NRAM, which took ownership of mortgages from the former lender Northern Rock, has confirmed that a number of mortgages have been sold to Heliodor, with the legal transfer due to complete on 11 November.
As a result, the mortgage prisoner group has now enlisted the services of law firm Harcus Parker for all mortgage prisoner-related issues.
Harcus Parker has written to members of the group to outline its concerns over the sale, as well as to Heliodor Mortgages and UKAR in order to request further information over how the affected borrowers will be treated.
In his letter to borrowers, Damon Parker of Harcus Parker notes that Heliodor is a trading name of Topaz Finance Limited, a business which “appears to be built around holding and administering former Northern Rock, Bradford & Bingley and Mortgage Express mortgages on behalf of other entities”.
Parker raises a number of concerns over the sale, including what discretion Heliodor will have to increase interest rates on these mortgages, as well as the disappearance of services provided by NRAM to help borrowers with their repayments or in finding a new mortgage.
He also emphasises that borrowers need certainty over the following:
- Who ultimately owns their mortgages?
- Whether the sale is subject to UKAR’s customer treatment conditions (and if so, what those conditions are)?
- Whether there are any contractual restrictions on Heliodor’s ability to increase the interest rates and other charges?
- Whether there is a contractual obligation on Heliodor to provide a certain level of customer service?
Profiting vulnerable unacceptable
In his letter to Heliodor, Parker highlights a host of concerns for borrowers, including the fact that they were only told about the sale after it happened, that there was little information available to them about the sale, and the fact that the Heliodor website is not even operational yet.
And in the letter to UKAR, Parker states that these borrowers cannot be blamed for taking out a mortgage with lenders that were ultimately nationalised.
He adds: “A company ultimately owned by the taxpayer should be expected to promote the highest standards of fairness and should not regard it as part of its remit to make excessive profits at the expense of a vulnerable section of the public.”
Buyers must protect borrowers
A spokesman for the Treasury acknowledged that being unable to change mortgage deals can be a “difficult and stressful situation” and noted that it had been working closely with the Financial Conduct Authority over removing barriers that prevent prisoners from switching.
The spokesman added: “When selling mortgage assets we engage fully with active lenders as part of the process and have always required bidders to agree to a full set of customer protections. This is before their bids are considered on price and other factors.”
A spokesman for UKAR said: “There are no changes to the terms and conditions of the loans as a result of this transfer and a key consideration of the transaction was the continued fair treatment of customers.
“A comprehensive package of customer treatment protections was included in the sale agreement to ensure customers receive the same protections for the life of their loan as they did under UKAR’s ownership.”