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Large lenders ignore mortgage support scheme

The government’s Homeowner Mortgage Support Scheme received a lukewarm reception when it launched last week, with the noticeable absence of some large lenders.

The scheme allows eligible borrowers suffering a temporary loss of income to defer their mortgage interest payments for up to two years.

To qualify borrowers must have bought their home before December 1 2008, be owner-occupiers, have an outstanding mortgage of less than £400,000 and savings of less than £16,000.

They should also have a regular household income and be able to make a minimum contribution of 30% of the total interest payment.

Borrowers will need to have kept up regular mortgage payments for at least five months and sought independent money advice.

Major high street lenders that have signed up to the scheme include Lloyds Banking Group, Northern Rock, the Royal Bank of Scotland and Bradford & Bingley. Other len-ders participating include the National Australia Bank group – parent of Clydesdale Bank and Yorkshire Bank – and Cumberland.

But Barclays, HSBC, Nationwide, and Santander – under its two UK brands Abbey and Alliance & Leicester – have not signed up to the scheme but insist they will offer borrowers similar alternatives.

Industry sources say most lenders have been put off by the red tape that goes with the government scheme.

One source says: “The consensus is that apart from the government-backed lenders, no big lender has signed up to the scheme and that’s probably down to the fact that it comes with a big administrative burden and most of them already have a system in place.”

A spokesman for Abbey says it supports the principle of the initiative but that it has developed an effective and pragmatic programme to help mortgage customers experiencing financial problems.

He says: “Abbey offers similar levels of forbearance to those offered under the Homeowner Mortgage Support Scheme.

“Our proactive and individualised approach provides the best and most expedient solution for our clients. On this basis, our participation in the government’s scheme would be limited.”

Peter Williams, executive director of the Intermediary Mortgage Lenders Association, says: “There is a complex set of requirements and many borrowers won’t be eligible or it may not be suitable for them.

“It is unlikely to be an all-purpose panacea for struggling home owners but the fact remains that lenders are already providing support to help people stay in their homes.”

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