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Buy to let mortgage lenders get ready for possible new legal challenge

The Property 118 website - which last week won a notable victory in the Court of Appeal against a building society that unilaterally increased interest rates for some landlords - appears to be preparing for its next legal challenge.

It has Skipton and the Manchester building societies and the Bank of Ireland as possible targets. 

The Skipton issued a statement, quoted in some of the mortgage press over the weekend, saying: “We note that the recent decision of the Court of Appeal in the Alexander v West Bromwich Mortgage Company Ltd case was very fact specific to the offer letter and terms and conditions of business used by that society at the relevant time and is not of any wider application. Skipton remains firmly of the opinion that under the terms and conditions of its mortgage offer it lawfully had the right to remove the standard variable rate (SVR) ceiling that applied until 1 March 2010 to the majority of its borrowers with SVR-linked accounts. The decision, taken over six years ago, to exercise the society’s right to remove the SVR ceiling was permissible because of the exceptional circumstances provision in its mortgage offer.”

However, the Property 118 website now says it has sought numerous written opinions from counsel, with each “strongly of the opinion that each of the [three] mortgage lenders named above have been operating mortgage accounts in breach of contract, albeit for different reasons in each case.”

Around 6,500 landlords are likely to receive payments averaging £4,300 after the class action by some 400 landlords against the West Bromwich Building Society; the society was found guilty of breaking its own terms of contract with some 6,500 landlords, that it would levy an interest rate that tracked the Bank of England’s base rate.


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