders may chase you for 12 years

Today I got a call from a frantic seller who is facing repossession – I’ll call him Mr. B. He owns a house in North London, but in a not so great area where prices have been steadily depressed for some time.

He told me that he has a ‘repossession order’ for next week. The first thing I try to do when someone calls in a panic to tell me about a court possession order on their home is to try an find out exactly which stage the reposession / possession is at. Many people confuse a Court Order for Possession with a Bailiffs Warrant for Possession. The two things are very different.

If you just got the first one, you have some time to sort out your finances and a very good chance to avoid repossession.

However, if you just received the Bailiffs Warrant, then look out. That’s the nasty one, and much harder to deal with simply because time is no longer on your side.

Mr B. told me that his was a bailiffs warrant for early next week. That in itself is not impossible to deal with by any means, but sometimes seller’s own expectations are simply too high.

Mr B. has a house worth £300,000 – his valuation of course, and as a homeowner like all of us, this will be the top valuation. He owes £200,000 to his mortgage lender, sub-prime specialist GMac.

He told me that he would like to sell to avoid the bailiffs coming next week. That’s a pretty tall order, to find someone who is willing to put down cash in today’s climate to buy a house in a couple of days. That would mean exchanging contracts at least and then submitting a form n244 to the court to get the bailiffs warrant suspended.

Unfortunately Mr B. also has arrears of a substantial sum of £22,000. This means that he would have to sell for a minimum of £222,000. Except that he also has a second charge loan with Black Horse Lloyds for £13,000. Once fees and penalties and costs are added to this Mr B. is looking at a minimum of £240,000 just to clear his debts.

Mr B told me that he understood that he time was against him and so he is willing to sell at a discount – but absolutely no less than £280,000.

This represents a discount against the value of the house (his valuation, mind) of approx 6.5%.

Now house prices are falling at a pretty fast rate. Lenders are telling surveyors to downvalue properties, but Mr B. not only wants someone to pay 93.5% of his price, but also wants to buyer to pay cash (no choice if they are going to exchange before the bailiffs arrive) which would almost certainly have to include the arrears of £22,000 as deposit if GMac are going to accept a conditional exchange.

I suggested to Mr B that any cash buyer will be looking at a serious discount in return for doing this in such a short time frame and any buyer is going have difficulty in remortgaging above £250k because of the stamp duty threshold.

There had already been a buyer and Mr B had used this to get the court to suspend the possesion order. Courts usually give a second chance, and the Judge did, but then the buyer pulled out.

Real Cash buyers are few and far between right now and they have the pick of hundreds of properties at fire sale prices. Even an estate agent trying to sell a home to an normal owner occupier will admit that 10-20% is the minimum discount from asking price if you really need to sell right now (and that sale would take at least 8 weeks via the normal process). If Mr B. thinks that he will find one of these normal homebuyers, with cash in hand and who doesn’t know there are bargains to be had, then he really is kidding himself.

When prices were rising, a rise in the valuation of a property of 10-20% over a 2 to 3 year period was considered by many to be a god given right. Now that values are slipping in the reverse direction many owners are clinging to the notion of ‘equity’ in their homes as their ‘money’ but that equity simply no longer exists.

I tried to get Mr B to be realistic and outlined the alternatives to him as I see them.

Reality No 1 : Find the money to pay off the arrears in a reasonable time frame and use an N244 form to apply to the Court for more time to pay GMac. Not definite but in the current climate a strong chance the Court would insist that GMac accept terms and the Court would suspend the bailiff’s warrant.

Reality No 2 : Sell the house to a cash buyer for what he owes and simply walk away from the problem with NO DEBT. Sure, he loses his home, but he keeps control of his future and his future income. With no equity in his house and huge arrears of £22,000 and mounting, what exactly is there to lose?

Reality No 3 : He waits until the last possible moment to decide on one of the options above and instead the bailiffs arrive, take control of his house and sell it at auction. GMac will sell it right now for whatever they can get (local comparisons on Auction sales sites show similar properties worth £285,000 selling at auction in the last 6 weeks for £152,000!). Mr B. may well think that is the end of the affair, but GMac won’t forget. Nor will Black Horse Loans.

