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Halifax underwriters should put more starch in their shirts

From Chris Stanfield

I have to agree with previous comments on these pages regarding Halifax’s poor service and its amazing invisible lending criteria.

In some cases its performance and treatment of applicants and intermediaries is appalling.

I submitted an excellent case for a 90% purchase on July 19. I supplied every document stated in the lending criteria including salary slips and P60s relating to the customer’s full-time and part-time jobs. The case was referred to a business consultant. More than three weeks later, Halifax decided to originate full employers’ references. The income more than satisfied normal multiples. Each time information or documentation was returned, Halifax took at least a week to get this onto its system and then a further 48 hours for assessment by a business consultant. This was true even for urgent faxes. Upon receipt of satisfactory references, the case was referred to a consultant who discovered that the applicant has an existing buy-to-let mortgage. Shame nobody picked this up in the application as we enclosed a copy of the mortgage statement with the application.

I was then requested to confirm that the applicant can manage both jobs and that the position is sustainable. You can see from the application that the applicant has held the second job for more than 18 months, but nevertheless I obtained this. Next was a request to supply up-to-date proof of mortgage payments (by now more than six weeks had passed) and rental income. Next we were requested to supply a copy of the assured shorthold tenancy. Then the online bank statements supplied were unacceptable (despite a logo on them) so it was off to join the long queue at the bank for duplicates. And ironically, Halifax is one of the banks most keenly encouraging customers to go paperless.

At the time of writing, a decision has yet to be made on this application – more than 10 weeks after the online application. The valuation fee was of course taken on day one.

I continue to apologise to the customer who has supplied all required items immediately upon request.

As an underwriter in a previous life, my advice to Halifax underwriters is put more starch in your shirts and don’t be afraid to say no. This would be preferable to the present system. I could have gone elsewhere more than eight weeks ago and would have a happy customer and estate agent by now. An intermediary’s reputation is easily scarred by such poor underwriting skills and dismal service.

A lender should provide a definitive list of requirements upon receipt of an application, certainly before swallowing an applicant’s valuation fee.

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