FCA urges UK banks to consider cutting mortgage payments for those struggling

City regulator estimates 356,000 borrowers may be at risk of missing monthly payments by summer 2024

The UK regulator has told banks to consider slashing mortgage payments for borrowers struggling with rising bills, as it revealed that 356,000 homeowners could be at risk of missing their monthly instalments by summer 2024.

The guidance from the Financial Conduct Authority confirms how lenders can support customers who have missed payments or are worried they may fall behind, including by extending the term of their mortgage to lower the monthly amount due, or temporarily slashing payments.

However, it does not go as far as guidance issued during the Covid-19 crisis, when lenders where urged to provide more payment holidays and interest-only arrangements during pandemic lockdowns.

Bank bosses had been concerned they could face complaints or regulatory action if they allowed customers to reduce payments, because changing the terms of a mortgage can make it more expensive in the long term and affect a borrower’s credit score.

The latest guidance came as the FCA released new estimates that showed 356,000 borrowers could face struggle to make their mortgage payments by June 2024, though that is down from the 570,000 it had estimated were struggling in September last year. The latest figure includes mortgage holders who are rolling off fixed-rate deals and could end up paying an additional £340 a month on average because of higher interest rates.

Homeowners have been hit with higher mortgage payments as a result of September’s disastrous mini-budget that spooked financial markets and pushed up borrowing costs. While borrowing rates have eased since then, it has resulted in increased payments for borrowers on variable rate mortgages as well as those who have had to remortgage at higher rates.

Despite the latest FCA guidance, banks could still face regulatory action if they are found to be misleading customers or treating them unfairly, for example, if borrowers are found to have been unfairly tried to increase returns on mortgages to help boost a lender’s income long-term.

“Mortgage borrowers should consider carefully any steps they take and customers who can keep up with their payments should continue to do so,” the regulator said in its guidance.

Sheldon Mills, the executive director of consumers and competition at the FCA, said: “Our research shows most people are keeping up with mortgage repayments, but some may face difficulties.

“If you’re struggling to pay your mortgage, or are worried you might, you don’t need to manage alone. Your lender has a range of tools available to help. Get in touch as soon as you have concerns, don’t wait until you’re about to miss a payment before doing so. Just talking to them about your options won’t affect your credit rating.”


Kalyeena Makortoff Banking correspondent

The GuardianTramp

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