Black Horse actually are quite good at turning secured charges into unsecured loans if they think they will get nothing at auction, but GMac were jsut involved in demanding repayment from Woolworth’s so they are unlikely to care about Mr B’s feelings when they use their legal right to pursue him for up to 12 years for the difference between what he owes them today and what they get for the house at auction.

Which option do you think Mr B will go for?

It’s a shame but my experience tells me it will be No 3. Instead of being honest to himself about his situation I feel he will remain in denial. After all, the whole repossession process actually takes months to get the position that he is now in. Really Mr B. is lucky. Tens of thousand’s of people are now in negative equity and don’t even have the luxury to be able to sell to anyone for enough to cover their debts and walk away debt free.

The moral of the story?

Act Now to stop your repossession!

Like any difficult situation it also helps to deal with it earlier than later. Stay in control of your own future, by either finding the funds to pay the arrears and settle with your lender in Court, or sell your home and pay off your debts. The alternative is too scary to think about.

Alistair Darling to Stop Rent Back Evictions

The Guardian reported an interesting article on sell and rent back and repossession this week:

Owen and Moira Martin are among the many British victims of companies offering controversial sale-and-rent-back deals. Their three-bedroom maisonette in Plymouth was repossessed last month because the company with which they had entered into an agreement never paid the mortgage, even though it had pocketed about £45,000 in fees from them.

Such horror stories have prompted the government to consult on how best to regulate the estimated 2,000 or so companies in the UK offering such schemes.

‘It’s been devastating,’ says Owen Martin, a supermarket worker, who has had to move into a privately rented two-bedroom flat with his wife. ‘We made sure the rent was paid, but we lost our home anyway because the company we sold to never paid the mortgage company.’

The Office of Fair Trading estimated in its recent report into the sector that some 50,000 sale-and-rent-back transactions had taken place. Operators offer to buy the property of someone facing repossession at a discount price, allowing the former mortgagee to remain in the property as a tenant. They usually also charge significant fees.

Read the full story at the Guardian website

http://www.guardian.co.uk/money/2008/nov/09/rent-back-evictions

Now There’s Even a House Prices Crash Calculator

After years of talking up the property boom and the ‘you can’t lose with property’ articles in the media, the newspapers are now full of doom and gloom about the future of UK house prices.

The reality may be that a housing market depression may be caused by nothing more than the fact that we all start to believe that house prices will fall, we don’t put our houses on the market and we don’t try to move home.

This means that house prices will fall and those affected most will not be those who can ride out the storm and stay put in their homes, but those who are facing repossession.

This Is Money the website arm of the London Evening Standard have even published a price crash calculator so that if you aren’t scared enough already, you can truly frighten yourself into worrying about what your house will be worth if prices fall the same way they did in 1992!

The threat of negative equity however is now a very real one and millions of people will find it impossible to refinance their mortgages and will be forced onto their lenders’ top standard variable rates.

Stop Repossessions Org UK Sees Rise in Negative Equity Repossessions

As 2008 marches on and the global and economic situation looks ever more bleak, so are the tales we are hearing from UK homeowners facing repossession.

Back in 2007 a rough estimate would be that 70% of those people who contacted us by phone or email had some difficulties with their mortgage repayments, were in arrears but were also in a position to:

a) Repay the arrears over a given period either by direct agreement with their mortgage lenders or by a court judgement.

b) Remortgage with a new lender in order to get a fresh start with a new payment record appearing on their credit score

Fast forward and now it is rare that we are hearing from people who have enough extra monthly income to repay their arrears over time and many lenders (especially the sub prime) are refusing to accept repayment plans to pay off morgage arrears.

The majority of people contacting us are now also at the start of the negative equity trap.

The true and actual cost of their borrowings, (which consists not just of the amount borrowed but also the huge penalties, legal and court fees and Early Redemption Penalties), have risen dramatically, whilst the value of their homes is in many cases starting to stagnate, if not fall.

A homeowner who previously remortgaged their £200,000 home with a 90% mortgage (£180,000) and who has either added a secured loan (say £10,000 – new total £190,000) or had a County Court Judgement for unpaid credit card bills of a similar amount, and who has an early redemption penalty of say £7,000, may be mortgaged to £197,000.

