ASIC kept in the dark on scrapping responsible lending rules

ASIC kept in the dark on scrapping responsible lending rules

Financial regulators weren’t asked for their assessment on the scrapping of responsible lending laws before the government’s surprise announcement, according to testimony, leaving the head of a leading regulator to learn about the controversial decision in media reports.

Commissioners from ASIC and APRA were questioned about the scrapping of responsible lending laws before a parliamentary committee last week, where they revealed they were given little-to-no notice and were not asked for their views on the decision.

“When was ASIC first informed of the government's intention to scrap responsible lending obligations?,” Dr Andrew Leigh asked, shadow treasurer for Labor.

“I'm the commissioner with responsibility for credit,” Sean Hughes replied, commissioner at ASIC, “and I was first advised when I read the Treasurer's media statement through the media on the morning of 25 September.”

“That's extraordinary,” Dr Leigh replied. “So you got no heads-up ... You weren't asked to provide any advice.”

ASIC is responsible for making sure lenders fulfil their responsible lending obligations (RLO), laws introduced after the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) that require them to verify a person can afford to repay the debt they’re being sold.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg announced the consumer protections would be reformed in a media release and an op-ed published in The Australian on September 25.

Surprise testimony

Mr Hughes was prompted to answer the question after ASIC’s chair, James Shipton, announced he was stepping aside following an investigation into the claiming of relocation costs totalling $118,000.

“I'm speaking on my own behalf as the responsible commissioner for this area,” Mr Hughes said. “I don't know whether there were communications between the Treasurer and his office and Mr Shipton.”

ASIC did not respond to questions clarifying if Mr Shipton was consulted on the decision to scrap responsible lending laws.

Treasury said a “targeted public consultation” was undertaken after the announcement was made, but they did not disclose the stakeholders involved when asked. There is no consultation posting for the credit reforms on Treasury’s website.

“The timing of any public consultation on draft legislation is a matter for Government,” a Treasury spokesperson told RateCity.

Treasurer Frydenberg quoted select public testimony of RBA chair Philip Lowe in his announcement.

RateCity asked the RBA if they had been included as part of consultation. The nation’s central bank declined to provide a comment.

Going against past recommendations

Dr Leigh observed the government’s decision to scrap responsible lending obligations contradicts an ASIC parliamentary submission made in March 2017. The submission found the “credit reforms (including RLOs) have gone a long way towards addressing many of the issues that were prevalent throughout the credit industry before 2010”.

“Would you agree that ASIC's 2017 Senate submission would contradict the government's decision to scrap responsible lending obligations?,” Dr Leigh asked.

Mr Hughes said he could not comment on the report as he was not a commission member at the time.

He referred again to the Treasurer’s statement on 25 September, and said it was clear they believed the policy was necessary to address the economic impacts of the pandemic.

“From ASIC's point of view, we're just getting on with the instructions we've been given to support Treasury in implementing those reforms,” Mr Hughes said.

APRA was not ‘advocating change’

The Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) was later questioned on the notice they were given ahead of the news that responsible lending laws would be scrapped.

“I think we learnt in early August that the government was thinking of making changes and was considering what options might be possible,” Wayne Byres said, chair of APRA.

“... (Treasurer Frydenberg) asked me (in September) some questions about APRA, APRA standards and options for how APRA standards might be applied. That's what I gave advice on.”

Dr Leigh questioned if APRA provided any policy or impact analysis of the changes. “Did you look, for example, at how it would impact low- and middle-income households?,” he asked.

Mr Byres said “(APRA) didn't provide advice on that”.

Dr Leigh asked for APRA’s position on the scrapping of responsible lending laws.

“We were not advocating change”, Dr Byres said.

What scrapping the rules could mean for Australians

The announcement to scrap responsible lending rules has proven divisive. Businesses generally hailed people’s ability to secure credit easier, while four consumer groups banded together in opposition, warning it’ll result in more people holding debt they can’t afford.

