10:27 AM, 29th April 2016, About 7 years ago 67
Our legal team from Cotswold Barristers and Michael Ashcroft QC were superb at The Court of Appeal. Three judges sat on the panel to hear our case, two Lords Justices of Appeal and one Lady Justice, the most eminent being the Rt Hon Lord Justice Leveson, President of the Queen’s Bench Division and third most senior Judge in the UK
For those who don’t know, with the backing of over 400 other landlords I took up a legal battle with the West Bromwich Mortgage Company.
The background to the case is that the mortgage lender provided me with a fixed rate mortgage which reverted after an initial fixed rate period to a tracker rate mortgage at bank base rate plus 1.99% to the term end. The loan term was 25 years.
In September 2013, along with thousands of other borrowers who had similar mortgages, I received a letter stating that my mortgage lender was varying my interest rate despite there being no change to the base rate. As if that wasn’t enough to make me furious, their letter carried a veiled threat, stating they had to increase the rate for their own commercial purposes, failing which they would have to consider calling in the loan. Note that my loan wasn’t and has never been in default.
Thankfully, enough other landlords were equally furious and we found each other via Property118. Without their financial support I would not have been able to mount a legal battle of this nature.
The rate rise only affected me to the tune of just over £100 a month but that wasn’t the point. It was about the principle.
Over £500,000 has been raised to fight this case!
We knew the West Brom would play dirty and do all they could to run up legal bills in the hope that we would drop our case. Before this move the Building Society was losing millions every year. This rate rise secured their solvency and returned their failing business back into a profitable position.
Needless to say, they underestimated our resolve.
We should have a verdict in a few weeks time, we are not sure exactly when.
Win or lose, I am incredibly proud that landlords were able to come together to show the world that big financial institutions must not assume that just because they have deeper pockets than their customers they are always in the right. Our group has achieved something that the landlord associations refused to entertain. We fought back!
Even if the Appeal Court Judges were to decide that technically the West Brom contract is how the West Brom lawyers perceive it, this case has shown the world the true colours of this building society. If the lender had made it clear to any of the affected borrowers that their contracts were intended to enable them to vary tracker mortgage margins, or to call in a 25 year loan with just 30 days notice without it being in default, I very much doubt that any borrower, or indeed broker, would have given them their business.
All who attended the Appeal today are as confident as I am that justice will prevail. The prior preparation and planning and the level of detail and the commitment to research undertaken by the team at Cotswold Barristers was admirably extensive and could not have been better presented by Michael Ashcroft QC.
We all felt the three Appeal Judges were able to see through the ludicrous excuses made by the mortgage lender and the unfairness of what they’ve done. It could of course simply be that the judges were “playing to the gallery” but their cutting remarks to the QC representing West Brom seemed very genuine to all in the room.
The Court room was packed!
We live in hope that landlords will continue to come together and fight injustice, whether that comes from mortgage lenders, government policy or elsewhere.
The landlords associations continually fail to represent landlords when it really counts, this case is just one example, there have been far too many others. It is down to all is to fight injustices, of which there are many, #tenanttax being the hot topic of late.
Please share this message with as many landlords as you know.
If we do win this case, we would like to think it will inspire other landlords to unite, raise funds and fight similar cases where we know we are in the right.
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11:01 AM, 29th April 2016, About 7 years ago
I thought that the legal team did very well and the afternoon session and watching the barrister for West Brom trying to defend the indefensible was great fun and not to be missed.
Lord Leveson seemed to be amused at the bizarre contortions that the West Brom brief tried to perform - and there was some very funny moments in this regard. Maybe the lady next to me (doing shorthand) managed to get the more priceless interactions down and can post them here?
Even the very tired, disinterested clerk of the court seemed to suddenly wake up, stop yawning and smile and nod in amusement as the barrister for the West Brom looked increasingly uncomfortable.
It was all quite a spectacle to watch - the wigs, the gown and the whole rather camp feel of legal proceedings given due weight by the wood panelling and huge ceiling.
And good to see Simon Sharma take a break from doing his TV historian bit to fill in for the clerk of the court, when she had pop out for a fag and a wake-me-up coffee. (Was I the only one to spot the resemblance).
