Planned changes to support for mortgage interest should be delayed, says insurer

View photos Plans to replace benefits paid to help people pay their mortgage interest with repayable loans should be delayed as many households c

Plans to replace benefits paid to help people pay their mortgage interest with repayable loans should be delayed as many households could face “real hardship”, a mutual insurer is urging.Royal London is urging the Government to delay planned changes to support for mortgage interest (SMI), which is paid to home owners in receipt of certain …

Plans to replace benefits paid to help people pay their mortgage interest with repayable loans should be delayed as many households could face “real hardship”, a mutual insurer is urging.

Royal London is urging the Government to delay planned changes to support for mortgage interest (SMI), which is paid to home owners in receipt of certain income-related benefits and covers the interest payments on mortgages and some home improvement loans.

SMI is currently paid as a benefit but this will end in April, when the system is replaced with a loan that is repayable after the property is sold, providing there is enough equity after the mortgage is paid off.

If there are insufficient funds after the mortgage is paid off, the loan is written off.

Royal London said the changes should be delayed until more information has been given to households about how they will be affected.

It said figures show that around 124,000 households currently receive regular benefit help with their mortgage interest payments, including around 57,000 pensioners.

Royal London said freedom of information (FOI) responses from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) showed as of January 22 only 6,850 households had signed up for the new loan scheme.

It said letters and information booklets started to be sent out from last July and these are to be followed up by telephone calls so recipients can ask questions. The process is still ongoing, Royal London said.

Helen Morrissey, personal finance specialist at Royal London, said: “If thousands of people fail to complete the process in time they could face real hardship and even potential repossession if they can no longer afford to meet their mortgage interest bills.

“The DWP should pause the implementation of this policy until it is confident that everyone has had full information about the changes and the time and support to make an informed decision.”

A Department for Work and Pensions spokesman said: “We are contacting all SMI claimants to explain the change and to signpost them to independent advice.

“This change provides a safety net to help people stay in their homes and avoid repossession.

“Over time, someone’s house is likely to increase in value, so it’s reasonable that anyone who has received financial help towards their mortgage should be asked to pay that back if there is available equity when the property is sold.”

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