The governance born from the Global Financial Crisis and Royal Commission into banking highlighted the need for responsible lending practices, Sally Tindall said, research director at RateCity.

“There’s no question the work of ASIC and APRA to improve the quality of bank’s home loan books over the last 10 years has put a lot of Australians in a much better position to ride out the COVID storm,” she said.

“The last thing we want is to go back to the bad old days where people find themselves in loans they can’t repay.”

Shadow Treasurer Andrew Leigh questioned the decision to scrap responsible lending practices.

“It’s astonishing that the government didn’t even consult ASIC and APRA before making a major change to responsible lending laws,” he told RateCity.

“Consumer groups have warned that these changes could cause significant harm.

“With Australian household debt loads among the highest in the world, does the economy really need more irresponsible lending?”

 

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When does Commonwealth Bank charge an early exit fee?

When you take out a fixed interest home loan with the Commonwealth Bank, you’re able to lock the interest for a particular period. If the rates change during this period, your repayments remain unchanged. If you break the loan during the fixed interest period, you’ll have to pay the Commonwealth Bank home loan early exit fee and an administrative fee.

The Early Repayment Adjustment (ERA) and Administrative fees are applicable in the following instances:

  • If you switch your loan from fixed interest to variable rate
  • When you apply for a top-up home loan
  • If you repay over and above the annual threshold limit, which is $10,000 per year during the fixed interest period
  • When you prepay the entire outstanding loan balance before the end of the fixed interest duration.

The fee calculation depends on the interest rates, the amount you’ve repaid and the loan size. You can contact the lender to understand more about what you may have to pay. 

What are the features of home loans for expats from Westpac?

If you’re an Australian citizen living and working abroad, you can borrow to buy a property in Australia. With a Westpac non-resident home loan, you can borrow up to 80 per cent of the property value to purchase a property whilst living overseas. The minimum loan amount for these loans is $25,000, with a maximum loan term of 30 years.

The interest rates and other fees for Westpac non-resident home loans are the same as regular home loans offered to borrowers living in Australia. You’ll have to submit proof of income, six-month bank statements, an employment letter, and your last two payslips. You may also be required to submit a copy of your passport and visa that shows you’re allowed to live and work abroad.

Why does Westpac charge an early termination fee for home loans?

The Westpac home loan early termination fee or break cost is applicable if you have a fixed rate home loan and repay part of or the whole outstanding amount before the fixed period ends. If you’re switching between products before the fixed period ends, you’ll pay a switching break cost and an administrative fee. 

The Westpac home loan early termination fee may not apply if you repay an amount below the prepayment threshold. The prepayment threshold is the amount Westpac allows you to repay during the fixed period outside your regular repayments.

Westpac charges this fee because when you take out a home loan, the bank borrows the funds with wholesale rates available to banks and lenders. Westpac will then work out your interest rate based on you making regular repayments for a fixed period. If you repay before this period ends, the lender may incur a loss if there is any change in the wholesale rate of interest.

When do mortgage payments start after settlement?

Generally speaking, your first mortgage payment falls due one month after the settlement date. However, this may vary based on your mortgage terms. You can check the exact date by contacting your lender.

Usually your settlement agent will meet the seller’s representatives to exchange documents at an agreed place and time. The balance purchase price is paid to the seller. The lender will register a mortgage against your title and give you the funds to purchase the new home.

Once the settlement process is complete, the lender allows you to draw down the loan. The loan amount is debited from your loan account. As soon as the settlement paperwork is sorted, you can collect the keys to your new home and work your way through the moving-in checklist.

Cash or mortgage – which is more suitable to buy an investment property?

Deciding whether to buy an investment property with cash or a mortgage is a matter or personal choice and will often depend on your financial situation. Using cash may seem logical if you have the money in reserve and it can allow you to later use the equity in your home. However, there may be other factors to think about, such as whether there are other debts to pay down and whether it will tie up all of your spare cash. Again, it’s a personal choice and may be worth seeking personal advice.

