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Equity Release Council enables remote advice due to COVID-19

Equity release customers can temporarily receive advice remotely following a change of rules from industry body the Equity Release Council.

Following the rule change there are multiple mandatory contact points between the solicitor and customer before committing to take out an equity release plan.

It involves a combination of written advice and documented video or telephone calls.

During this period, the mandatory physical witnessing of a client’s signature on the mortgage deed can be carried out by an independent adult witness of the client’s choosing, who will also be subject to identity checks and due diligence.

David Burrowes, chairman of the Equity Release Council, said: “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. The Council will keep this modification under close review until it ceases, when the government ends its ‘stay at home’ requirement.

“The process has also reaffirmed the value of the ‘gold standard’ face-to-face requirement for independent legal advice which is retained to use if and when Government guidelines allow.

“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.”

The Equity Release Council said this rule change would expire as soon as the government ends the requirement for people to stay at home.