What Coronation Street doesn’t tell you about equity release

Sue Read, the Council’s risk policy and compliance manager sets the record straight after a colourful portrayal of equity release in one of the UK’s most popular soap operas. 

Coronation Street went home from this year’s British Soap Awards with awards for Best Comedy Performance and Best Dramatic Performance, among a clutch of other accolades.

However, if ever there was an award for Most Accurate Depiction of a Financial Services Product, the soap wouldn’t even make the shortlist.

While Corrie’s plotline about an equity release scam is high on drama, thankfully it really is a complete work of fiction and could never happen in real life.

The story focuses on Stephen Reid who looks set to pocket the proceeds of an equity release plan he has taken out in his mother Audrey’s name.

But thanks to the Council’s standards it’s impossible to take out equity release without a face-to-face meeting between the customer and an independent solicitor, which is where the storyline crumbles.

That’s good news for older viewers, whose chances of a family member misusing equity release in this way are as unlikely as soap villain Stephen becoming our next Prime Minister.

Here’s what you need to know about why over 90,000 new and existing customers last year were able to use equity release safely and securely:

  • For more than 30 years, all customers of equity release products which meet Equity Release Council standards have received independent legal advice before taking out a new plan.
  • Today, this involves the homeowner receiving face-to-face legal advice as well as regulated financial advice, which explains their options and alternatives to equity release.
  • We always encourage people to involve family or loved ones in their decision, but we recognise this isn’t always possible or appropriate (as Audrey might agree).
  • Independent legal advice ensures customers are aware of the benefits and risks of equity release before they take out a plan.
  • If a customer does not clearly understand the product or what they are doing, their case would not proceed and would be referred back to their financial adviser for further clarification and advice.
  • Independent legal advice also ensures the customer has the capacity to decide whether or not to proceed with releasing equity, and – crucially – is not under duress or outside pressure or influence from a third party, which can include family members or even a partner in the event of a joint application.
  • This is a unique safeguard that gives equity release customers greater protection than in the residential mortgage market, where independent legal advice is absent.
  • Unlike financial advisers, solicitors are among the professions recognised under the Mental Capacity Act as having the necessary specialist training and expertise to assess capacity.

Protections like these make modern equity release a product that is trusted by thousands of homeowners every year to help boost their pensions, make repairs or improvements to their homes, refinance existing mortgages or gift money to family as a living inheritance.

That’s a less exciting reality for soap opera storylines, but a more comforting one for Corrie viewers and Britain’s older homeowners.

To find a regulated equity release adviser in your area and to find a plan that meets Equity Release Council standards, please use our find a member search.

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