Just: Business almost as usual
Just was one of the first providers to address the valuation challenge brought about by the lockdown. Sarah Morris-Simpson, Director of Lending at Just Group sets out some of the wider challenges.
Even for businesses used to adapting to a shifting world, Coronavirus has been an earthquake. Yet in a matter of days, we have been able to take major steps to ensure that the lifetime mortgage market can continuing functioning for the benefit of our partners and their clients.
Social distancing for all but essential workers created the initial challenge of shifting our teams from office to home-based working. An arguably bigger issue has been transforming our lifetime mortgage policies and processes and to remove the need for face-to-face interactions in order to keep our customers safe while still able to access the funds they need during these troubled times.
These changes have been focused on three key areas:
First, we were one of the first to announce a move from physical property valuations by surveyors to accept remote desk-based valuations from our surveying business partners, removing an important roadblock for processing applications.
Second, we have supported the Equity Release Council Board in temporarily revising the legal advice rules for members, relaxing the requirement for face-to-face legal advice. Solicitors will need to provide legal advice to clients in writing and follow up with a video or telephone call.
Third, the UK Law Society rules require that when a client signs the mortgage deed, a witness must attend in person. We are providing practical advice on how to meet this mandatory requirement while still maintaining social distancing measures.
These interim measures will remain in place during the period of social distancing and will return to face-to-face to face meetings as soon as possible.
It’s also important to note the features built in to the Just For You lifetime mortgage give it the flexibility to adapt to a diverse range of circumstances. It was created to be a single solution with choices that allow advisers to personalise and adapt it to clients changing situation.
Banks have been ordered to allow customers to take a three-month mortgage payment holiday. Our interest-serviced lifetime mortgage already offers customers the flexibility to take up to three consecutive months as a payment holiday in each policy year and customers are also able to miss making six payments over the lifetime of the product. So immediately customers have access to a nine-month break from repaying interest should they require it with further flexibility in the future.
While we have worked to make the transition to the new processes as seamless as possible, the move to desk-based valuations has required some changes to our lending criteria and maximum LTVs and to the supporting paperwork, such as an additional property questionnaire. More information is available on our justadviser.com website.
We don’t know how long the current disruption is going to last. It seems likely that restrictions may remain tighter for those judged to be at more risk from the virus due to age and health, so we don’t expect a quick return to normality.
Life for all of us feels a long way from ‘business as normal’, but we will continue to look for practical and creative solutions to meeting our partners’ and their clients’ needs.
Please note the views of our contributors are theirs and not necessarily those of the Council.
For details of the Council’s Covid-19 responses CLICK HERE and for links to responses from all our provider members, including which other firms have adopted LTVs and other useful resources, CLICK HERE.
FT Adviser has also published an article on the equity release providers offering remote valuations which is available here and was accurate at the time this blog was posted.