Five questions answered on the new mortgage rules

Will affect 1 million borrowers.

The FSA has announced they will be introducing a new set of rules for mortgage lending. We answer five questions on these new rules.

What is the basic gist of the new rules?

Borrowers must satisfy mortgage lenders they can repay the mortgage – mortgage lenders must in turn check these assurances. Those looking to borrow from an interest only mortgage must prove they are not relying on rising house prices alone to repay the home loan. There will be no age limit on taking out a mortgage. If you earn more than £300,000 or have more than £3 million in assets you will face a less stringent assessment. Borrowers trapped in old mortgage deals will be given some leeway to remortgage, despite these new laws.

Why are the FSA introducing these new rules?

To curb risky lending. The FSA want to encourage more responsible lending and borrowing in the mortgage market to avoid a repeat of risky lending that saw many homes on the brink of being reposed during the financial collapse.

When these new regulations come into action?

These new regulations will come into effect on the 26 April 2014. However, many of these practices are already being used by mortgage lenders.

What will this mean for people trying to get on the property ladder?

That it will be a longer, more thorough process getting a mortgage and self-certified mortgages – where the lender does not seek proof of income – will effectively be ruled out. This may make it harder for around 11.3 per cent of borrowers (1.3 million) and in particular self-employed workers to get a mortgage.

What have the FSA said?

Martin Wheatley, managing director of the FSA and CEO-designate of the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), said: “These new rules will help create a more sustainable market that works well for everyone, whether they are a borrower or a lender.

“We recognise that many lenders are now using a far more sensible set of lending criteria than before, but it is important that these common sense principles are hard-wired into the system to protect borrowers.

“We want borrowers to feel confident that poor practices of the past, which led to hardship and anxiety, are not repeated.  At the heart of the new measures is an affordability test to check borrowers can meet the repayments of the mortgage they want.

“To ensure the measures are effective but practical we spent a great deal of time discussing our proposals with consumers, firms, parliamentarians and numerous other stakeholders. I am therefore very confident that we have come up with a set of rules that are proportionate and sensible, and will create a more sustainable mortgage market where consumers are put at the heart of every decision.”

The FSA have announced new rules. Photograph: Getty Images

Heidi Vella is a features writer for

Photo: Getty
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Who'll win the Richmond Park by-election?

There are three known unknowns that will decide the contest. 

It’s official: Zac Goldsmith has resigned as the Conservative MP for his Richmond Park seat, and has triggered a by-election there, where he will stand as an independent candidate.

Will it be a two-way or a three-way race?

The big question is whether the contest will be a three way fight between him, the Liberal Democrat candidate Sarah Olney, and an official Conservative candidate, or if CCHQ will decide to write the thing off and not field a candidate, making it a two-horse race between Goldsmith and Olney.

There are several Tory MPs who are of the opinion that, given that latitude to disagree on Heathrow has been granted to two Cabinet ministers, Boris Johnson and Justine Greening, similar leeway should be extended to Goldsmith. It’s win-win for Downing Street not to contest it, partly because doing so would put anti-Heathrow MPs, including Johnson and Greening, in an impossible position. Theresa May isn’t averse to putting Johnson in a tricky spot, but Greening was an early supporter of her leadership bid, so her interests come fairly high up the prime ministerial radar.

But the second reason not to contest it is that Goldsmith’s chances of re-election will be put in a serious jeopardy if there is a Tory candidate in the race. Everything from the local elections in May or the Liberal mini-revival since Brexit indicates that in a three-way race, they will start as heavy favourites, and if a three-way race results in a Liberal Democrat win there will be bloodletting.

Although people are talking up Goldsmith’s personal vote, I can find little hard evidence that he has one worth writing home about. His performance in the wards of Richmond Park in the mayoral election was actually a bit worse than the overall Tory performance in London.  (Boris Johnson didn’t have a London seat so we cannot compare like-for-like, but Sadiq Khan did four points better in Tooting than he did across London and significantly outperformed his general election performance there.) He did get a big swing from Liberal to Conservative at the general election, but big swings from the Liberal candidate to the Tory were a general feature of the night, and I’m not wholly convinced, given his performance in Richmond Park in 2016, that it can be laid at Goldsmith’s door.

If he wins, it’ll be because he was the Conservative candidate, rather than through any particular affection for him personally.

But will being the Conservative candidate be enough?

Although on paper, he inherits a healthy majority. So did Robert Courts, the new MP for Witney, and he saw it fall by 19 points, with the Liberal Democrats storming from fourth to second place. Although Goldsmith could, just about, survive a fall of that magnitude, there are reasons to believe it may be worse in Richmond Park than Witney.

The first is that we already know, not just from Witney but from local council by-elections, that the Liberal Democrats can hurt the Conservatives in affluent areas that backed a Remain vote. But in Witney, they barely squeezed the Labour vote, which went down by just over two points, or the Green vote, which went down by just under two points. If in Richmond Park, they can both damage the Tory vote thanks to Brexit and squeeze Labour and the Greens, they will win.

Goldsmith's dog-whistle campaign for the London mayoralty will particularly help squeeze the Labour vote, and thanks to Witney, the Liberal Democrats have a ready-made squeeze message. (In Witney, Green and Labour votes would have been more than enough to elect Liz Leffman, the Liberal candidate.)

But their good performance in Witney and Goldsmith's mayoral result may not be enough on their own.  Ultimately, the contest will come down to the big question that will decide not just the outcome in Richmond Park but the future of the Liberal Democrats.

Have the voters forgiven the Liberal Democrats for going into coalition?

We know that Brexit can help the Liberal Democrats at the direct expense of the Conservatives. What we don’t know is if Brexit is enough to convince 6,000 Labour voters in Bath to vote tactically to get Ben Howlett out in exchange for a Lib Dem, or for 7,500 Labour voters to back a Liberal candidate in Hazel Grove to defeat William Wragg.

One of the reasons why the Liberal Democrats lost votes directly to the Tories in 2015 was fear: of uncertainty and chaos under an Ed Miliband government propped up by the SNP. That factor is less live in a by-election but has been further weakened due to the fact that Brexit – at least as far as Remain-backing Conservatives are concerned – has brought just as much uncertainty and chaos as Miliband and the SNP ever would have.

But the other reason was disgust at the Liberal Democrats for going into coalition with the Conservatives. If they can’t win over enough votes from the parties of the left, we’ll know that the party still has a way to come before we can truly speak of a Liberal revival. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.