Homeowners with a tracker mortgage were a target for years
We’re not there yet when it comes to the final number of cases in the tracker scandal
Banks’ estimates that only 37 owner-occupiers and 79 buy-to-let borrowers lost their properties as a result of the tracker scandal are bound to be well shy of the final figure. Photograph: Getty Images
Homeowners with a tracker mortgage – or a chance of being entitled to one – had a target on their back before Lehman Brothers went bust on 2008.
As banks’ financial market borrowing costs and deposit rates soared above what they were taking in on low-cost tracker loans they looked at every which way to move borrowers off the product.
The country’s five main remaining banks account for more than 99 per cent of 33,700 acknowledged cases to date where borrowers were either wrongfully denied a tracker rate linked to the European Central Bank benchmark or put on the wrong rate.
Six former lenders – including Bank of Scotland, which brought trackers to Ireland in 2001 – account for just 300 of cases admitted by the industry as a result of a two-year-old Central Bank examination.
As these lenders were fleeing Ireland their mainly overseas parents were mostly concerned with plugging multibillion euro holes in their balance sheets as a result of bad losses. They were not focused, like the surviving banks, on trying to rebuild their income and profitability.
In some ways – and counter-intuitively – you were better off being a customer of a bank that had pulled down the shutters than one that remained in business.
Banks across the industry distanced themselves from Permanent TSB when it confessed in July 2015 that it had wrongly failed to inform about 1,400 customers that they would lose their right to revert to a tracker after a period on a fixed rate. Some 2½ years later and PTSB’s tracker-cases figure has only moved up to 1,980 – less than 6 per cent of the total sector figure.
The Government and Central Bank were keen to characterise a progress report on the tracker review, published on Wednesday, as something of a watershed moment when lenders finally capitulated. But we’re not there yet. It’s understood that Ulster Bank, which has so far identified 3,500 overcharged customers, may have to own up to a further 2,000 to 3,000.
Meanwhile, banks’ estimates that only 37 owner-occupiers and 79 buy-to-let borrowers lost their properties as a result of the tracker scandal are bound to prove well shy of the final figure.