Equity Release Council launches Legal Forum to champion safeguards

The Equity Release Council (the Council) has launched a new Legal Forum to champion the unique role of legal advice in supporting customers in the later life lending sector.

The Forum will evolve and add to existing legal standards in the equity release sector, ensuring they remain fit for purpose to safeguard consumers’ interests. More broadly, members will be responsible for anticipating and highlighting emerging trends relating to legal processes in the equity release market.

The expert committee consists of representatives from several high-profile law firms within the Council’s membership including Equilaw, Ashfords, Boyd Legal, Enact, Goldsmith Williams, Adlington Law and Eversheds Sutherland. These firms represent both consumers and providers, ensuring the Forum has oversight of the entire legal advice process.

The Forum is chaired by Claire Barker, Managing Director of Equilaw and the first legal member to sit on the Council’s Main Board. She will report directly to the Board on all matters in the sector impacting the legal process.

As well as working to evolve the Council’s existing standards, the Forum will help to educate fellow legal professionals, financial advisers and funders on the critical role of legal advice in the sector.

Consumers seeking to unlock property wealth via Council members are guaranteed independent legal advice before taking out a plan: a unique protection in the later life market which serves a range of purposes, including assessing mental capacity, ensuring the plan has been explained and the customer is willing to proceed without experiencing duress from any source.

The last two years alone have seen the equity release product range grow by 142%, driven by existing and new providers offering a range of flexibilities¹.

David Burrowes, Chairman of the Equity Release Council, commented:

“The Legal Forum will provide unparalleled insight into the role of legal advice in the equity release process, which will only serve to strengthen the Council’s gold-standard consumer protections and safeguards.

“The Forum brings together representatives of major law firms who have industry-leading technical expertise. It will not only be crucial in helping evolve our standards but also in educating the wider industry about the role of legal advice in delivering good customer outcomes.”

Claire Barker, Chair of the Legal Forum and Managing Director of Equilaw, commented:

“The Forum will not only help to educate fellow legal professionals and other key stakeholders about the critical role of legal advice in the sector. It will also provide law firms with a chance to influence and shape the discussion around consumer protections in the market. The long-term trend towards accessing property wealth shows that later life lending is fast becoming a crucial pillar of retirement financial planning in the UK.

“Legal advice is a cornerstone of the customer journey and I welcome the opportunity to help to evolve industry standards and inform the market from a legal standpoint.”

Sources

1 Equity Release Council Spring 2021 Market Report, analysis of Moneyfacts product data

1 Comment

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    Claire Barker is to be congratulated for “Legal advice is a cornerstone of the customer journey and I welcome the opportunity to help to evolve industry standards and inform the market from a legal standpoint.”

    But when will someone address the need for such evolution in flat buying?

    Leases and leasehold management are too often seen by potential flat owners as toxic. Unless downsizers are assured by those in the home moving sector that their concerns are covered by the sector’s services they will prefer to extract their wealth through equity release without removing their presence from homes suitable for growing families. Housing “bedroom blockers” will become the equivalent of hospital “bed blockers” making chains difficult to complete.

    But conveyancers do not seem to understand the importance of long-term client assurance

    Three years ago I moved getting for the first time (and at my late wife’s insistence) a solicitor in to do the conveyancing. I chose one on the basis of the consumer friendliness of the firm’s website but actions did not match words.

    Copies of the latest rent and service charge demands were sent late in the day without pointing out that these were unenforceable for lack of tenant safeguarding information required by statute and that the issuer needed watching. Made me wonder what I was paying for.

    Keep up the good work. Equity release is improving its image. Conveyancing needs to follow suit

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