Equity Release Council modifies advice rules

The Equity Release Council has published a temporary modification to its requirement for equity release customers to receive legal advice in a face-to-face setting during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Council suggested the change involves a new process designed with input from across the sector that will enable legal advice to be provided remotely and without a physical face-to-face meeting during the ongoing situation with Covid-19.

The agreed approach will ensures several mandatory contact points between the solicitor and customer before committing to take out an equity release plan, according to the Council, which indicated the approach involves a combination of written advice and documented video or telephone calls – increasing the total number of interactions between customers and legal advisers as a result.

As a temporary measure, the Council also suggested it would enable independent legal advisers to continue fulfilling their key duties to consumers who are considering the option of equity release.

The revision can only be used while the Government has directed the public to stay at home to contain the spread of Covid-19, but the Council added that its aim is to return to the full face-to-face legal process with immediate effect, once the restrictions on movement have been lifted.

Equity Release Council chairman, David Burrowes, commented: “These are unprecedented times and the Council is pleased to have secured industry support for a solution that ensures consumers can continue to access quality, independent legal advice when considering whether to release equity from their homes.

“The new measures have been designed with input from expert solicitors who provide legal advice on equity release transaction across the UK. It is designed to support large and small solicitors to advise safely on equity release at this time.

“This unique and temporary solution is the result of collaboration and sharing of legal expertise among Council members in challenging circumstances, to ensure consumers’ interests remain protected.

“Property wealth plays an increasingly important role in later life planning, and these measures to maintain access to equity release legal advice for older consumers will continue to ensure it is chosen for the right reasons, as part of a carefully considered process that looks at both short- and long-term needs.”

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