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Mortgage lenders ‘discriminating against women’

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08/10/2015
Nearly one in ten young women who have applied for a mortgage in the past decade felt discriminated against by lenders because they were pregnant or intending to start a family, according to a study.

In addition, 25 per cent have intentionally hidden their family plans from lenders, fearing they will miss out on the best mortgage rate or even be rejected, the research by uSwitch.com found.

The findings following the introduction last year of new, stricter mortgage eligibility criteria, which allow lenders to refuse a mortgage application if they believe an applicant cannot meet repayments in future due to a lapse in income.

The perception that having a family could impact one’s ability to get the best mortgage deal is leading women to withhold information from lenders during the application process.

Of those confessing to hiding their plans from their lender, 77 per cent did so for fear of their application being rejected or missing out on the best rate.

The pressure of concealing this information is having a significant emotional impact, with 71 per cent of women who hid family plans from lenders experiencing high levels of stress and anxiety during the mortgage application process.

According to the research, 48 per cent of women save up before going on maternity leave to cover monthly mortgage repayments and other essential household bills.

“There is a strong feeling mortgage lenders, rightly or wrongly, may be penalising women for starting a family, and some female mortgage applicants are feeling forced to withhold information from potential lenders,” said Tashema Jackson, money expert at uSwitch.com.

“Not only can this have severe implications in terms of invalidating any mortgage offers, but it is causing stress and anxiety for home buyers at a critical time in their life.”

“While it’s vital lenders help people only borrow within their means and ensure they can afford future payments, it’s not fair for lenders to make blanket assumptions. Those planning a family may be able to manage their repayments even with a drop in household income, thanks to careful planning or savings. We believe lenders should be making decisions based on a broader picture of an applicant’s financial situation, including the amount they have in savings, rather than on assumptions about a woman’s personal circumstances or intentions.

“If you feel you have been discriminated against for any reason, you should lodge a complaint with the mortgage provider before escalating to the Financial Ombudsman Service.”

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