Property118 Members vs West Bromwich Mortgage Company

Property118 Members vs West Bromwich Mortgage Company

10:25 AM, 3rd March 2014, About 8 years ago

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UPDATE – 31st March 2014

Since publishing this article our campaign has raised over £450,000 and legal action has now commenced. The official closing date for borrowers to be represented in this action was 28th March 2014. However, it may still be possible to be included in the representative action by paying additional fees to cover administration and Court fees to be added to the list of represented claimants. For further details please Contact Carla Morris-Papps at Cotswold Barristers – telephone 01242 639 454 or email carla@cotswoldbarristers.co.uk

West Brom Tracker Mortgages

Property118 Members vs West Bromwich Mortgage Company

Property118 Members vs West Bromwich Mortgage Company

Borrowers representing 84 mortgage accounts affected by the West Bromwich Mortgage Company 1.9% rake hike to their tracker rate mortgage margins attended a secret meeting of paid up campaign members on 27th February 2014. At that meeting it was confirmed that 420 affected mortgages are currently represented by the campaign group.

Property118 had previously created a secure forum for paid up members of the group to discuss various legal strategies, one of which was a proposal to West Brom to consider arbitration as an alternative to Court action. Each member had paid £240 for each affected mortgage plus a contribution to a campaign marketing campaign.

Arbitration was proposed for tactical legal reasons which were explained by the groups advisers, some details of which must remain confidential for legal reasons.

This would have been significantly quicker and cheaper for all concerned and had massive upsides to West Brom in that the outcome would be confidential. In other words, if West Brom had lost the case, nobody would have “officially” known about it other than those who had already paid to be a member of the campaign group. This would have meant the worst case scenario for West Brom would be losing no more than 10% of their reported £19 million of additional annual profits from this rate hike.

West Brom refused!

This refusal now plays very nicely into our hands for litigation purposes as it will be frowned upon by the Courts, especially if we lose our case and end up having to pay costs associated with the David and Goliath battle. 😉

The attendees of the meeting voted unanimously to proceed immediately with litigation on the basis proposed by (Mark Smith – Barrister-At-Law) as explained below. Thanks were offered to Justin Selig and his team at The Law Department for his sterling work to date in helping us get to this position. Without their help our campaign may never have got this far.

Litigation will commence during the week of 31st March 2014 with the service of Court Papers. This provides a final opportunity for any remaining affected borrowers to commit to the action by Friday 28th March.

We already have more than double the necessary funds on account to pay our own legal team. Mark Smith has agreed to represent borrowers for a fixed fee of £120 + VAT per affected mortgage subject to there being at least 250 borrowers committed. Further details in his Terms of Business and Instruction letter which can be downloaded by completing the form at the bottom of this page.

Existing campaign members are also reminded that they MUST complete and return the instruction form  to Mark Smith to act for them and the required additional funds by 28th March 2014.

The deadline for submission of instructions has now expired, sorry.

Costs Funding

The primary concern of existing members that had to be overcome was their potentially unlimited liability to the West Brom’s legal costs in the event of losing the case and the “open cheque book” often associated with legal cases. It was agreed that all fears could be overcome by creating a fund to be held in a BARCO escrow account (BARCO is the Bar Council – the regulators of Barristers). This account will provide evidence to the Courts that we have sufficient funds on account to settle the other sides costs in the event of losing the case and having an adverse costs order awarded against the group.

The first step of the legal action will be a costs hearing, as part of a “Case Management Conference”. This is where both sides must submit their costs budgets for the case to the judge and where the judge decides upon reasonableness. If either side fails to do this then the maximum they can claim for costs against the other side is the Court fee, i.e. £175! It is extremely rare for judges to award costs in excess of the agreed costs budget.

Our estimate is that based on the number of affected mortgages being represented, and the possibility of more people now wishing to be represented at this stage, the BARCO account could contain as much as double the other sides costs budget. This is why we are so confident about costs not exceeding the amount of funds that will be held in escrow. In the extremely unlikely event of the groups funds being insufficient to meet a potential costs order the group would have an opportunity to withdraw their case and settle the other sides costs to date.

If/when we win, the contents of the BARCO account will be rolled over to deal with all of the costs associated with the inevitable appeal case and if/when that is won the funds will be returned to members. If we lose, the contents of the escrow account will be used to pay costs awarded to West Brom and the balance of funds will be returned pro-rata to members.

The case will be fought on the basis of a representative action. This means that the ruling of the Courts will only apply to those borrowers who have paid to be represented in the case. There will be no free rides!

We fully appreciate that some affected borrowers will not be able to raise the necessary funds in time to be part of this action so there is a Plan B. Affected borrowers who are not represented may have another opportunity to make claims in a few years time. In the meantime they will continue to pay the higher rate and will probably be expected to forfeit any refund of overpayments in return for a no-win-no-fee arrangement. This could be a far more expensive option, hence the reason why so many affected borrowers are so keen to be part of the imminent legal action.

The legal strategy and process we are undertaking will be a very simple one. There will be no witnesses called so there will be no surprise twists such as those often seen on TV where a new witness or new evidence appears at the last minute. On this basis, we anticipate the case, including any appeal, to be concluded before Christmas.

We will only be asking the Courts to rule on two things:-

1) Based on the documentation produced by West Brom, do they have the right to increase the tracker margin?

2) Based on the documentation produced by West Brom, do they have the right to call in loans within 28 days without the borrower being in default?

There has been lots of discussion about whether West Brom did or did not provide all of the documentation they are now relying upon. This is not relevant to our case.

There has also been much discussion about Unfair Terms in Consumer Contract Regulations; again this is not relevant to our case.