A mortgage is a popular option for people who don’t have enough cash in the bank to pay for an investment property. Sometimes when you take out a mortgage you can offset your loan interest against the rental income you may earn. The rental income can also help to pay down the loan.

What are the responsibilities of a mortgage broker?

Mortgage brokers act as the go-between for borrowers looking for a home loan and the lenders offering the loan. They offer personalised advice to help borrowers choose the right home loan for their needs.

In Australia, mortgage brokers are required by law to carry an Australian Credit License (ACL) if they offer credit assistance services. Which is the legal term for guidance regarding the different kinds of credit offered by lenders, including home loan mortgages. They may not need this license if they are working for an aggregator, for instance, as a franchisee. In both these situations, they need to comply with the regulations laid down by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC).

These regulations, which are stipulated by Australian legislation, require mortgage brokers to comply with what are called “responsible lending” and “best interest” obligations. Responsible lending obligations mean brokers have to suggest “suitable” home loans. This means loans that you can easily qualify for,  actually meet your needs, and don’t prove unnecessarily challenging for you.

Starting 1 January 2021, mortgage brokers must comply with best interest obligations in addition to responsible lending obligations. These require mortgage brokers to act in the best interest of their customers and also requires them to prioritise their customers’ interests over their own. For instance, a mortgage broker may not recommend a lender who gives them a commission if that lender’s home loan offer does not benefit that particular customer.

How can I qualify for a joint home loan if my partner has bad credit?

As a couple, it's entirely possible that the credit scores of you and your partner could affect your financial future, especially if you apply for a joint home loan. When applying for a joint home loan, if one has bad credit, there may be steps that can help you to qualify even with bad credit, including:

  • Saving for a higher deposit, ideally 20 per cent or more. Keep in mind:  a borrowed amount of less than 80 per cent of the property value also saves the cost of Lender's Mortgage Insurance (LMI).
  • Consistent employment records, regular savings habits, and an economical lifestyle can help prove financial stability and responsibility. These can improve your chances of approval even if there are some negative marks on a credit report.
  • Delaying your decision to buy a property until your partner’s credit score improves. Alternatively, you may want to consider a solo application.

While these tips may assist, if you find this overwhelming, consider consulting an expert advisor who can offer personal guidance based on your financial situation.

Do mortgage brokers need a consumer credit license?

In Australia, mortgage brokers are defined by law as being credit service or assistance providers, meaning that they help borrowers connect with lenders. Mortgage brokers may not always need a consumer credit license however if they’re operating solo they will need an Australian Credit License (ACL). Further, they may also need to comply with requirements asking them to mention their license number in full.

Some mortgage brokers can be “credit representatives”, or franchisees of a mortgage aggregator. In this case, if the aggregator has a license, the mortgage broker need not have one. The reasoning for this is that the franchise agreement usually requires mortgage brokers to comply with the laws applicable to the aggregator. If you’re speaking to a mortgage broker, you can ask them if they receive commissions from lenders, which is a good indicator that they need to be licensed. Consider requesting their license details if they don’t give you the details beforehand. 

You should remember that such a license protects you if you’re given incorrect or misleading advice that results in a home loan application rejection or any financial loss. Brokers are regulated by the Australian Securities & Investment Commission (ASIC), as per the National Consumer Credit Protection (NCCP) Act. 

What is a bad credit home loan?

A bad credit home loan is a mortgage for people with a low credit score. Lenders regard bad credit borrowers as riskier than ‘vanilla’ borrowers, so they tend to charge higher interest rates for bad credit home loans.

If you want a bad credit home loan, you’re more likely to get approved by a small non-bank lender than by a big four bank or another mainstream lender.

How can I get a home loan with bad credit?

If you want to get a home loan with bad credit, you need to convince a lender that your problems are behind you and that you will, indeed, be able to repay a mortgage.

One step you might want to take is to visit a mortgage broker who specialises in bad credit home loans (also known as ‘non-conforming home loans’ or ‘sub-prime home loans’). An experienced broker will know which lenders to approach, and how to plead your case with each of them.

