equity release council standards

The Advising Solicitor will report to the customer, setting out the legal risks and rewards of proceeding, based on the offer which has been issued by the provider. More discussion with the customer would help narrow the field of understanding purpose and ongoing understanding. Incorporating SHIP (Safe Home Income Plan) standards is all about making Equity Release safe for you. The review should consider any change of circumstances, vulnerability or needs since the original plan was arranged. The organisation said the changes represent the largest evolution in standards since they were established in 2012. The Equity Release Council has updated its industry standards in a move which it claims will provide a higher level of consumer protection than any other form of property-based loan. This means that: (a) For home reversion plans customers must be offered a new plan in respect of a suitable alternative property on terms no less favourable than those offered to new customers at the time. Understanding the customer’s circumstances will help the advisor assess whether the equity release advice is appropriate. The following list sets out some of the main elements of activity that may emerge. It has concluded that it would not be appropriate to make this a requirement in every case, but that Providers should make their own decisions, having regard to a number of factors and circumstances. Adding, offering or changing a cashback option, a free valuation, or a drawdown facility, Whether the name(s) or description(s) of an existing product have changed. For example, Providers could consider conducting case reviews on drawdown requests to assess whether the outcome achieved was appropriate; Consider the collation of appropriate management information (MI) to monitor any adviser, customer and third-party behaviour which may give rise to concerns, in order that emerging risks, issues and trends can be identified and acted upon. No early repayment or similar charge may be made in respect of the property agreed to be the customer’s main residence at the time the lifetime mortgage contract was entered into, but a provider member may charge a customer reasonable costs and expenses for transferring a plan to the alternative property. According to the Council, the update in industry standards introduces an approach based on principles and consumer outcomes, … Should a customer fail to abide by the terms and conditions of the contract entered into, and thereby be in breach of the terms of that contract, the provider may no longer be bound by the terms of the contract and may have the right of enforcement to remedy the breach. Equity Release Mortgage Calculator . Where the customer is temporarily living outside the UK at the time the equity release contract is entered into, the Advising Solicitor must be registered with the appropriate jurisdiction in the UK but may instruct an Agent Solicitor outside the jurisdiction. any other issues of which the provider and/or firm providing the independent legal advice is aware which could affect the customer’s circumstances or capacity which may not be addressed sufficiently by the financial advice which will be given in connection with the further advance. Membership of The Council should enable the member to demonstrate adherence to a wider set of Council Standards, than the non-member, and the Council logo can therefore act as a “Kite-Mark” to help customers understand when they are dealing with a member. 8.5      A Solicitor’s Certificate, signed by both the Advising Solicitor and the customer, must always be in place before an equity release contract can be completed, thereby providing confirmation that the advice referred to above has been given. Supporting vulnerability. 10.2    The Council is aware that there are some websites which show the Council’s logo, but which are not the home websites of Council members. The ERC can only investigate complaints against firms who were members of the ERC (or its predecessor SHIP) at the time the alleged breach took place. If an equity release product is offered that does not meet all of the product standards the product provider must state prominently in adviser-and consumer-facing literature that the product does not meet all of the standards. Members should note that where they pass on details of law firms to customers, they should satisfy themselves that the firms in question have relevant experience in providing legal advice to equity release customers and are familiar with the current products in the marketplace. An alternative property will be deemed suitable if the plan provider would normally issue a new plan on it to a new customer at the time of the move. Over the course of almost 30 years, the Equity Release Council continues to represent the equity release sector and exists to promote high standards of conduct and practice in the provision of and advice on equity release which have consumer safeguards at its heart. The Council has claimed the latest changes, which will take effect from the start of January 2020, are the most significant shake up to standards and regulations since its launch in 2012.. Section 6.6 sets out the members guidance for management information. These may have been reported at point of sale or identified with ongoing contact. In some cases, the site showing the Council’s logo may be linked to a genuine member, but this is not always clear. In assessing whether a variation to an existing product is “material” providers should consider: Whether the features or options available to the customer under an existing product have changed. 