Up to 18,000 customers, it transpires, have been paying too little for their mortgages, meaning they are unlikely to repay them within their agreed term. The problem arose after the banks tried to introduce new inhouse software to calculate customers mortgage payments, but it appears the banks have been underestimating the capital element of their customer’s payments. The error went unnoticed whilst interest rates were at a higher rate, but with the recent drop in the Bank of England’s base rate, the error has been discovered. The mortgages that have been affected are tracker and variable rate mortgages.
Although the Bank’s have claimed the majority of customers will only see increases of up to £25 per month, some customers have complained they have received letters stating their payments will increase by up to £300 per month.
For many these increased payments will not be possible and may result in customer going into arrears and facing action for repossession. It is likely, however, the Banks will be under pressure to take steps to assists customers, possibly by extending the life of the mortgages due to new laws due to come into force in September.
Sheriff’s in Scotland, as a result of the new Home Owner and Debtor Protection (Scotland) Act 2010, will be required to consider whether lenders have taken reasonable steps to assist home owners in paying off any arrears owed before they raise action to repossess properties. In the case of these banks, due to the fact many customers will have been misadvised as to what their monthly payments would be, the Banks will be under pressure to take steps to assist customers, possibly by extending the length of mortgages and allowing customers to continue making payments at reduced levels. If the Banks don’t, Sheriff’s may find that they have not taken reasonable steps to assist their customers.
Sheriff’s will not be able to force lenders to change the mortgage products customers have, but they will be able to look at the circumstances that caused the arrears and decide whether in individual cases the Banks should have their powers to repossess suspended, usually where the home owner is making serious attempts to repay arrears.
It also appears many customers may be entitled to raise complaints with the Financial Ombudsman Service or raise actions for compensation.
Clydesdale and Yorkshire Bank customers should seek legal advice immediately where they are struggling to meet increased payments.