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This week in Mortgages

So the investigation into the network four, as many have called them, is over, but the gossip is unlikely to die down just yet.

The Financial Services Authority has confirmed that its probe into the four networks that voluntarily agreed not to recruit any further ARs until they got their systems and controls in order is over and this it has reached a “satisfactory regulatory conclusion”.

But the problem is that we still do not know who the quartet are and it is unlikely the curiosity will die down just yet.

With the saga now over at least it means those ARs that were uncertain whether their network was one of the four, can rest a little easier in the knowledge that even if their network was part of the quartet, it now has its house in order.

The FSA has not said whether the four, which it will not name, have been allowed to recruit again, although the lack of enforcement action – something the FSA always makes public when taken – indicates that the problems have been resolved.

One obvious question many will ask is whether First4Brokers, which went into administration last month, is one of the four. Money Marketing has made several attempts to contact the administrator Moore Stephens but has unable to get in contact with the partner, who the company insists is the only
person able to disclose such information to the press.

With one investigation now over, so to is another less serious one. Scottish Widows was pulled up by the FSA for its KFI which stated it would decide where any claims money collected by a borrower from a buildings insurance policy would go.

The FSA ordered the lender to alter its stance so that it is up to borrowers what they do with the cash as if the person’s house was damaged beyond repair and the lender asked the customers to use the money to pay off their debt then they may not have anywhere to live.

The regulatory intervention has led to calls for Widows to be part of Safe Home Income Plans as it is currently the only major provider not to do so. Some believe that as Ship has strict criteria to join and vets policies with a fine tooth comb, it may have prevented this problem in the first place.

Widows says it is comfortable with its stance as an outsider at present but
it will be interesting to see how long it can maintain that stance if new players coming into the market join the body which may pile on more pressure for it to join the party.

Speaking of pressure, and the Hips market is another area where the heat has been on every since the Government¹s shock July announcement that home condition reports would be made voluntary.

This week, the Government pledged £4m to help the take-up of HCRs in November’s dry run, but it is still unlikely that HCRs will be a core part of Hips once the regime is underway next June given they are not compulsory.

The Government has also urged mortgage lenders to provide green mortgages to help save the environment. This call came as part of the Hips announcement and further re-affirms the Government’s complete change of strategy by promoting Hips an as energy-saving tool rather than as a means to aid the buying and selling process as was its sales pitch last year when recommending Hips to the market.

While many will scoff at the U-turn once more and laugh at the spin that would have Aussie cricketer and spin-king Shane Warne green with envy, the idea of a green mortgage in today¹s environmentally-conscious world is an interesting one. and an issue that is likely to be debated over the coming months.

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