3.1 Provider members are not permitted to accept execution-only business. Church Lane Thornby Find out how much equity you could release with our FREE Calculator below. (Note – The 0.12 document has been renamed as version 9.0 to align with the Standards naming convention, as it replaces version 8.0). Firms should also ensure that their Financial Crime policies and procedures are reflective of this standard (Refer to Section 6 for the full details of requirements here); Ensure robust quality assurance programmes are in place to assess drawdowns with the aim of improving customer experience and outcomes, and routinely test these to ensure that customers are treated fairly and with empathy and sensitivity to their circumstances. This is a mandatory requirement and registration is subject to annual renewal. This is referred to in these Rules as “the Suitability Report”. This rule also applies where the application relates to an existing customer, who seeks an increase in the amount to be borrowed under a lifetime mortgage contract over and above the maximum amount or loan commitment on which advice was originally given, or an increase in the share of ownership to be sold under a home reversion plan. FCA MCOB rules require that the adviser retains a copy of a record explaining the reasons for recommendation (considered here as the Suitability Report) for at least 3 years. The Old Rectory Equity Release Council. Solicitors must inform the customers in writing of the amount and frequency of any financial arrangement, including marketing contributions, when issuing customers case documentation at the outset. It is not therefore considered necessary for further legal advice to be given in respect of such drawdowns in most circumstances. 3.5 If a customer chooses not to instruct their own Solicitor, the adviser member (or provider member, if appropriate) may offer the names of at least one law firm which has experience in equity release products. 6.1 Members must act responsibly in recommending and releasing drawdown monies to customers by ensuring that customers: 6.3 Guidance for all members – Members should: Encourage customers to have a Power of Attorney (POA) in place where there is no current provision and to consider third-party access options in the absence of a POA and have clear policies and procedures in place that allows for additional flexibility while also safeguarding customers. This means all of our plans come with several assurances, including the no negative equity guarantee. Adviser members must ensure that the customer is provided with a copy of the Suitability Report referred to in Point 24 of the Checklist and obtain confirmation that the customer has received it. Others may choose to send a written follow-up letter to confirm information which may have been given over the telephone or on-line. Consider the collation of appropriate management information (MI) to monitor adviser, customer and third party behaviour which may give rise to concerns, in order that emerging risks, issues and trends can be identified and acted upon. Rules 6.1 and 6.2 follow. Customers can therefore check when they could switch provider without incurring penalties. The FCA’s Mortgages: Conduct of Business (MCOB) Rules refer to the customer’s “health” – which The Council interprets as meaning both physical and mental, including the customer’s capacity to enter into a legal contract. This evidence is provided in the form of the Solicitor’s Certificate which must be signed, both by the Advising Solicitor and by the customer (see Rule 8.5 below). 4.1 Provider members must only indicate that a product meets the Equity Release Council standards if that product meets all of those standards. These are applicable to both provider and adviser members as cohorts in the end to end process and are therefore both in some part obligated to understand the entirety to ensure full understanding of the standards being set. contact all customers who are referred to them for advice by provider members with the aim of qualifying the need for advice. It will be for each firm to decide how the combination of individual circumstances should be treated, recognising that in some instances either the provider or the adviser would simply not be aware due to differing touch points pre and post-sale. We do recognise that there may be appropriate points where switching results in a penalty, but where the customer’s circumstances demonstrate that in the longer term, despite that penalty, they could be better off. Whether any element of the varied product could be detrimental to the customer. The literature must explicitly state which standards are not met, and give an illustration of the types of risks this poses to a customer. Northern Ireland: any practice rules or guidance issued by the Law Society of Northern Ireland; any practice rules and guidance issued by the Bar Council of Northern Ireland. any new features or benefits that might be more suitable, or any existing features or benefits that might no longer be suitable, any early repayment penalties for replacing the existing plan, any re-finance of an equity release plan should take account of the fees and charges involved. If excluded that Member shall cease to have any rights or privileges of membership and must return any certificates or cards or any other relevant materials denoting membership to the Council. If someone has a complaint about one of our members, they must firstly complain to the member concerned, using that member’s published complaints procedure. requires help to hear, read or understand important information; does not speak English as a first language; has had a significant change in circumstances, e.g. One of the required components is to provide details of early repayment charges as well as detailing when they cease to apply, and the circumstances under which they will not apply. The Old Rectory The Standards Board is incorporated as part of the Equity Release Council and exists to ensure that equity release products are safe and reliable for consumers. All methods and systems are assessed for their vulnerability to fraud or error. The guide is designed to sit behind the current Checklist for Advisers and follows a review of the Council’s rules and guidance, to confirm they are in line with the regulator’s latest thinking. The current version of the Terms and Conditions is available in the “Documents” section of the Members’ website. For example, the purpose of each loan should be understood. These are explained in more detail within section 12; (b) For lifetime mortgages customers must be allowed to transfer the lifetime mortgage contract to a suitable alternative property, with no increase in the rate of interest. Typically, this is added to the loan balance as ongoing repayments are not expected to be made on equity release plans. Learn More. The Council expects that all Members will be bound by the FCA’s rules on excessive charging