Friday, 17 October 2008

Be Careful Saving With Your Mortgage Lender

You'll be aware of recent concerns about how much of your deposits are covered by the UK's Financial Services Compensation Scheme.

Their general guidance on the subject is here, but there was a twist announced indirectly at a recent conference - hat tip to the Fool Blog:
  • if you have an offset mortgage - where the bank agrees to credit your savings against your mortgage balance and only charge interest on the difference (if any) - then if the bank goes under, your savings will simply be deducted from the mortgage balance, even if those savings exceed £50,000. So you won't actually have access to the money anymore (unless, perhaps, the mortgage is taken over by another bank on the same terms and you can draw down again, or you remortgage, which will cost you interest).
  • if you're an ordinary saver who just happens to have deposits with the same bank who has your mortgage, indications are that the FSCS will treat you the same as if you had an offset mortgage, although only £50,000 of your savings may be protected. Again, you could merely be treated as owing the bank less, and not actually get your savings paid back to you.
It does seem fair that the FSCS is able to offset deposits against mortgages or other loans in the event of bank insolvency, regardless of whether or not you agreed an offset mortgage. The higher deduction for offset mortgagors is also fair. Otherwise, people who've saved more than £50,000 and who were therefore able to take on a bigger mortgage than their income might have supported, could find themselves penalised. That would be inconsistent with the principles of recent mortgage regulation.

But this could be a disaster for anyone who's tried to set aside 3 to 6 months' net salary as "rainy day" money - as a buffer against unemployment, lengthy illness etc.

So, you should consider making sure that your rainy day money is not deposited with your mortgage lender. Worth checking with the FSCS before making the decision. Here are their contact details.
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