What happens if house prices fall because of the pandemic?
All customers of plans that meet Equity Release Council standards benefit from a no negative equity Guarantee. This means the estate will never have to repay more than the property is worth, even if the total amount of the loan plus the interest owed exceeds this amount. Customers also benefit from security of tenure for life or until they move into long-term care. However, in the event of the customer’s death or if they move into long-term care, a provider can and most likely will require the property to be sold even if the market is falling market, just as they would if it were rising. The risks and benefits of equity release will have been explained fully when the plan was taken out.
The pandemic is making it difficult and sometimes impossible to sell a properties. What can I do and what is the Council doing?
The UK government has set out its plans to restart the housing market in England. Estate agents can now open, viewings can be carried out and removal firms and conveyancers can restart operations. We are monitoring the market conditions brought about by the pandemic and subsequent lockdown and we are in discussions with providers about how they affect the their customers and their beneficiaries. Consumers or beneficiaries in extenuating circumstances or in the devolved nations should contact the provider to discuss their situation.
Can I still get advice from a solicitor during the lockdown?
Yes. During normal times the Council would insist that anyone who takes out equity release has at least one in person face-to-face meeting with a solicitor. However, we have temporarily relaxed this rule and brought in a number of checks and balances to allow an equity release case to proceed without the client meeting a solicitor in person. Meetings might instead take place over the telephone and via video calls like Facetime, Zoom and Skype.
We still believe that face-to-face and in person legal advice is the gold standard in our sector. It allows solicitors to ensure the customer has the mental capacity to understand the terms and conditions of the equity release contract and that there is no coercion. If the solicitor is not satisfied that standards have been met then it could mean your case is paused until you can be seen in person or stopped altogether.
It is never a guarantee that you can take out equity release and it is not for everyone.
Is the Equity Release Council still open?
Yes. All of our staff and key contractors are working from home and there has been no disruption to the service we provide. We have closed our head office, in London’s financial district, but that has had no affect on service delivery.
How will my home be valued if I take out equity release during the lockdown?
Most equity release providers are now accepting desktop valuations but they have also imposed some loan to value and general restrictions. For example, those who live in listed buildings, houses with thatched roofs or high-value homes may have to wait until a surveyor can undertake a valuation by visiting your home. Meanwhile, the UK government has lifted some restrictions in England that suggest full valuations are possible.
Can I still get advice from an equity release adviser during the lockdown?
Yes. Getting advice from a regulated and qualified equity release adviser is essential and the only way to take out equity release. During normal operating conditions we would always encourage face-to-face and in person meetings between the adviser and the client. However, many firms are offering telephone and video conference appointments. You can find an adviser member in our member directory which is available here.
Can I still take out equity release during the lockdown?
Yes. The sector has been innovating to make sure that equity release remains an option for consumers, during the lockdown. However, given that equity release is typically taken out by older homeowners and the government has introduced social distancing and shielding measures the process could be more difficult. You can read more about social distancing and shielding here and we have addressed some of the challenges of taking out equity release in other FAQs in this section. You can also find an adviser in our member directory, which is here.