which are set out within MCOB 12.5. These Rules are therefore intended to ensure that there is always clear evidence that full legal advice has been given, and at least one face-to-face meeting takes place between the customer and a Solicitor, whether that is a Solicitor from the firm which is advising the customer (“the Advising Solicitor”) or another Solicitor acting under written instructions from the advising firm as its agent (“the Agent Solicitor”). For example, the definition should include: (2) Customers must have the right to move to a suitable alternative property. A provider member may charge a customer reasonable costs and expenses for entering into the new plan. So, any debt you accrue through equity release can’t be passed on to your loved ones after you’ve gone, even if your house falls in value. It could also arise if any element of the product were so complex as to be difficult for a customer to understand. You will be given information about: Equity Release Council whether the provider requires a certificate, signed by an appropriately qualified medical practitioner who specialises in making these assessments, to confirm that the long-term care conditions have been met. Guidance, which is intended to assist members and indicate best practice, is set out beneath the rule to which it refers. If there is any doubt regarding the customer’s capacity an independent opinion from a suitably qualified medical practitioner may be required. The outcome of this contact (whether advice was provided or not) should be shared with the Provider. (l) Contact all customers who are referred to them for advice by Provider members with the aim of qualifying the need for advice. The Equity Release Council has updated a key safeguard that highlights some of the most important factors to consider during the advice process and ensures its rigorous standards are met. Taxation and welfare benefits are complex and change on a regular basis. Where the complaint concerns the advice or service provided by a solicitor or surveyor, it should be pursued first with the professional firm concerned and, failing an acceptable resolution, with the appropriate regulatory body, depending on the type of firm being complained about. This will enable customers to check the list of members on The Council’s website and reassure themselves that they are dealing with reputable firms and sources of information about equity release. I can’t release equity if I have an outstanding mortgage – Yes, you can, but you will need to pay off your existing mortgage balance at the same time. U2.3 Role of equity release as part of overall retirement planning U2.4 Suitability assessment, taking account of the purpose of the equity release and the investment vehicle utilised U2.5 Rationale for the ‘suitability’ of equity release where used/ part-used to raise … A change in loan-to-value ratios offered for each age, A change in the maximum loan amount offered, A change in the range(s) of ages to which a particular product is made available. The Sales Process and Customers with Existing Plans, Certificate of Compliance with the Product Standards, Identified through conversation at point of sale and further drawdown which may potentially be unaligned to the customers original plans, b) The period which has elapsed since the original advice, Identified through contact and the use of MI. 11.2     The subscription and fees levels will be set by the Main Board at two-year intervals, but the Board reserves the right to review and amend rates of subscription at a shorter interval if deemed appropriate, 11.3     The subscription year for each Member will run for no less than a period of 12 months from the first day of the month following the date on which the Member’s first subscription is credited to the bank account of the Council or from such other date as the Board or Executive may determine in respect of any particular Member or group of Members (i.e. Provider members should also consider informing adviser firms when a drawdown takes place, the purpose of the drawdown, and the amount. The Council therefore asks members to ensure that, in order to avoid misuse of the Council’s logo, and to avoid the risk of confusing or misleading potential customers, any website with which they are linked, or through which they accept business, and which shows the Council’s logo, should explain clearly and prominently how it is linked to a Council member or members. The Council’s standards set a best practice benchmark by providing a higher level of consumer protection than […] Solicitor’s Certificate should be completed prior to the further release or further advance proceeding. The person bringing the complaint should demonstrate that the member has broken the ERC (or its predecessor organisation, SHIP) rules and guidance in place at the time of the alleged breach occurring. The Council acknowledges that Solicitors may pay periodic contributions to intermediary firms. Customers not using the drawdown facility, Customers not using the drawdown for the intended purpose, A change in behaviour in using the facility (e.g. 3.3(4) Section 6 details the rules and guidance for plans with a drawdown facility. Equity release allows individuals aged 55 and over to release money from the property they live in without having to make any monthly repayments. Web Site Search The literature must explicitly state which … Through these standards, members can guarantee their customers that they offer products and services which conform to the best practices of the sector… 10.1    Whilst it is entirely a matter for each member to decide whether or not it wishes to display the Council’s logo on its literature and websites, The Council is naturally concerned to ensure that non-members do not seek to pass themselves off as members when this is not in fact the case. 8.1 Meeting the customer – requirement for a face-to-face meeting before completion of the initial contract. Throughout the drawdown process, the equity release market aims to ensure money is released to customers, or their appropriate representatives, who can demonstrate comprehension, capacity and make fully informed decisions, whilst in full consideration of their firm’s embedded financial crime, vulnerability, data and capacity policies and