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NU valuation sparks equity-release row

Broker bitter as IHT plans are scuppered after home value set much lower than previous estimates

Norwich Union is coming under attack from an IFA who claims that the company is damaging his clients’ inheritance tax planning pros- pects through undervaluing a clients property.

Strategic Financial Solutions adviser Henri Berest says a severe undervaluation for an elderly couple wanting to release equity is a “scandal” that highlights the dangers of equity release.

Berest says his clients’ luxury home in North London has previously been valued at between 950,000 and 1.5m but a Norwich Union survey has valued it at just 700,000.

The IFA has been unable to see the survey or contact the surveyor involved as NU claims that this would violate the Data Protection Act. The firm will not repeat the survey despite the protestations of the IFA and the surveyor is sticking by the original valuation.

Berest says: “This has led to my clients making a mat- erial financial loss. This is a major point as it totally affects the IHT planning. It also yet again sheds light on those spineless surveyors with a so-called chartered and professional status.

“As we have seen here, this surveyor was unable to provide a realistic value on the clients’ home.”

Norwich Union group product development manager Brendan Kearns says: “We would not normally recommend a second valuation on a property as this puts us in a difficult situation if the two valuations come back very different. We would have to take a view. But if there is an appeal we always challenge the surveyor to back up their valuation.”

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