One missed mortgage payment and not only can the interest rate rise dramatically so that monthly costs are hugely increased, but legal fees and punishing penalty fees will be also be added.

Suddenly we could be looking at redemption costs of over £200,000.

Sell the house?

Not always possible.

Estate agents will charge a minimum of 1%, more if you go with multiple agents. That’s at lease £2000. Legal fees and the Government’s ridiculous HIPs pack will add another £1500.

It’s now going to cost £3,500 to sell the home and get nothing in return.

But it doesn’t stop there.

If you remortgaged before the Northern Rock crisis hit in September 2007, then the chances are that your lender was giving signals to surveyors to over value properties.

The market is always rising so why not let them over value your home and then lend you more money in return for more profit?

By the time you may be in trouble house prices should have risen by enough to bring down your mortgage level to less than 100% – just in case they need to repossess.

But the reality is that homes are now only selling if the price is right.

Now it’s a buyer’s market again.

Houses which comfortably sold for £200,000 back in 2007 are now sticking in agent’s windows at £189,000.

Suddenly it could cost you as much as £10-20,000 to buy your way out of repossession.

But who is going to lend you the money to pay the costs?

It is not going to happen.

If you do have equity in your home then you do have options to avoid repossession find out here

Does Alistair Darling Want You To Be Repossessed?

Maybe the Government, along with the usual middle class do gooders at the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) and Shelter actually want you to be repossessed and lose your home?

Surely, that can’t be right?

Yet the Scottish newspaper the Sunday Herald Reports today the following:

“Prompted by concerns raised by Citizens Advice, Shelter and the Council of Mortgage Lenders, chancellor Alistair Darling announced last week that he has asked the Office of Fair Trading to investigate potential consumer detriment in the sale-and-leaseback market.

A spokeswoman for the Council of Mortgage Lenders said: “While we welcome the review, it is disappointing that no immediate action will be taken to regulate sale-and-leaseback schemes.

“Homeowners in difficulty may currently be considering selling their property through these schemes at a discounted value, without an independent valuation of their home, and with no real security of tenure.”

Whilst it is true that there are some rogue rent back traders out there (especially those offering to pay 100% of market value who in reality keep at least 40% back for many years), this Government is expert in knee jerk politics.

So many of the laws that have been passed since Labour came into power seem to be a reaction to scare stories in the tabloids.

The reality of the sell and rent back scenario is that it gives homeowners a last resort to keep their homes when all else has failed.

If the Government legislate against that last resort because a powerful lobby of middle class people feel that that they need to legislate against other people having the right to sell their homes for less than market value in order to stay in them, the outcome (like that of many of their policies) will be exactly the opposite.

CAB and Shelter may talk the talk but they won’t offer you a home when you are repossessed and evicted.

As for the CML (Council of Mortgage Lenders) – well who do you think supplies the financing and re-mortgaging for sell and rent back companies?

Is Alistair Darling (or any other of the wealthy Islington-ite Labour Government) going to provide you with a nice Council House or put you to the top of the housing list when you are repossessed?

I think we all know the answer to that one.

If you are thinking of selling and renting back make sure that you do the research and ask for references from other sellers when dealing with a rent back buyer.

Facing Repossession? Don’t Borrow More Money!!

There are many websites out there that promise to help you avoid repossession byborrowing more money!

If you truly are facing repossesion then borrowing your way out of trouble is the recipe for disaster.

This is because if you have mortgage arrears or a possession order against your home from your mortgage lender or a second charge loan company, no one is going to lend you money at a lower interest rate than you are currently paying. If they do, it will be for a limited time before massive interest rates kick in.

This means that you will almost certainly lose your home. If not today, then in the coming months as you struggle to make even higher payments.

Most of the loans available to people in your position are on  a variable interest rate. The Bank of England rate may go down, but these companies are not linked to the Bank of England interest rate, so you will probably find their rates going only one way – UP!

Any solution to stop repossession of your home MUST also help to get you out of debt, not further into debt.

For repossession solutions and help in reducing your liabilities with credit cards and other unsecured debts contact us via our website Stop Repossession Org UK