Countrywide has launched an inquiry after some of its advisers were caught showing buyers how to get around mortgage rules.
Journalists from Channel 4’s Dispatches programme secretly filmed Countrywide staff agreeing to submit mortgage applications from aspiring borrowers who could not prove their income, according to The Sunday Times.
The advisers offered potential homebuyers buy-to-let mortgages, which do not always require proof of income as the amount of money offered is calculated according to the rental value of the property. These loans are not designed for buyers of their own homes.
According to the newspaper, an anonymous whistleblower from one of the UK’s largest estate agents told Dispatches that mortgage advisers were willing to break the rules – effectively committing fraud – because they were under extreme pressure to hit targets in order to earn their commission. The whistleblower said:
“Some consultants I knew, if they weren’t able to get a residential mortgage, would not directly say [that] to the client but they would imply that there’s an option of a buy-to-let mortgage that doesn’t need a minimum income.”
According to the newspaper an undercover reporter, posing as a potential homebuyer who had been travelling and had scant details of earnings to prove his income, visited Countrywide-owned Abbotts estate agents in Essex. He told the adviser he could afford the repayments on a £300,000 mortgage but couldn’t verify his income, and was offered a buy-to-let deal.
The adviser said: “What I need to say on the application is that you won’t be living there, it will be to rent out, which obviously will be a bit of a fib, but it’s just kind of bending the rules a little bit.”