How to find the right mortgage during these tricky times

THE Consumer Crew are here to solve your problems.

Mel Hunter will take on readers’ consumer issues, Jane Hamilton will give you the best advice for buying your dream home, and Judge Rinder will tackle your legal woes.

Jane Hamilton, property expert

AFTER the Government announced its stamp duty holiday last week, enquires to estate agents and property portals surged 14 per cent.

And with mortgage rates at record lows, homeowners are also flocking to remortgage, too.

But the current economic climate means it’s not always simple to get the best home loan deal.

Here mortgage expert Gurmeet Kler, from Oakmont Financial Services, reveals how to find the right mortgage during these tricky times.

  1. The best rates are only available to people with great credit records. Check yours before you apply. If it’s poor, wait a few months and take measures to improve it, such as paying bills on time and reducing your borrowing.
  2. How big is your deposit? The more you have saved up as a percentage of your property’s purchase value, the lower your loan rate will be. The cheapest deals are usually reserved for those with a 25 per cent deposit or more.
  3. Interest vs repayment? Interest-only repayments are smaller but you’ll still owe the money you borrowed – called the capital – at the end of the loan term. Repayment mortgages have larger monthly repayments but you’ll clear what you owe.
  4. Get organised before you apply. You’ll need paperwork to show your income and expenditure, including three months’ bank statements and pay slips, or three years’ filed accounts if you are self-employed.
    (Agree a “mortgage in principle” before you view properties. It shows how much you can borrow and shows sellers you are a serious buyer.
  5. New to buying or pushed for time? Consider using a mortgage broker who can search the whole market. They may find a better deal for you.

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Judge Rinder

Q: My partner left me in 2010 for another woman. Three years earlier we had taken out a mortgage together, but from the day he left he has not paid a penny towards it.

Since then I have paid more than £38,000 in mortgage payments. I brought up our daughter alone and he did not contribute to child maintenance. He told the CSA he had no money, which was a lie and I was going to take him to court, but after he put pressure on my daughter I agreed to drop the case.

Our daughter is now grown up and has left home. He has now sent me a solicitor’s letter demanding we sell our house and split the proceeds 50/50.

Can he do that when I have paid the mortgage on my own for ten years?

Barbara, Essex

A: It is extremely unfortunate that you didn’t sort this out as soon as your ex-partner left by getting him, for example, to agree that you would take on the mortgage in return for him waiving any right to the property.

It’s helpful that, by the sound of it, you were never married as the law does not start by assuming the house should be divided up between you equally.

However, because your ex is on the property deed and made some contribution to the mortgage prior to 2010, he may be entitled to a portion of the value of the house and could even force you to buy him out or sell it.

You should be given credit for the value of the mortgage payments you made without him (which would be significant).

Sadly, however, the court can’t take into account that your ex-partner did not pay child support. I would urge you in the strongest possible terms to get some legal advice.

It needn’t be expensive but your ex-partner needs to know that if he is going to come after your property after years of neglect, he will only be entitled to very little or possibly, nothing at all.

Q: I’ve been a member of a restaurant discount club for a number of years. In February I had an email saying my membership would be automatically renewed in April unless I contacted it.

With restaurants temporarily closed because of Covid I didn’t think I would get full benefit of the discounts this year so I phoned the number on the email to cancel. However, I got a recorded message saying due to present circumstances the office was temporarily closed, and I was advised to email instead. But when I emailed I got an automated reply saying emails were not being monitored.

Come April, I checked my credit card and the money had been taken. I wrote to the club after this but have not heard anything.

How can I get the money back?

Chris, London

A: You clearly indicated to the club that you did not wish to renew your membership and gave it a significant amount of notice so you are entitled to your money back.

If this firm is still in business you need to email it making clear that you expect a full refund within 28 days or you will be taking legal action.

You should also contact your credit card and explain what happened as it will sometimes refund you if you can prove you made clear to a club or subscription service that it no longer had legal authority to receive a payment from your card.

Q: I WAS made redundant from my job on June 1 and received a final payout from the company. But I’ve learned an agency worker is now doing the exact same role. Is this legal? I’ve appealed the decision.

Shaun, Newcastle

A: Your employer was only entitled to make you redundant for genuine reasons – or its decision is very likely to have been unlawful. You appear to have been informed that your job was no longer needed, only for the same role to be filled by an agency worker.

Your employer cannot do this. You might have a strong legal case against your employer in the event that it won’t rehire you.

In the meantime, you must deal with this very quickly, as there are time limits on bringing certain employment claims.

Contact your local branch of Citizens Advice as soon as possible. They can help you pursue this.

  • Got a question for Judge Rinder? Email [email protected]
  •  Judge Rinder regrets he cannot answer questions personally. Answers intended as general guidance, do not constitute legal advice and are not a substitute for obtaining independent legal advice.

Mel Hunter, Reader's champion

Q: I HAVE struggled to successfully apply for a credit card in the past few years. I’d assumed it was because I was self-employed and have barely had any credit cards previously.

Last year I looked into it and checked my credit report. It turns out I’ve supposedly been missing monthly payments to Carphone Warehouse since March 2017.

Over the past few months I’ve emailed, called and tried to contact the company via Facebook but have had no response.

I want this “missed payment” to stop appearing on my credit report but no one will talk to me.

Dawn Stobbart, Devizes, Wilts

A: Carphone Warehouse looked into this again and told me the issue is related to a phone contract taken out with Talkmobile, now part of Vodafone. The retailer asked Vodafone to sort it out.

Vodafone looked into it further and told you the poor credit rating was due to a measly £11 that was outstanding on the account – but you say you were never told about this.

You paid the £11 straight away and Vodafone agreed to update your credit file.
This was a relief but it shows how easily someone’s credit score can be damaged.

At least you spotted it. Everyone should keep an eye on their rating. It can affect whether you get a mortgage, credit card or loan. It can also affect the deal or interest rate you are offered, so a poor rating can end up costing you more.

You can get a free credit check at clearscore.com or a free 30-day trial with Experian.

Q: LAST November I used Booking.com to book two nights in a Holiday Inn for August this year for my niece’s wedding.

Due to coronavirus, the wedding has been cancelled until the same time next year.

I tried to rearrange the hotel stay, but Booking.com will not let me, saying I must pay the full amount even if I do not stay there this year. It seems so unfair.

Janet Cleverly, Newport, Gwent

A: The impact of the virus has affected people in so many ways.

I knew Booking.com was bound by the conditions of the accommodation provider.

But a quick check showed Holiday Inn was allowing bookings to be changed or cancelled for stays up to the end of August. This clearly applied in your case.

I got on to Booking. com who quickly sorted this out. It claims the problem arose because Holiday Inn had not updated its availability for next year.

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Booking.com said: “We are closely monitoring the Covid-19 situation worldwide, so we can help support those impacted in the best possible way.

“In this instance, the property had not yet updated their availability for August 2021, therefore the guest’s attempts to modify their trip using our self-service tools were unsuccessful.

“Having been made aware of this, our customer service team has worked with the property to modify the dates of this customer’s trip, keeping the same rates as originally booked.”

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