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Posts Tagged ‘Spanish Mortgages’

Have You Been a Victim of a SWAP Clause? Act Now!

March 3rd, 2010

spain-swap-clauses-spanish-mortgage-clipA SWAP is an insurance policy which purpose is to offset major fluctuations in, for example, a benchmark interest rate to which a mortgage is referred to. In Spain most mortgage loans are referred to the EURIBOR rate (Euro Interbank Offered Rate). The EURIBOR is the average interest rate at which a panel of 57 European banks lend to one another. The idea with a SWAP clause is that you pay a small fee on a regular basis to your lender as a normal insurance to offset against major interests rate fluctuations and if the Euribor rate should for example fluctuate wildly, as it did back in October 2008, hitting an extreme 5% your repayment interest rate would be capped at say 3%. Basically it’s as if you agree into signing your own collar clause where you are assured to pay a capped interest rate to your lender. This in theory.

In practice a SWAP is a complex financial instrument that has been in use by large corporations since the fifties to offset against currency and interest rate fluctuations. The problem came when it was recently mis-sold en masse during the last boom years to unsuspecting borrowers as a “safe” product without disclosing in full the pitfalls it may entail should the interest rate fluctuate steeply. Or even worse, in many cases it was bundled together with the mortgage loan itself as “free of charge”. Who would in their sound mind turn down a freebie which is tagged by a bank as “safe”?

When you hire a SWAP (AKA as “clip hipotecario” in Spanish), unbeknownst to many you are tacitly making an educated guess on where the interest rate will be heading next; so it’s basically taking a gamble with your hard-earned money! This product was marketed and sold as something “safe”  and at times even as “free”, but its drawbacks were not disclosed to borrowers which in most cases lacked the necessary financial savvy to ascertain clearly what they were being (mis)sold or even been given away as a “free” insurance. What was seldom explained to potential customers was that if the benchmark interest rate fell below a certain percentage it’s the borrower who had to pay to his lender an amount to offset the shortfall in the interest rate! And it’s no small amount either, tallying hundreds of euros a month in the worst cases which are to be paid in addition to the mortgage repayments of already struggling borrowers. So it has been an unexpected double or even a triple whammy for those whose source of income is in sterling pounds bearing in mind the poor exchange rate to the Euro over the last two years.

If you want to cancel a SWAP clause through a Notary public you will have to pay for the “privilege” on average €15,000 for individual borrowers and €40,000 for companies. This is an added grievance to those borrowers which had a SWAP tagged onto their mortgage loan as a “freebie” unbeknown to them.

This “insurance” was largely mis-sold or even given away “freely” over the last years, at the peak of an all-time high Euribor interest rate, when lenders knew full well this rate was bound to reverse its trend and start heading down hitting historical lows. So basically they were (mis)selling a product which was going to bring huge losses to its clients within months of having hired it! As American novelist Mark Twain used to note with an acid sense of humour: “A banker is a fellow who lends you his umbrella when the sun is shining and wants it back the minute it begins to rain”

And now the positive news: There have been a string of likeminded rulings both from lower and High courts in 2009 and 2010 establishing that SWAP clauses offered en masse to unsuspecting mortgage borrowers are really abusive clauses (http://www NULL.marbella-lawyers and determine they should be regarded as null and void as they lack consent. This avoids borrowers having to pay €15,000 or more to have them cancelled at a Notary. Moreover, Judges have awarded a full refund to borrowers who litigated on the commissions unduly paid to their lenders over the last years because of this insurance policy which was not properly explained to them. Even Spain’s Ombudsman has condemned them as abusive.

What to do?

If you think you may have been a victim of a SWAP clause in your Spanish mortgage call or e-mail us (http://www NULL.lawbird to see if we can act on your behalf.  Strength will be in large numbers.

Litigation, Spanish Mortgages , , ,

Steep Drop in Euribor Translates into Cheaper Mortgages

December 31st, 2008

(http://None)The (12 month) Euribor (http://www NULL.euribor-rates NULL.asp) fell today to 3.085%, and will set the average for December at 3.4%.

The Euribor (ER) is the rate of interest at which banks lend to each other. It is the reference which most Spanish Lenders take to set the mortgages’ rate of interest. This rate is reviewable by your bank, depending on your Mortgage Deed, every six months or once a year. The European Central Bank (ECB), which sets European Monetary Policy for all EU members with the exception of the UK, has no direct control over the ER.

Post credit-crunch fear, shortage of liquidity in the markets, widespread bankruptcies and plummeting stock prices unseen since 1929’s infamous Wall Street’s Stock Market Crash has gripped banks with fear in the last quarter of 2008. This fear to lend to each other due to the mutual mistrust on one another’s writedowns has fuelled the ER hiking it to levels which were unprecedented historically.

In line with the US, the European Central Bank has lowered consecutively the interest rate which indirectly affects the ER. The Euribor rate reached an all time high on October 2008 peaking at 5.393%. To this you must add the spread on paying a mortgage which typically for a non-resident will be 1% on top of the Euribor rate. This caused a surge of mortgage defaults (http://www NULL.marbella-lawyers in 2008.

The reason being is that the ECB is lagging behind the United States Monetary Policy which has now set its interest rate at almost zero (0.25% to be exact) to hopefully fuel the ailing American economy. So the ECB has quite some catching up to do next year as its interest rate is currently held at 2.50%. Currently the Euribor rate for 12 months is set at 3.085%

In any case the continued policy of the European Central Bank to lower the interest rates over the last months will help to drive down the Euribor rate which is always news most welcomed by everyone, specially borrowers. Spanish banks will revise and adjust the Euribor rate which in turn will lower your monthly mortgage repayments. This normally happens in July.

For example, a typical mortgage of €300,000 revisable next July 2009 could drop by as much as €550 a month if the Euribor rate continues its downward trend and hits the 2% forecasted by financial experts by mid 2009.

So for all those that are struggling to pay their mortgage loan and are considering defaulting you should be aware of this significant drop in 2009. We suggest you find out at your bank when the Euribor rate will be adjusted for your own particular case and how much money you stand to save.

Property , , , , , ,