BOE is said to find error behind spike in mortgage arrears

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(Bloomberg) -- A sustained spike in mortgage-arrears data published by the Bank of England had left home loan providers in the U.K. puzzled. Turns out some lenders were entering incorrect data.

The central bank has asked a number of mortgage providers to re-submit data for some home-loan statistics following a joint investigation with the Financial Conduct Authority, a person with knowledge of the matter said. It found some lenders were overstating arrears by including loans which should not have been added, the person said, asking not to be identified because the probe was confidential.

The BOE now expects to re-state the arrears figures when it updates the data in the coming quarters, the person said. Spokeswomen for the central bank and the FCA declined to comment.

The proportion of securitized mortgages with arrears of 10 percent or more climbed from about 0.4 percent at the end of 2015 to more than 2.8 percent in the three months through March, data compiled by the bank and FCA showed. The spike is in stark contrast to similar figures published by the Council of Mortgage Lenders, which showed arrears holding steady or falling. Analysis by ratings companies of individual securitized loan pools had showed a similar trend.

Virgin Money Holdings UK Plc is not seeing a rise in mortgage arrears, Chief Executive Officer Jayne-Anne Gadhia said in an interview last week. “Our mortgage balances grew by 4.2 billion pounds ($5.5 billion) in the half, but our arrears grew by only 100,000 pounds.”

The BOE’s Financial Policy Committee has been closely scrutinizing risks related to the surge in property prices as benchmark rates remain at or near record lows. Most mortgages in the U.K. have variable rates, meaning home owners benefit when interest rates are low and pay more when they rise.

The central bank warned in November that the outlook of the U.K. housing market is “highly uncertain” as sales fall following the vote to leave the European Union. A BOE official said Friday that the shadow of Brexit is holding back U.K. investment, a day after the bank cut its growth forecasts for the economy.

--With assistance from Stephen Morris, Suzi Ring and Jill Ward

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