The campaigns organised by members of Property118 against hikes to tracker rate mortgage margins moved up a gear yesterday when I was invited to meet with David Morris MP and his aide Andre Walker at The Houses of Parliament. I spent 90 minutes with them in total. I also managed to get a very quick 5 minute meeting in between parliamentary debates with Jason McCartney MP (Colne Valley) who has been very supportive of our campaign in terms of meeting his locally affected constituents and lobbying fellow MPs.
Over 20 MPs have expressed concerns and support for their constituents affected by the actions of West Brom Building Society and Bank of Ireland. A debate in the House of Commons has already been applied for by two MPs.
Campaigners have been lobbying their MPs over the last few months and much support has been pledged. Many of the MPs wrote to John Westhoff, CEO of the West Brom, but all were fobbed off by similar letters claiming that their rate hikes were legal and necessary to subsidise other areas of there business which have performed badly in recent years. Senior banking barristers and an eminent banking QC have poured over the Terms and Conditions and believe what these lenders are doing to increase their profits is an illegal breach of contracts. In both cases the terms of the mortgage offer letters contractually and legally take precedent over conditions specified in the lenders mortgage conditions booklets which are generic to fixed, standard variable and tracker rate mortgages. It is terms in the more generic booklet that West Brom and Bank of Ireland are ‘hanging their hat on’ in respect of their hikes to the margins being charged to their borrowers over the Bank of England base rate.
Campaigners feel that the mortgage lenders are attempting to use their financial muscle and the disincentive in respect of huge costs to litigate to evade justice but the strategy of these lenders does not appear to be working.
To date, over £100,000 has been raised and lodged with Solicitor Justin Selig which is enough to commence legal action. More will be required to fight a case at appeal which is highly likely as a strategy from the lenders if/when the campaigners win the first round of litigation in the lower Courts. With this in mind, alternative strategies to litigation are being considered to settle the argument out of court in the short term because the MPs cannot progress matters once the judiciary are involved.
As fortune would have it, whilst I was at the meeting David Morris MP was invited to submit a question to Chancellor George Osbourne on Tuesday 28th. Mr Morris seized the opportunity and immediately submitted a question relating to the conduct of mortgage lenders. We should find out later this week whether it is approved.
As if that wasn’t enough from my first visit, I was also introduced to several other MPs between debates. These were only quick introductions but many of them are aware of the campaign due to the excellent lobbying of Property118 members.
The icing on the cake was helping to draft an EDM “Early Day Motion”, which has now been submitted by David Morris MP, which will be publicly available and no doubt of much interest to the press. The more MPs that sign up to support this EDM the more likely it is for the debate to take place and for the motion to be passed. We also prepared a very short briefing note to be distributed to other MPs showing an interest. There is a LOT more to be done on our side too. I need all campaign members, whether directly affected or not, to contact your MP again and to ask them to add their support to Early Day Motion number 976.
I strongly recommend following up any electronic correspondence with a telephone call because MPs are bombarded with thousands of emails every day and they can very easily be overlooked.
To contact your MP please click here, then copy and paste the text below:-
As one of your constituents I am asking you please to add your support to Early Day Motion number 976 as submitted by David Morris MP. Below is the content of the EDM and some background notes for you to consider. Given the importance of this matter I would also request you to apply for a debate. If a telephone call or meeting would help, either with me or the campaign organiser please let me know.
SUBJECT – Conduct of Mortgage Lenders – EDM number 976
That this house condemns mortgage lenders breaching tracker rate mortgage contracts by unilaterally increasing the margin they charge over the Bank of England base rate in order to increase their profit margins and deliberately targeting borrowers where consumer protection law is ambiguous; and calls on the Government to investigate alleged associated recent activities of the Bank of Ireland and West Bromwich Building Society.
There are believed to be 2.5 million tracker rate mortgages, i.e. mortgages which track the Bank of England base rate at a fixed margin for a defined period
137,000 readers are following a campaign to expose this scam via the Property118 internet forum as concern that other mortgage lenders will follow suit is increasing
Alleged examples of deliberate misuse of ambiguous consumer protection laws include ….
- 12,200 Bank of Ireland mortgage accounts whereby a mixture of homeowner mortgages and buy to let mortgage borrowers were targeted – all of which pre-dated the Oct 2008 mortgage regulations
- 6,700 West Brom Building Society mortgage accounts whereby landlords with 3 or more properties have been targeted – there is no case law to define what would constitute a consumer landlord although there is case law to acknowledge that landlords can be consumers. Therefore, Unfair Consumer Contract Terms legislation may or may not apply and it would appear that the WBBS are relying on affected borrowers not being able to raise sufficient funds to challenge this or litigate other points of contract law.
All comments via the main forums please.
David Morris MP commented “I’m extremely concerned about the fact that mortgage lenders are increasing the margin they make on tracker mortgages. This practise is damaging to the economy, immoral and may even be illegal. The Financial Conduct Authority must investigate this urgently.”
REQUEST FOR HELP!
I expect to be called to London to provide further briefings to both MPs and and the media and intend to use the campaign marketing fund to pay for my travel expenses, wining and dining key contacts and loss of *fee-earning time from other consultancy work, (*capped at a maximum of £500 per day). We need to top this fund up and I am highly reliant on your generosity for this as the people I will be meeting will not be too impressed if the lunch budget only extends to a McDonalds or a Subway! Please donate HERE.