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Help to Buy phone line hell risks homeowner sales falling through

Samantha Partington
Written By:
Samantha Partington
Posted:
Updated:
19/07/2023

Homeowners who bought their property under the Government’s flagship Help to Buy Equity Loan scheme are infuriated over long call wait times and delayed email responses which could risk sales and remortgage offers.

Desperate homeowners have taken to social media to vent their anger at long call wait times and delays to communication when contacting the Help to Buy customer service number to obtain vital documents needed to sell or remortgage their property.

One owner said they had clocked up more than 30 hours on hold over multiple days to get through to Lenvi which took over the administration of the Help to Buy scheme run by Homes England.

Complaints seem to have ramped up since Lenvi took over administration of the scheme from Target Group on 19 June, and the worry and fear from many homeowners is that they’ll lose a sale or their remortgage deal if they’re unable to get through to speak to someone to get updates or vital paperwork.

‘I’ll lose my remortgage offer’

Here are some of the tweets seen by YourMoney.com:

One customer wrote “I’ve been on hold for 30 hours in total since last Monday. Target HCA [the former administrator] received the £115 admin fee as well as all documents to proceed with a deed of postponement at the start of June. You now can’t find these documents and won’t reply to any comms. I’ll lose my remortgage offer.”

Another tweeted: “We are due to complete on our house tomorrow, we are still waiting for some information from you. Please can I speak to someone urgently? We are in danger of losing our sale. I have emailed and rang multiple times without success.”

This customer wrote: “I’m still trying to get through urgently for revised authority to complete, requested a month ago. Someone in our chain is threatening to walk away this week. Help!”

And it’s not just homeowners who have been left frustrated as solicitors have also shared their experience: “My firm acts for a help to buy customer of yours. We cannot exchange without a response to our email to you of two weeks ago in which we sent you a valuation. Please will you respond.”

Customers were further angered this week when it tweeted and confirmed it had a maximum one-hour call wait time before disconnecting calls, meaning they have to try multiple times a day and week to try to get through to the call centre.

Help to Buy Equity Loan scheme

The issues are affecting first-time buyers who used the now-closed Government-backed Help to Buy Equity Loan scheme who now want to sell, pay back the loan or remortgage.

Under the scheme, new build homebuyers could borrow up to 20% of the property’s value which was interest-free for the first five years (up to 40% in London) with just a 5% deposit.

For those coming up to the end of the five-year term and want to repay the loan or before owners can sell the property, they or their solicitor must apply for a redemption statement to tell them the value of the equity loan that must be repaid to Homes England – the Government department in charge of Help to Buy – when they sell. When repaying the loan, the value of the debt is based on the current value of their home when they come to sell.

For homeowners who want to remortgage their property, they must first obtain a document called a Deed of Postponement to hand to their new mortgage lender. This postpones the equity loan charge, placed on the owner’s property by the Government when it was first bought, in favour of the remortgaging lender’s new mortgage charge.

Whether the homeowner is selling or remortgaging the new-build property, it requires vital documents to be processed and sent by the Help to Buy administrator, Lenvi.

Higher call volumes during mortgage market turmoil

Lenvi said it has received four times the expected number of calls since it took over administration of the scheme last month, which has left customers and solicitors unable to chase up the documents requested weeks earlier.

In a tweet from the Help to Buy account it is urging customers with urgent enquiries to send a private message with the account number, postcode and completion date which it will pass to the customer service team.

It added that if the call isn’t urgent, customers should email customerservices@myhelptobuyloan.co.uk, where it “endeavours to reply in 10 days”.

But the issues haven’t gone unnoticed as Rachel Maclean MP, housing minister for the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities spoke in the Commons last week and said: “I’ve been having daily meetings with Homes England and the service provider. It is the case that there have been some issues with this transfer [from Target to Lenvi].

“I want anyone listening to this to know that they can contact either their local MP or the service line and we will resolve it. I have insisted that there is additional call centre staff available and extended working hours, and we are very much seeing the issues being worked through at pace now.”

‘We sincerely apologise to those impacted’

A Lenvi spokesperson, said: “We took over the administration of the Help to Buy scheme on 19 June, and upon switchover, we inherited a significant number of complex cases in progress. At the same time, we have experienced a materially higher than average volume of enquiries due to current mortgage market conditions.

“We are putting all our efforts into resolving this with Homes England and prioritising customers in order of completion date. We are investigating a number of resourcing options to support this increase in customer demand, as well as extending our working hours.”

A Homes England spokesperson added: “We are aware customers are currently experiencing delays contacting the Help to Buy customer service team and we sincerely apologise to those impacted. We are experiencing a very high level of demand and we are working hard to resolve this as quickly as possible, bringing in additional staff and extending our working hours.”