The Financial Conduct Authority is now going through responses to its proposed additional guidance designed to ensure firms provide tailored, bespoke support to mortgage borrowers who continue to face payment difficulties as a result of coronavirus.
At the start of the pandemic, payment deferrals had been provided to mortgage borrowers, providing immediate and temporary assistance. Most mortgage customers who have received a payment deferral are expected to resume full payments, although many will remain in financial difficulty, potentially exacerbated by job losses or pay cuts.
The current guidance will continue to provide support for those impacted by coronavirus until 31 October 2020, allowing customers a first or second three-month payment deferral. The FCA anticipates that the current guidance will expire on 31 October 2020 but will keep this under review.
The Proposed Guidance is designed to ensure that consumers, including those who have already received payment deferrals, as well as those whose financial situation has been newly affected by coronavirus after the current guidance ends, receive the support they need.
The support under the Proposed Guidance is expected to be tailored to the consumer, where firms are required to consider the appropriateness of a range of different short-term and long-term options reflecting a consumer’s specific circumstances.
Such support could include extending the payment term, restructuring the mortgage or introducing a period where no or reduced payments are expected, with priority given to mortgage borrowers who are at most risk of harm, or who face the greatest financial difficulty.
Bespoke solutions needed
This was echoed by Christopher Woolard, Interim Chief Executive of the FCA who acknowledged that consumers require a more bespoke solution to issues they may be facing: “It is important that consumers who can afford to resume mortgage payments should continue to do so.
"However, we understand that borrowers facing payment difficulties because of the pandemic will continue to face uncertainty and may also experience temporary interruptions in income.
"We are proposing that firms contact their borrowers in good time before the end of a payment holiday, and work with them to come up with a tailored plan to help them get back on track. Firms should not take a ‘one size fits all’ approach.”
Firms are also expected to provide mortgage borrowers with the support they may need in managing their finances, such as self-help or money guidance, or referring them to debt advice services.
Should mortgage borrowers require support from firms either at the end of a payment deferral or for the first time, this would be reflected on credit files, and firms must be clear about the impact any support may have on a mortgage borrower’s credit file.
This would enable firms to have an accurate picture of consumers’ financial position and reduce the risk of unaffordable lending in future.
The Prudential Regulation Authority also made a statement following publication of the Proposed Guidance, clarifying its approach to IFRS 9 and capital requirements.