7th December 2018

FCA publishes findings on long-term mortgage arrears

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has published findings on how mortgage lenders treat customers who have long-term mortgage arrears and provide forbearance to affected customers.

The FCA had previously identified that there was a trend of increasing long-term arrears cases, whilst the number of homes being repossessed had been falling. As a result of this widening trend, the FCA set out in its Business Plan 2017/18 to examine whether customers with long-term mortgage arrears were experiencing harm from extended forbearance.

Overall, the FCA did not identify widespread harm to customers from extended forbearance. However, it did see some inconsistencies in firms’ arrears management practices. These findings have been published and firms offering or administering mortgages should read these and where necessary make improvements.

This work was undertaken against a backdrop of low interest rates where the interest on arrears balances was relatively low. It’s important that customers who are already in long term arrears and mortgage customers who might go into arrears with an increase in interest rates, or a change to their personal circumstances, are aware of what actions they should be taking.

Jonathan Davidson, Executive Director of Supervision said: “We know that many customers remain hesitant to contact their lender to discuss their mortgage arrears for a variety of reasons. We encourage customers to talk to their lender as early as possible as this may give them more time and options when it comes to the steps they can take.”

The FCA has also provided the feedback to firms in the sample and is considering where in some cases further regulatory action in necessary. Under the FCA’s rules, firms may only consider repossession as a last resort.