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Finance specialist's 'delight' over buy-to-let court win over mortgage firm

Published 08/06/2016

Former mortgage broker Mark Alexander has been dispute with the West Bromwich
Former mortgage broker Mark Alexander has been dispute with the West Bromwich

A financial specialist was "delighted" after winning the latest round of a legal battle with a mortgage company which he said could affect around a million people who own buy-to-let properties.

Mark Alexander, a former mortgage broker who has set up an advice website for landlords, said a Court of Appeal ruling had sent a "clear message".

Mr Alexander complained of being unfairly asked to pay more for a buy-to-let mortgage because the West Bromwich Mortgage Company classed him as an investor, not a consumer.

He was unhappy about the way an interest rate had been varied and disagreed that a mortgage company could ''call in performing mortgages'' with 30 days' notice.

And he had asked Court of Appeal judges to analyse his claim after losing a fight in the High Court.

Appeal judges ruled in his favour on Wednesday after analysing evidence at a hearing in London in April.

"I am delighted," said Mr Alexander, founder of Norwich-based Property118.com.

"This ruling sends a clear message to other lenders who have acted in a similar manner, and to those who might have been considering following suit."

About 400 people with identical West Bromwich mortgages backed Mr Alexander and he said the appeal court ruling could affect around a million buy-to-let tracker mortgage borrowers.

The West Bromwich - which is linked to the West Bromwich Building Society - had said customers with three or more buy-to-let properties were not ''regarded as consumers''.

Bosses disputed Mr Alexander's criticisms and argued that terms were fair.

And they said they were disappointed by the appeal court ruling.

They said affected borrowers would be reimbursed.

"While we are disappointed, we accept the Court of Appeal's decision and so will be contacting all affected borrowers, including those who were not part of this action, to advise them of the outcome and that we will be reimbursing them any additional interest charged," said a spokesman.

"Other saving or borrowing members do not need to take any action as a result of this news.

"The one-off cost of this will be approximately £27.5 million.

"Although this will result in the society recording a loss for the year to March 2017, underlying profitability is expected to be maintained and the capital position of the society remains strong and is significantly in excess of regulatory requirements."

Chief executive Jonathan Westhoff added: "Naturally, we are disappointed by today's decision from the Court of Appeal. At all times we acted to ensure we were treating customers fairly and that our approach was in the best interests of the Society and its members as a whole.

"We will now contact all affected borrowers and ensure we process promptly any reimbursement they are due.

"In line with our prudent approach to managing the society we had already allocated capital to cover this unexpected outcome and so the society remains in a strong financial position."

Mr Alexander, who is in his late 40s, used to live in in Shipdham, Norfolk, but now has a home in Malta.

He asked appeal judges to scrutinise his claim after Mr Justice Teare ruled against him following a High Court hearing.

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