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 Nridigital.com

Photo: Getty
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What's going on in Northern Ireland?

Everything you need to know about why Northern Ireland is heading for an early election - and how it all works. 

Northern Irish voters will elect a new government, just seven months after the last election. Here’s what you need to know.

It all starts with something called the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI), a scheme designed to encourage businesses to switch to renewable sources of heating, by paying them to do so. But the plan had two flaws. Firstly, there was no upper limit to how much you could receive under the scheme and secondly there was no requirement that the new heaters replace the old.

That led to businesses installing biomass boilers to heat rooms that had previously not been heated, including storage rooms and in some cases, empty sheds.

 The cost of the scheme has now run way over budget, and although the door has been closed to new entrants, existing participants in the scheme will continue collecting money for the next 20 years, with the expected bill for the Northern Irish assembly expected to reach £1bn.  

The row is politically contentious because Arlene Foster, leader of the Democratic Unionist Party, and the First Minister of Northern Ireland, was head of the Department for Enterprise, Trade and Investment (DETI) when the scheme was rolled out, putting her at the heart of the row. Though there is no suggestion that she personally enriched herself or her allies, there are questions about how DETI signed off the scheme without any safeguards and why it took so long for the testimony of whistleblowers to be acted on.

The opposition parties have called for a full inquiry and for Foster to step down while that inquiry takes place, something which she has refused to do. What happened instead is that the Deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness, resigned his post, he said as a result of frustration with the DUP’s instrangience about the scheme.

Under the rules of the devolved assembly (of which, more below), the executive – the ministers tasked with running the government day-to-day must be compromised of politicians drawn from the parties that finish first and second in the vote, otherwise the administration is dissolved.  McGuinesss’ Sinn Fein finished second and their refusal to continue participating in the executive while Foster remains in place automatically triggers fresh elections.

Northern Ireland uses the single transferable vote (STV) to elect members of the legislative assembly (MLAs). Under STV, multiple MLAs are elected from a single constituency, to more accurately reflect the votes of the people who live there and, crucially, to prevent a repeat of the pattern of devolved rule under first-past-the-post, when prolonged one-party rule by the Unionist and Protestant majority contributed to a sense of political alienation among the Catholic minority.

Elections are contested across 18 seats, with five MPs elected to every seat. To further ensure that no part of the community is unrepresented in the running of the devolved assembly, the executive, too, is put together with a form of proportional representation. Not only does the executive require a majority in the legislature to pass its business, under a system of “mandatory coalition”, posts on the executive are allocated under the D’Hondt system of proportional representation, with posts on the executive allocated according to how well parties do, with the first party getting first pick, and so on until it comes back to the first party until all the posts are filled.

Although the parties which finish third and lower can opt out of taking their seats on the executive and instead oppose the government, if the first and second party don’t participate in the coalition, there is no government.

As it is highly unlikely that the DUP and Sinn Fein will not occupy the first and second places when the election is over, it is equally unlikely that a second election will do anything other than prolong the chaos and disunity at Stormont. 

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