by Ed Atkinson
16:40 PM, 7th October 2013, About 10 years ago 17
I’ve been following the news on this site concerning West Bromwich Building Society’s increase in Tracker margins and the Class Action. I thought I would check through our ‘Lifetime Tracker’ mortgage offer from Birmingham Midshires. I was in for a shock.
We’ve loved our trackers from Birmingham Midshires (BM) and have been enjoying rates less than 0.5% above the Bank of England Base Rate, which the ‘Illustration’ document reported would last ‘For Term’. Of course, we paid a handsome arrangement fee to secure the rate. The tracker margin seemed unchangeable, but West Bromwich Building Society’s move to increase their tracker rates suggests that anything is possible.
The mortgage offer from BM in October 2006 does say “The mortgage will be charged interest at: a variable rate which is 0.4% above the Bank of England Base rate, currently 4.75%, for the term of the loan..” The accompanying Special Conditions do not seem to mention interest rates. It was the Standard Offer of Advance Conditions (2004) that contained the shock. Under the section ‘Interest’ it states that
“Unless you have a fixed rate mortgage …… we may change the interest rate payable on your loan at any time for any of the following reasons:
(1) to reflect changes in market conditions outside our control
(2) to reflect changes in the cost to us of raising the money we lend to customers:
(3) to reflect changes in general lending practice by other major lenders (including the terms on which mortgages are offered by them);
(4) to maintain or improve the general market position of our products in all areas of our business;
So BM can change the interest rate almost at their whim? In particular reason (3) is scary if West Bromwich and the Bank of Ireland get away with changing their tracker margins to BTL customers.
The text seems strange to me to describe their freedom to change a tracker margin. It seems to be the considerations for changing a traditional Standard Variable Rate of a mortgage. If it related to a Tracker margin I would expect phrases like ‘exceptional circumstances’ to be used. Also why does it refer to the interest rate rather than the more relevant tracker margin? The obvious reason to change the actual interest rate is to track a BoE base rate change, but this is not included. Why?
(The accompanying General Mortgage Conditions 2004 booklet merely refers to the ‘offer document’ on changing interest rate.)
A further confusion arises because there is no text that I could find which explains which of the various documents take precedence. The odious Standard Offer of Advance Conditions started with the instruction to “read them in conjunction with ..” the other documents and then the statement “Together these form the offer letter ..”.
Other Property118 posts suggest that West Bromwich had an even more messy set of documentation for the tracker offers which are now being changed. For example, they didn’t refer to their special conditions booklet, which BM got right in my case.
So I’d guess BM are waiting and watching on the outcome of the West Bromwich’s move.
Are you worried as well? I have contributed to the funding of the Class Action campaign despite not having any West Bromwich or Bank of Ireland mortgages.