Will a mortgage holiday affect your credit score?

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on March 27, 2020
Will a mortgage holiday affect your credit score?

Photo by Daniel Thiele on Unsplash

Many banks have introduced home loan repayment holidays amid coronavirus hardships, but one credit reporting agency says it could impact your credit score.

Despite the measures put in place to help borrowers during economic fallout from COVID-19, credit reporting agency Experian says mortgage holidays could still affect credit scores. 

Experian Australia & New Zealand's general manager of credit services Tristan Taylor said unless individuals have made special arrangements with their lender, the system acts "as per normal".

"Missing credit repayments will still negatively impact credit scores, which could affect future credit applications," he told Savings.com.au.

"If ever there has been a time to proactively manage your financial situation, it's now.

"Ensure you contact your financial service provider to discuss your options if you're concerned."

Similarly, mortgage holidays are also not true 'holidays', and interest still accrues on the loan in that time, and can add up to thousands extra owed on your home loan.

On 23 March, the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) said mortgage holidays would not count as 'mortgage in arrears' - falling behind on debt repayments can stay on your record and affect your credit score for upwards of five years.

“Where a borrower who has been meeting their repayment obligations until recently chooses to take up the offer not to make repayments as part of a COVID-19 support package, the bank need not treat the period of the repayment holiday as a period of arrears," the authority said in a press release.

“Similarly, loans that have been granted a repayment deferral as part of a COVID-19 support package need not be regarded as restructured."

The mortgage deferral programs announced by many banks last week comes off the back of more than 30,000 job losses in the aviation, hospitality, and tourism sectors. 

Westpac also predicts an unemployment figure of 11% by June - for reference, in February that figure was 5.1%. 

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            What will mortgage holidays mean for mortgage bonds?

            At the high-level, corporate debt rating agencies Fitch, S&P, and Moody's could downgrade mortgage bonds' credit ratings if there are significant amounts of deferred mortgages in them.

            If a downgrade on a mortgage bond were to occur, due to there being less liquidity, it would theoretically make investing in that bond less attractive, which could tighten credit availability at the consumer level. 

            This means that pools of mortgages on mortgage holidays - despite not technically being in arrears - could prevent ratings agencies from dishing out the top-flight AAA rating, according to Westpac's Head of Securitisation and Covered Bond Strategy Martin Jacques.

            "As an example, S&P have said that if they expect missed interest payments for six months with full payment after that, the agency would limit the ratings on any affected note to a maximum of A-," he said in a report on 23 March.

            In an FAQ released on 26 March, S&P said Australian prime mortgage bonds have cash reserves of an average of around nine months, and 11 months for riskier bonds, even if cash inflows on transactions in the bonds fell to zero.

            This means that most prime RMBS could weather the storm of six-month mortgage holidays, without a credit downgrade, however more stress could be placed on riskier bonds.

            S&P said the biggest default risk comes from self-employed borrowers, who are "most likely" to use mortgage deferral offers.

            Self-employed borrowers make up 15% of mortgages in the prime RMBS sector, and 45% in the non-conforming sector. 

            If cash flowing through an RMBS fell to zero, which S&P describes as "a scenario that remains unlikely", that bond would default, resulting in investors losing money, and potentially triggering a housing market crash.

            This is where the Australian Office of Financial Management has stepped in, announcing last week a $15 billion package designed to make the Government an investor in corporate mortgage bonds, propping up cash flows to a potentially wounded industry.


            Disclaimers

            The entire market was not considered in selecting the above products. Rather, a cut-down portion of the market has been considered. Some providers' products may not be available in all states. To be considered, the product and rate must be clearly published on the product provider's web site. Savings.com.au, yourmortgage.com.au, yourinvestmentpropertymag.com.au, and Performance Drive are part of the Savings Media group. In the interests of full disclosure, the Savings Media Group are associated with the Firstmac Group. To read about how Savings Media Group manages potential conflicts of interest, along with how we get paid, please visit the web site links at the bottom of this page.

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            Harrison is Savings.com.au's Assistant Editor. Prior to joining Savings in January 2020, he worked for some of Australia's largest comparison sites and media organisations. With a keen interest in the economy, housing policy, and personal finance, Harrison strives to deliver and edit news and guides that are engaging, thought-provoking, and simple to read.

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