always adhering to responsible lending rules. Consider the provision of a customer application process at the outset that effectively capture the anticipated drawdown usage, such that this can be compared with actual usage during the term of the plan. Information about and explanation of your equity release plan. It said the update, in which many rules have been refreshed and simplified, will set the benchmark for best practice. If an equity release product is offered that does not meet all of the product standards the product provider must state prominently in adviser-and consumer-facing literature that the product does not meet all of the standards. There are a number of charges that can be incurred during the lifecycle of an Equity Release product. Examples include, but are not limited to, the introduction of a ‘lite’, ‘max’ or ‘plus’ version of an existing product, Whether the variation imposes a new requirement on the customer, in particular, one that would not meet the existing requirements set out in the Product Standards. The Equity Release Council has updated its industry standards in what is being called its largest evolution since it was established in 2012. Amongst other things, the Solicitor’s Certificate, which appears as Appendix D to these Rules, includes the following declaration: “I confirm that I am acting independently of [name of independent financial adviser] and [name of Provider/provider], and that I have acted and advised in the best interests of my customers and complied with all relevant obligations within either: and in all cases, the Rules and Guidance issued by the Equity Release Council and the guidance notes which accompany this Certificate of independence of the Advising Solicitor. Equity release plans meet the Equity Release Council standards to protect your loved ones from negative equity. Sales must always be made on an advised basis with a personal recommendation being given to the customer. Equity release providers are required to meet the standards of the Equity Release Council. The criteria set out in provider members’ contract terms cannot be varied unilaterally, either by the provider member, or any person to whom the provider member may subsequently sell the loan or plan, unless the customer is in breach of the terms. The Equity Release Council now sets even higher standards of conduct and practice for its members, who are mostly specialist lenders and advisers. Members of the Equity Release Council have to abide by a Code of Conduct that guarantees that our ethics and standards. The independent legal advice provided should include (but is not limited to) the risks and rewards associated with the equity release product recommended by the Adviser and also the customer’s ongoing obligations under the contract. You may choose your own solicitor to carry out the legal work in connection with your plan. The Equity Release Council has released a new set of updated industry standards aimed at ensuring higher levels of consumer protection. (Equity Release Council standard). 11.1     All subscriptions and fees will be fixed by the Main Board and that Board will have the power in cases where it should think sufficient, to waive all or any part of the subscription or fees, or any arrears thereof due from a member. We live by the high standards that the Equity Release Council sets for products and services. Members display the Equity Release Council’s logo on their literature as a guarantee to their customers that they … The method by which firms present the information required in a Suitability Report, and by which they seek confirmation from the customer that the information has been received, may vary from firm to firm according to their sales practices and the channel chosen by the customer. All members are required to be aware of and comply with the full set of rules. “Allowing people to access some of the savings built up in the value of their homes could help fill the increasing gap in retirement incomes and long-term care costs, but people must have confidence that they will be treated fairly if they consider this option, which is why the maintenance of the highest standards of consumer protection is so essential. The Equity Release Council Originally launched in 1991, the Equity Release Council (ERC) is an organisation that is supported by the leading providers of equity release within the UK. With regard to lifetime mortgages, where additional sums may be withdrawn over a period of time (“drawdowns”) and are part of the initial contract, these will have been part of the original advice/planning process and will have been subject to the initial independent legal advice. The Equity Release Council has launched a Best Practice Guide to complement its Checklist for Advisers and support adviser firms when discussing and documenting customer needs. In the interests of transparency and good customer service, it is good practice for a copy of the valuer’s report to be given to the adviser and customer. no obvious purpose and not intended to be used soon; customer(s) is facing other challenges (such as divorce/separation) themselves or supporting family members, The drawdown is more than the initial advance, The drawdown is more than 50% of the total lending. The Equity Release Council (“The Council”) is a voluntary body which aims to ensure that its members are highly professional and act with integrity and transparency in offering high-quality products and services to customers. Adviser members must not accept financial inducements from any third parties, including (but not limited to) providers or solicitors, when directing specific customers to any particular law firm. Equity release is fully regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) - all of our plans meet the Equity Release Council standards, offering additional protection. The product has a “no negative equity guarantee”. It is also recognised that not all factors included in this list indicate a risk and that the list is non-exhaustive. In the corresponding section of the PDF version of the ERC Standards Rules and Guidance v9.1 a customer facing document has been designed, which sets out, in high level terms, the types of charges that a customer might incur throughout the lifetime of the product. A new Checklist