New regulation of sale-and-leaseback firms

Firms offering sale-and-leaseback have only until the end of July to submit applications for interim authorisation from the FSA. If they fail to do so, they will be unable to offer sale-and-leaseback during the period of interim regulation of the market, lasting until the end of June next year. Firms that want to offer sale-and-leaseback and are already authorised by the FSA for other activities still have to apply for an interim variation of permission.

Lenders have been urging the government to regulate the sale-and-leaseback sector as soon as possible. With mortgage arrears already rising and expected to continue to do so, a growing number of borrowers in difficulty may already have been tempted to consider sale-and-leaseback as a solution to their problems.

Regulation is needed to address a range of potential consumer concerns, including, for example, property valuation and the security of tenure for owners who opt to become tenants. Concerns about consumers are exacerbated given their vulnerability relative to the firms they are dealing with.

Announcing the start of the interim regulatory regime, the FSA said: “Consumers should be aware of the risks involved in sale-and-rent-back schemes. Normally, they will be paid less than the full market value for their home and may not be able to stay as a tenant in the home in the long term.”

The government commissioned a market study of sale-and-leaseback by the Office of Fair Trading, published last year. But because full regulation requires a consultation exercise and publication of the final rules, the government has said it cannot be introduced before the end of June next year.