What happens to your mortgage if there are negative interest rates?
With the Bank of England’s base rate being at an historic low of 0.1%, there is talk that we will soon see negative interest rates.
In the past, Andrew Bailey, Governor of the Bank of England, had not been in favour of such a step but has admitted that he is now not ruling it out in order to kickstart the economy.
The Bank is under pressure to push interest rates below zero as data has shown that inflation dropped from 1.5 per cent in March to a four-year low of 0.8 per cent in April. Low inflation might sound good but it can suppress economic growth and prevent wages increasing. The bank’s usual target is to keep inflation around 2% but lockdown has understandably had a severe effect on spending so economists think inflation will stay low for some time.
How would negative interest rates work?
Anyone wanting to deposit money with the Bank of England, such as high street banks, would have to pay to do so. This is designed to encourage the banks to lend to households and businesses.
Negative interest rates have already been used as a tool by the European Central Bank and Japan. Typically, the Bank will lower interest rates when the country is facing a recession because it encourages borrowing and spending which stimulates the economy. But negative interest rates are controversial as it is felt they have limited effectiveness in encouraging spending and investment in the long term.
They also do little to encourage companies to keep a cash buffer in times of crisis which, as many have found during the coronavirus outbreak, has been crucial.
What would the effect be on your mortgage?
If you have a fixed rate mortgage, the most common type, it would not be affected. If you have a variable rate mortgage that follows the standard variable rate of the bank that made the loan, or a tracker mortgage that follows the Bank of England base rate, it could fall a little if the base rate is cut.
"It’s likely, however, that any drop would be limited by certain terms and conditions," said Victoria Marshall, Residential Property Head at Pearson Solicitors. "Most tracker mortgages these days have a ‘collar’ which stops the lender having to cut the rate at all. It’s worth checking your paperwork to see whether your lender has specified the lowest rate it would ever charge.
Could new mortgages be free?
Denmark has shown this could be a possibility. The rate, last year, for borrowers at Jyske Bank was -0.5% which meant the total sum they owed each month fell more by more than the sum they had repaid. That’s a great kind of mortgage! Although it looks like the UK is a way off that.
While fixed term mortgages are falling in price, some tracker mortgages have been withdrawn and re-priced with larger margins to protect lenders against falling rates.
A negative base rate would mean banks and building societies would have to pay to keep money on deposit. The thinking behind this policy is that it would encourage them to lend instead.
"It's been a chaotic year for house moves, we had early spring deals going through, lockdown then put the brakes on most property deals and now we have stamp duty relief and other sweeteners to encourage the housing market. We're seeing an upturn in house sales and purchases going through and I'm enjoying helping clients at last make the moves they have planned," added Victoria.Subscribe to our newsletter
Please note that the information and opinions contained in this article are not intended to be comprehensive, nor to provide legal advice. No responsibility for its accuracy or correctness is assumed by Pearson Solicitors and Financial Advisers Ltd or any of its members or employees. Professional legal advice should be obtained before taking, or refraining from taking, any action as a result of this article.
This blog was posted some time ago and its contents may now be out of date. For the latest legal position relating to these issues, get in touch with the author - or make an enquiry now.