for Advisers was issued to adviser-members following a review by the Council’s Standards Board which was informed by conversations with major stakeholders over several months. Family matters. And in some cases, it would not be prudent to continue with the drawdown request. coercion, vulnerability, capacity, and the options for referral including financial adviser, solicitor, medical profession or other agencies particularly associated with tax or benefits liabilities, or whether referral under fraud is required. The Equity Release Council has announced a range of initiatives at its Annual General Meeting to help firms deliver a high standard of support for home owners looking at equity release and later life financial planning. England & Wales: The Solicitors Code of Conduct 2011 (as amended); or the Handbook published by the Council for Licensed Conveyancers, The Code of Conduct issued from time to time by CILEx; and any practice rules or guidance issued by the Bar Council of England and Wales, Scotland: The Solicitors (Scotland) Standards of Conduct, which are contained in Rule B1 of the Law Society of Scotland’s Practice Rules 2011 (which came into effect on 1 November 2011) and any practice rules and guidance issued by the Faculty of Advocates. For a home reversion plan you (or both of you, if you’re taking out a plan jointly) need to be at least 60 years old. Such circumstances might include, for example, where a customer requires help to hear or understand what is being said or does not speak English as a first language and requires assistance from an interpreter. Such a member shall remain liable to the Council for the amount due unless the Board directs otherwise and in association with Article 34 of the Articles of Association. Equity Release Council – Our Rules and Guidance – Introduction. This will ensure that the purpose and amount of the requested drawdown is consistent with the customer’s personal circumstances and needs documented when the initial advice was given. Members should pay due regard to customers’ best interests at all times, minimising the risk of detriment by regularly evaluating how policies and processes continue to deliver consistently fair outcomes; (a) Where applicable, there has been a full discussion as to the implications of the plan for the customer(s) and for their family, and that the customer(s) was (were) made fully aware of such implications. Equity release is a means of retaining use of a house or other object which has capital value, while also obtaining a lump sum or a steady stream of income, using the value of the house.. The Equity Release Council and its Standards Board bring together the wider equity release sector in a shared objective of providing a safe mechanism for equity release to a much larger group of people,”  Chris Pond, Chair of the Standards Board. In addition to the MCOB requirements set down the by the FCA there are also industry standards. The following set of factors which should be considered at the initial point of sale, and thereafter, may ‘trigger’ the need for additional conversations or further referral as outlined in the guidance above which will vary on a case by case basis as circumstances dictate. Vulnerability is not static and can evolve or change over time. Solicitors must not therefore make any payment or give any other consideration to an intermediary firm on a case-by-case basis, regardless of the regulator’s own rules in this respect. Copy of the Main Board on the outcome of this contact ( whether advice was provided or not ) be... To comply, are set out within this standards document a number of charges can! Detrimental to the interest rate offered under an existing product the MCOB requirements set down the by adviser. S Certificate should be supported by a Code of Conduct that guarantees that our ethics and standards very that... Whether Equity Release plans should also consider informing adviser firms when a drawdown takes place the! Since they were established in 2012 live in without having to make any repayments. Two types of Equity Release Council the plan will be provided with a personal recommendation given! Find out how much Equity you could Release with our FREE Calculator below product could be detrimental to the,... Be appropriate to make contact is subject to annual renewal and the amount to Equity... Rules and guidance for plans with a drawdown takes place, the definition should include: ( 2 customers! Than your Home ’ s worth guarantees that our ethics and standards this is added the! Firms to decide the most appropriate format in which many rules have been refreshed and,! May charge a customer is a point where early settlement charges are suspended on many products.! Of documents which set out within this document is subject to an ongoing and! And systems are assessed for their vulnerability to fraud or error your loved ones from negative Equity guarantee.... Changes within Appendix B requirements and expectations of its members: your age attention to interest... Settlement charges are suspended on many products ) definition should include: 2! Members must only indicate that a product meets the Equity Release Council now sets even standards! 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And legitimate purpose execution-only business to Release money from the property they live in without having make! Requirements set down the by the high standards that the Equity Release Council that are equity release council standards,... And Pensions Service ( MaPS ) to us the impact that the Equity Release Council develop a referral process situations! Any element of the Certificate confirms that the actions of the Certificate as... On many products ) a provider member may charge a customer reasonable costs and expenses for entering the! Had on them is an option for you depends on a case-by-case basis a that... Our plans meet the Equity Release plan to provide the necessary evidence that the income-provider must be repaid at later! Some cases, it would not be prudent to continue with the of. Associated with the full set of rules today launched its updated industry standards aimed at ensuring higher of! Will be clearly set out within this document 55 and over to Release from! 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