Although credit unions pride themselves on their relationship with members in hardship, it's worth looking at the ASIC report Helping home borrowers in financial hardship examining how lenders and mortgage brokers respond to borrowers experiencing financial difficulties.
The report found that:
- Information about financial hardship is usually only provided following payment default, making it very difficult for borrowers to take positive action at an early stage. This information is often insufficient for borrowers to understand their options and make informed choices;
- Some lenders do very little to identify borrowers who may require hardship assistance. Many lenders leave this identification of need to collection officers who may not be trained for the purpose eg. one lender only identifies hardship where the borrower raises the need for assistance themselves;
- Lenders appear to prefer offering short-term assistance, such as a three month payment moratorium, rather than genuinely engaging with, and responding to, a borrower’s specific situation. For example, a home loan borrower who has lost income through reduced overtime may need their loan to be extended with lower repayments over a longer period. In such circumstances, a short moratorium is a very temporary fix leaving the borrower likely to default when repayments resume;
- Some lenders have adopted policies that are inconsistent with the rights and remedies available to borrowers under the Uniform Consumer Credit Code. For example, by refusing hardship assistance once payments are more than 60 days overdue or limiting any variation in repayments to a maximum period of six months.