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15th January 2021
FCA proposes update to guidance on mortgages and consumer credit repossessions
In November 2020, the Financial Conduct Authority(FCA) announced further support for mortgage and consumer credit borrowers experiencing payment difficulties as a result of coronavirus.
This included guidance for firms on the treatment of mortgage and consumer credit customers facing repossession. This provided that firms should generally not enforce repossessions before 31st January 2021. The FCA now publish draft guidance setting out our proposed approach to repossessions from 31st January 2021.
The FCA invites comments on the draft guidance by 10am on 18th January 2021.
The FCA current guidance on mortgage repossessions means firms should not enforce repossessions before 31st January 2021 except in exceptional circumstances, such as a customer requesting that proceedings continue. The FCA propose extending this guidance so that firms should not enforce repossessions before 1st April 2021.
This approach takes account of the worsening coronavirus situation and the government’s tighter coronavirus-related restrictions which mean that consumers could experience significant harm if forced to move home at this time as a result of repossession proceedings. The FCA recognise that there are also government bans on evictions in some nations, which could also prevent firms from enforcing home repossessions.
The FCA's current consumer credit guidance means that before 31st January 2021 firms should not terminate a regulated agreement or repossess goods or vehicles under the agreement that the customer needs, except in exceptional circumstances.
We now propose changing this so that consumer credit firms will be able to repossess goods and vehicles from 31st January 2021. However, this should only be as a last resort, and subject to complying with relevant government public health guidelines and regulations, for example on social distancing and shielding. Importantly, firms will also be expected to consider the impact on customers who may be vulnerable, including because of the pandemic, when deciding whether repossession of goods or vehicles is appropriate.
Our proposed approach reflects the different risks and harms that customers with goods or vehicles on credit are likely to face compared to those who are at risk of losing their home.
For customers who remain in payment difficulties under a relevant consumer credit agreement, continuing to restrict repossessions may not be in their interests. The shorter terms and higher interest rates on these agreements, combined with the depreciating value of the goods or vehicles, means that they could end up owing more in the long term if repossessions are prevented.
The FCA approach, therefore, takes appropriate account of the risks to customers of further asset depreciation, whilst providing appropriate protections by ensuring that firms repossess only as a last resort and also consider the impact of repossession action on those who are vulnerable, as well as following relevant government public health guidelines and regulations when undertaking repossession action.
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