The Equity Release Council Code of Conduct

For any people considering equity release, you may have heard the term Equity Release Council, but be unfamiliar with who they are and how they can affect you. The Equity Release Council is a trade body especially established for the equity release industry. It was developed as an expansion of the Safe Home Income Plans (SHIP) guidelines and aims to provide consumer protection by representing providers, advisors, surveyors and legal representatives associated with equity release.

What is the Safe Home Income Plans Board (SHIP)?
The Safe Home Income Plans Board (SHIP) was the predecessor of the Equity Release Council. Their aims and objectives for protecting the consumer and facilitating informed decisions was the primary inspiration behind the establishment of the ERC. The existing Safe Homes Income Plans Board was incorporated into the new ERC in the form of a board of standards.

This Safe Home Income Plans Standards Board now exists to ensure that consumers are safe and protected with reliable equity release products. It set the code of conduct, and the principles and standards for members of the ERC. The board ensures that members can guarantee their clients are offered products and services conforming to the best practices within the sector. This ensures that clients are fully informed in their decisions and protected.

What is the ERC’s Code of Conduct?
The Code of Conduct in place with the ERC has been based on the original Safe Home Income Plans guidelines. It provides strict regulations which must be adhered to by all members. The Code of Conduct allows for safeguards which provide consumer confidence and peace of mind.

For many people the main concern about equity release is losing their home. However, the ERC Code of Conduct ensures that clients commit to a product which allows them to stay in their home for the remainder of their lives or until they enter a long term care facility. It ensures that they will not leave a debt for their family as there is a no negative equity guarantee incorporated into every equity release product recommended by ERC members. This means that regardless of what happens in the housing market, there will never be more owed than the value of the property. The Code of Conduct also insists that all customers receive fully qualified advice with information about the entire process before they are committed to a scheme.

Who Chairs Safe Homes Income Plans?
The current Chairman is Nigel Waterson. He has an insight into many of the issues which face older consumers as he had roles including Trustee for the International Longevity Centre, Member Society of Pension Consultants Council and former Chairman for the All Party Group for Older People. Waterson believes strongly that equity release can provide great opportunities to boost the incomes for the retired; fund the costs for long term care and create a better degree of comfort for people in their older age. He aims to lead a reinvigorated organisation which can meet the vital challenges in the equity release industry.

If you are considering equity release, it is worth taking the time to familiarise yourself with the Safe Homes Income Plans Board and the ERC Code of Conduct. It can provide valuable assurance and allow you to proceed with confidence.