New Rules in Equity Release Legal Procedures

The Equity Release Council is the “trade body” which regulates the Equity Release industry.  It is regulation with a small “r” since members of the council join voluntarily and adhere to rules and standards set by agreement rather than compulsion. Most lenders, financial advisors and solicitors active in the market are members.   The council have introduced new rules applicable to solicitors from 1st January 2014. These new rules require customers taking out an equity release plan to have a “face to face” meeting with the solicitor carrying out the legal work, and also to sign a “solicitor’s certificate” confirming certain issues have been brought to the customer’s attention during the legal process. Caesar and Howie are members of the Equity Release Council and are active in the ER market inScotland.  Partner, Carmen MacIver comments “It is interesting to see the voluntary development of “customer care” in this market.  I think it is sensible to have as much consumer protection as you can and this new rule just adds one further level of security for borrowers.  We do find borrowers are often very knowledgeable about the products and legal issues involved.  The average age of our clients is about 70 and usually they have done a fair bit of research and accessed good financial advice before they come to see us.  That is quite encouraging”   About a billion pounds was borrowed in 2013 throughout theUKin Equity Release plans.  David Borrowman, Senior Partner of Caesar and Howie believes this figure is set to increase.   “More and more people see ER as a valid and sensible use of capital tied up in their houses – particularly with pension returns being a disappointment for many.  But the key issue in my view is to take good advice in the first instance from a financial adviser qualified in Equity Release and to take your time in making a decision.   This should be a once in a lifetime decision not taken lightly or quickly.   There is good advice out there – folk considering this move should make sure they take it”.