Buy to Let

West Brom loses buy-to-let tracker rate court case

Christina Hoghton
Written By:
Christina Hoghton

Landlords have won a long-running Court of Appeal case against West Brom Building Society

West Bromwich Building Society has lost a high profile three-year court case brought by landlords who felt they were unfairly treated by the lender.

The group of buy-to-let mortgage borrowers have won their case against West Brom, after the firm hiked rates on its buy-to-let tracker mortgages despite no change to the linked Bank Base Rate.

Tracker mortgages are considered transparent, because they follow the Bank Base Rate at a pre-agreed margin and cannot usually be changed by the lender unless there is a change in interest rates.

Ruling on refunds

The ruling delivered today against the building society will see 6,000 borrowers receive a refund, the Telegraph reported.

Borrowers will be collectively reimbursed £27.5m, while the lender has also agreed to re-set mortgage rates at a lower level. The decision to reimburse will see the lender make a loss for the year to March 2017, it said.

A ruling in January last year saw the High Court deliver a judgement in favour of the West Brom, with Mr Justice Teare stating that the lender was within its rights to increase the premium on the rate it charged above Base Rate.

Tracker mortgages contain a clause allowing lenders to change the mortgage interest rate under certain circumstances. With no rise in the Bank Rate of 0.5% since 2009, West Brom had argued that its savers had suffered a dramatic fall in income due to lower interest rates, leading the lender to “act accordingly”.

However, the Court of Appeal ruled that the relevant clause was inapplicable in such cases.

Responding to the ruling, the West Brom said it was “disappointed” but accepted the Court of Appeal’s decision.

Jonathan Westhoff, chief executive, said: “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.”