Two points to bear in mind are:

  • Many home loan lenders don’t provide bad credit mortgages
  • Each lender has its own policies, and therefore favours different things

If you’d prefer to directly approach the lender yourself, you’re more likely to find success with smaller non-bank lenders that specialise in bad credit home loans (as opposed to bigger banks that prefer ‘vanilla’ mortgages). That’s because these smaller lenders are more likely to treat you as a unique individual rather than judge you according to a one-size-fits-all policy.

Lenders try to minimise their risk, so if you want to get a home loan with bad credit, you need to do everything you can to convince lenders that you’re safer than your credit history might suggest. If possible, provide paperwork that shows:

  • You have a secure job
  • You have a steady income
  • You’ve been reducing your debts
  • You’ve been increasing your savings

Can I get a home loan if I owe taxes?

Owing money to the Australian Tax Office is not an ideal situation, but it doesn’t mean you cannot qualify for a home loan. Lenders will take into account your tax debt, your history of repaying the debt and your other financial circumstances, while reviewing your home loan application. 

While some banks may not look favourably upon your debt to the ATO, some non-bank lenders may be willing to help. They will look into the reasons for your tax debt and also take into account the steps you have taken to repay it before deciding whether to offer you the loan or not. Having said that, there are no guarantees - it depends on your whole financial picture.

Here are a few steps that you can take to improve your chances of getting approved for a home loan.

  • Demonstrate evidence of income.
  • Manage your debt by paying it off in installments.
  • Offer an explanation for your tax debt and a plan to pay it off.
  • Do what you can to stay out of court or attract debt collection agencies.

 

Can I get a home renovation loan with bad credit?

If you're looking for funds to pay for repairs or renovations to your home, but you have a low credit score, you need to carefully consider your options. If you already have a mortgage, a good starting point is to check whether you can redraw money from that. You could also consider applying for a new home loan. 

Before taking out a new loan, it’s good to note that lenders are likely to charge higher interest rates on home repair loans for bad credit customers. Alternatively, they may be willing to lend you a smaller amount than a standard loan. You may also face some challenges with getting your home renovation loan application approved. If you do run into trouble, you can speak to your lender and ask whether they would be willing to approve your application if you have a guarantor or co-signer. You should also explain the reasons behind your bad credit rating and the steps that you’re taking to improve it. 

Consulting a financial advisor or mortgage broker can help you understand your options and make the right choice.

How do I apply for a home loan pre-approval from Commonwealth Bank?

To apply for a Commbank home loan pre-approval, you can either call the bank at 13 2224 or meet one of the bank’s lending specialists. You can set up a meeting online if you wish. You’ll need to do some homework before contacting the bank, such as gathering information on the kind of properties you’d like to buy and their prices.

Preparing a financial summary, which lists all your income sources as well as significant expenses, can also help determine how much you can afford to borrow. You may also want to check your credit score before applying for pre-approval.

It’s worth remembering that a CBA home loan pre-approval doesn’t guarantee that you’ll get the loan. Once you get the pre-approval, you’ll have about three to six months to decide on a property and apply for the home loan. The bank will then confirm that the property is suitable for the loan before fully approving it.

Are bad credit home loans dangerous?

Bad credit home loans can be dangerous if the borrower signs up for a loan they’ll struggle to repay. This might occur if the borrower takes out a mortgage at the limit of their financial capacity, especially if they have some combination of a low income, an insecure job and poor savings habits.

Bad credit home loans can also be dangerous if the borrower buys a home in a stagnant or falling market – because if the home has to be sold, they might be left with ‘negative equity’ (where the home is worth less than the mortgage).

That said, bad credit home loans can work out well if the borrower is able to repay the mortgage – for example, if they borrow conservatively, have a decent income, a secure job and good savings habits. Another good sign is if the borrower buys a property in a market that is likely to rise over the long term.