Hundreds of advisers sign up to help mortgage prisoners

Hundreds of advisers sign up to help mortgage prisoners
 Credit: Luke MacGregor/Bloomberg

Hundreds of advice firms have signed up to the regulator's call for help for so-called mortgage prisoners.

A 33-page list containing the details of 455 mortgage advice firms is now available on the Money Advice Service website for borrowers who need help switching to a cheaper mortgage.

The list was created following the Financial Conduct Authority’s (FCA’s) call in July for mortgage intermediaries willing to help mortgage prisoners who have previously been unable to switch mortgages, despite being up-to-date with their payments.

The FCA is expecting lenders to contact eligible customers about their switching options by January 15, sending out letters that will nudge them towards the Money Advice Service's website and broker list.

The list will also enable lenders to see which intermediaries need to be updated with bespoke offerings for mortgage prisoners and any changes to their criteria or underwriting.

The West Brom Building Society, for example, implemented affordability rules last month designed to make it easier for mortgage prisoners to switch to a more affordable deal.

Mortgage prisoners are customers who have previously been unable to switch mortgages despite being up-to-date with their payments.

The FCA changed its rules last year to allow lenders to assess affordability based on a mortgage prisoner’s track record of making mortgage payments if they are not looking to move house, or borrow more.

But the regulator said mortgage intermediaries had a “key role to play” in supporting such borrowers, from learning of the option to switch, to being able to apply for a new product.

It estimates around 14,000 borrowers should be both likely to meet firms’ commercial lending criteria and stand to make a meaningful saving.

Missed a trick

Before the list's publication some networks had raised questions over how it would be presented, voicing concern borrowers could be overwhelmed if the list got too long.

Commenting on the published list, which lists advisers alphabetically and by region, Gemma Harle, managing director of Quilter Financial Planning, said: “Finding support and a suitable broker in their area who truly understands the needs and requirements of mortgage prisoners will be crucial, but with almost 500 firms willing to support these customers, many mortgage prisoners will struggle to know where exactly they should turn to find a broker that’s right for them.

“It seems the Money Advice Service missed a trick by presenting the information as a simple alphabetical list of intermediaries by area, rather than including any functionality to allow mortgage prisoners to find an advice firm that is suitable for them based on their requirements.

“For many years, mortgage prisoners will have been grappling with their options, not knowing where to get support. The list of brokers willing to help is a step in the right direction, but there is more work to be done to improve the process for connecting mortgage prisoners with suitable brokers in their area that will be able to offer them support.”