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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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.

More Homeowners Face ReMortgage Hell as Lenders Pull 100% loans

Homeowners facing finance problems may be a step closer to repossession as mortgage lenders pull their 100% loans.Cheltenham & Gloucester Cut 100% mortgages

This means that for those who need to remortgage soon, not only are rising interest rates from sub prime lenders and falling or static house prices an issue, but they may now find that they are unable to remortgage to the full value to pay off their current mortgage with an existing lender.

If a property worth £100,000 was 100% mortgaged 2 years ago and has fallen in value even by a few percent, then this means that a new mortgage may only cover around £88,000 towards paying off the existing mortgage.

The result?

Many will be unable to remortgage, will fall into the dreaded negative equity not seen since the early 90s, and will be forced onto so-called standard interest rates with their current lender.

With some sub prime lenders this is 10% or more.

This news in from The Guardian online:

“Cheltenham & Gloucester will tell homebuyers today that they must put down a minimum deposit of 10% if they want one of its mortgages, as the clampdown on lending gathers pace. Meanwhile, Royal Bank of Scotland and NatWest are withdrawing from offering mortgages for more than 95% of a property’s value.

C&G – owned by Lloyds TSB – is one of the biggest mortgage providers to rein in its lending in response to the credit crunch. The change means that a typical first-time buyer in London will have to stump up almost £25,000 to obtain one of the company’s home loans.

RBS/NatWest has already pulled out of offering mortgages above 95% through brokers; after March 7 this will also apply to branch-based home loan applications.”

Read the full article here

Let’s Talk Ourselves Into a Housing Market Crash

Recessions are an interesting phenomenon.

This is because they are created by belief.

If everyone believes there is going to be a recession then they act accordingly. We spend less ‘just in case’ and we put off important decisions like moving house and taking on a bigger mortgage ‘just in case’.

The irony is that there is still the same amount of money out there, it’s just that in a recession those with the money (like banks) decide to either hold onto to it (just in case) or charge higher interest to borrow it (just in case).

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I remember clearly the last house prices crash in the late 80s and early 90s. No sooner had the 90s arrived and the recession looked like picking up, than we got a very grey and dull John Major telling us not to grumble, tighten our belts and so on.

The result?

Another immediate recession because everyone was depressed and reluctant to move their money around (from banks lending to you and I deciding whether to pay for a holiday).

The entrance of Blair in 1997 had a remarkable effect on that recession because suddenly we had a man who was upbeat and positive.

Nothing else changed, the politicians still lied to us, scandals still happened, the poor got poorer but suddenly there was an upbeat feeling everywhere and the cheap credit era was ushered in to fuel the spectacular growth in property prices and high street spending.

Now we have Brown, another miserable Prime Minister – at least Major wasn’t grumpy as well as dull.

So what’s changed? Nothing, really.

Brown was responsible for the Government finance policies behind Blair, now he has Alistair Darling following the Brown plan – yet recession is looming and house prices set to crash.

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The media also play their part. Just how many editions of Trevor McDonald’s Tonight programme can they make telling us the housing market is booming and buy to let will replace your pension? Eventually, some bright spark has to make a feature on ‘where will it all end’?

The house prices crash has been predicted by doomwatchers for the last 7 years.

Even if it does need a correction, there is too much money invested in property in the UK (not to mention too few properties for the growing population) for it to fall far. And any fall will still be way above where it was 5 years ago.

Gordon Brown said no more ‘boom and bust’. Unfortunately for him he has stayed around just too long to be able to blame anyone else for what is after all a cycle of nature.

The reality is though, if there is a crash or correction or recession it will only be because we have all talked ourselves into it, after years of talking ourselves out of the last one.