It has been questioned whether in fact the mortgages issued by West Brom were indeed trackers, this cannot be denied by West Brom as this is the basis they report them to the rating standards agencies – see this link

The agreed level of funds to be deposited into the BARCO account is £1,144 per affected mortgage being represented. For example, somebody wishing to have 10 affected mortgages represented will need to deposit a further £11,440 into the BARCO account. Existing members will receive a refund of unused funds which they paid into the client account of The Law Department. New members will need to pay an additional premium of £356 per mortgage to the Property118 marketing fund to equalise the financial contributions and efforts of the forerunners of the group.

Therefore, the net payment per affected mortgage for members will be:

  • For existing members who have already instructed The Law Department £994 (assuming a refund of £150 per affected mortgage from The Law Department)
  • For new members the total cost per mortgage to be represented will be £1,500

We have created a simple set of instructions explaining how much you need to pay and who you need to pay it to here >>> http://www.property118.com/simplified-payment-instructions-join-west-brom-action/

Remember, if/when we win you will get more than this amount back when you also factor in 100% of the extra 1.9% interest you have been paying which will also be refunded. The worst case scenario is that you will get none of this money back if we lose. If you can live with that you should proceed.

The reason we have chosen this strategy as opposed to buying ATE insurance is that it costs us much less if we win. We are in this to win this. The above strategy means that we all know what we stand to lose and can proceed with our eyes wide open, confident that our liabilities are limited.

If the balance of the BARCO account associated with this action is less than £250,000 by close of business on Friday 28th March 2014 the legal action case will be aborted, funds will be returned to members within 14 days and that will be the end of the line for this campaign for myself and Property118 – at least for 12 months or more anyway. If necessary we will then take another look at Plan B.

UPDATE – 31st March 2014

Since publishing this article our campaign has raised over £450,000 and legal action has now commenced. The official closing date for borrowers to be represented in this action was 28th March 2014. However, it may still be possible to be included in the representative action by paying additional fees to cover administration and Court fees to be added to the list of represented claimants. For further details please Contact Carla Morris-Papps at Cotswold Barristers – telephone 01242 639 454 or email carla@cotswoldbarristers.co.uk



Comments

by Denise G

17:11 PM, 5th March 2014, About 8 years ago

Cotswold Barristers would seem to work in a very professional and efficient manner as we have today received notification that our instructions and cheque have arrived (posted at 17:15 last night) and giving us a tracking number. All very reassuring so I can sleep easy now knowing we have done everything we can at this point!

by Mark Alexander

17:19 PM, 5th March 2014, About 8 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Denise D" at "05/03/2014 - 17:11":

Me too, it's little things like this which make a big difference 🙂
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by Alexander Law

17:46 PM, 5th March 2014, About 8 years ago

Signed Instructions and cheque for £2,288 posted to Cotwold Barristers at 16.45 today!
We will be claiming this as allowable expenses in this year's tax return. 🙂

by M Jones

17:47 PM, 5th March 2014, About 8 years ago

Cheque in the post tonight - this would still be cheap at twice the price!
The way West Brom have acted is nothing short of scandalous - they must be held to account.

by Mark Alexander

17:55 PM, 5th March 2014, About 8 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Deceived by West Brom " at "05/03/2014 - 17:47":

That's VERY generous of you, please send the other half as a donation to the marketing fund 🙂

See >>> http://www.property118.com/much-appreciated/

Sorry, I just could resist that opportunity! LOL
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by The Man From Nowhere

18:01 PM, 5th March 2014, About 8 years ago

Cotswold Barristers have acknowledged receipt of my cheque for £6864 today (the same day they received it as sent by first class post) and have provided me with a Royal Mail tracking number so I can track my cheque and ID going to the BARCO escrow account. I'm impressed with their efficiency!

Note to all. Don't forget to include copies of your ID and address verification with your cheques!

by Mark Alexander

18:43 PM, 5th March 2014, About 8 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "The Man From Nowhere" at "05/03/2014 - 18:01":

They've even given me a link to a speadsheet where I can literally see new instructions being entered as and when they receive them. I've never seen that before, I'm impressed too, Carla really does have things running incredibly smoothly on the admin and customer service side of things 🙂
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by ian

7:57 AM, 6th March 2014, About 8 years ago

Ian Burton & The Man From Nowhere, funding 6 accounts gives out the strongest clear message of confidence to date probably not to be topped, coming from the meeting with Mark Smith,
This deserves a PR media campaign as its only those on here see & share that confidence that may be the king pin that could boost confidence in others even if they can only afford to fund one account & go for plan B at a later date.

by Onslow Clough

10:01 AM, 6th March 2014, About 8 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "ian " at "06/03/2014 - 07:57":

I agree entirely - we must publicise the campaign, and the principles behind it. This is not just about us, but about the ability of the banks and building societies to get away with trampling over their customers and beating them into submission. It's so important to let others know that they might be the next ones to be affected by these arbitrary rate hikes, and that the ramifications are potentially huge. You might need to sell your tenanted properties, so your tenants are affected. You might need to increase their rent, so again your tenants suffer. You might not be able to provide cheap social housing anymore, so you only accept private tenants, so tenants and local councils suffer. You may have to sell your own house to pay for outrageous rate hikes as your rented properties can't be sold. These are not imaginary scenarios - they are happening now. When I explained this to my MP he realised the importance of what we are fighting for. Let's make our voices heard all over the media.

by Mark Alexander

10:21 AM, 6th March 2014, About 8 years ago

I have just heard from Carla at CotswoldBarristers that they have received several more instructions and cheques in the post this morning. They are now in the process of adding these to their spreadsheet and I look forward to updating you on the Day Two fund total later this afternoon 🙂
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