It was bizarre and annoying that (despite requests) no one could turn the microphones up properly - which meant we could hear very little of the West Brom brief's ramblings. But no matter, as we could hear Leveson's often pointed interjections and queries and see his incredulity.
Having experienced what went on y/day and the questioning of the judges and the way the whole thing went, I would be astounded if we lost this appeal.
The ludicrousness, though, is that so much money (and peoples times) has had to have been spent on this, when, as our barrister said, it was obvious to anyone that the product sold to Mark Alexander (and thousands of others) was a tracker designed to track base rate for life at a set margin as per the contract.
I think maybe the most telling point was when Leveson said, "Well, it does not say it tracks it, and the CURRENT RATE of the margin is 1.99%. It just doesn't say that does it?"
To which West Brom's brief, of course, had no answer.
On that point, I feel we will win the case.
And I look forward to West Brom's discomfort. They are a disgrace to have bullied people in the way they have. It is a shame that most in the national press have chosen to ignore the story, which has ramifications beyond West Brom.
The Bank of Ireland and Skipton and Manchester Building Societies ought to be very worried too.
I hope Mr. Westhoff is polishing up his CV.
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11:09 AM, 29th April 2016, About 7 years ago
Well done to you Mark, and to others for fighting this course.
Fingers crossed for a positive outcome.
We are proud of you.
11:25 AM, 29th April 2016, About 7 years ago
Brilliant news, Lets hope the Judges follow through on the impression they gave.
I'm being followed on twitter by a James Garrison, of Connect PR who list West Brom as a client. So James if you are reading this, congratulations on the work coming your way, this is one turd that'll take a hell of a lot of polishing.
Mark Alexander - Founder of Property118
11:39 AM, 29th April 2016, About 7 years ago
It's not possible to polish a turd, as CoxQC soon realised when he was up against a panel of Judges who actually appreciated what a tracker mortgage is.
Metaphorically speaking then, perhaps his strategy could be described as attempting to roll one in glitter?
11:58 AM, 29th April 2016, About 7 years ago
We were there too and I echo everything others have said (and we loved and felt very privilaged to share the whole experience with Mark), but I am only cautiously optimistic of us getting the right outcome as I've seen some dreadful miscarriages of justice occur when the ludicrousness that is the law is applied to the proceedings
12:17 PM, 29th April 2016, About 7 years ago
Agreed, either way it stinks!
But WB and their PR will do their best, possibly pre-empting the final ruling.
Stretching the metaphor - Can we make sure the fan is pointing straight at them before it hits?
It'll be good if some splatters on FOS as well.
12:35 PM, 29th April 2016, About 7 years ago
I didnt have a West Brom mortgage but supported the landlords that did because it was totally wrong and landlords need to stand together.
I would look to see the hearing , is it on Video link?
Well done to all involved .
12:40 PM, 29th April 2016, About 7 years ago
Reply to the comment left by "D D" at "29/04/2016 - 11:58":
Despite my optimism I fear you are right to be cautious, given the way the law works, but I hope sense prevails here.
I rather liked it when the brief for West Brom said something like "How can one set such a contract for 25 years?"
The obvious answer to which would be, "Well, that is WB's problem"
12:55 PM, 29th April 2016, About 7 years ago
And, as I said yesterday, given that the BoE base rate can just easily rise as fall, a Tracker Mortgage will always be a gamble - maybe an educated gamble or one where advice offered by the mortgage broker turns out to be sound, but a gamble nonetheless - and on this occasion we won and WB lost!
Had things happened the other way around WB would have been more than happy I'm guessing to stick to terms of the contract made.
There would have been not much chance (slim chance and no chance) of success for us had rates risen and we'd tried to amend the contract in our favour some years after signing it
13:45 PM, 29th April 2016, About 7 years ago
Reply to the comment left by "D D" at "29/04/2016 - 12:55":
Blindingly obvious, but my thoughts entirely. If by some reason WB win, it means (for me at least as a citizen of this country, governed by its laws), that I can no longer hope to know what any contract terms really mean. It's plain to me that these terms meant it was a 25 year term at the BBR plus 1.99% -nothing more; nothing less.
How can we hope to live our lives and conduct our business if the words as they are written and widely understood, actually mean something else altogether?