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IHG to open new hotel in Brussels (BE)

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IHG Hotels & Resorts (IHG) announced the signing of voco Brussels City North, marking entry into a new market. Due to open in autumn 2023, the 92-key voco Brussels City North property will be operated by Prem Group, a strong partner for IHG in the region. The state-of-the-art hotel will feature a restaurant and conference centre and will adjoin the Innovation Centre, which is already open on the site, to create a hub for hospitality innovation and a truly stimulating environment.

 

Located to the north of the city, the hotel will feature a striking 50-metre tower with huge glass windows providing panoramic views of the Brussels skyline. The site itself will be Europe’s largest experimental lab for creating ideas and a vision for the future. In line with voco hotels ethos, voco Brussels City North will stand out from the crowd and give guests a different choice.

 

Willemijn Geels, VP Development Europe, IHG Hotels & Resorts, said: “I’m delighted to announce that we are partnering with Living Tomorrow to bring voco hotels to Belgium. We know that Brussels is a strong market for branded properties, and we are confident that the voco hotels’ brand will fit well with the goal of creating a truly innovative hub on this unique site.”

 

Yin Oei, CEO, Living Tomorrow, said: “Living Tomorrow is focused on driving the future and we’re excited to partner with IHG to develop this exciting hotel – the first voco in Belgium. The values of voco hotels fit well with our desire to innovate and push boundaries and we know that the strength of the IHG systems will provide a stable platform from which to innovate.”

 

 

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The Social Hub and Avenue secure €48.75m for Porto mixed-use scheme (PT)

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The Social Hub (TSH) has reached an agreement for €48.75m in financing from Santander in Portugal for a 26,600m² Porto development alongside Avenue. The company will offer a 13,467m² hotel and student accommodation property in the city centre, including 305 rooms, co-working spaces, restaurants and bars, meeting and event spaces, a gym, and a rooftop swimming pool. Construction is underway with the opening targeted for Q1 2024. Avenue will be responsible for the residential part of the development, spreading 11,000m² with 93 residential units, 16 retail units (3,560m²) and 445 parking spaces, with the opening targeted for Q2 2023. The project targets a BREEAM “Very Good” in-use certification when completed.

 

The development will form the larger renovation of the D. Joao I square, creating new space for the local community to come together, including a public garden, and increasing the availability of student housing in Porto.

 

Charlie MacGregor, founder and CEO of TSH, said: “We are very excited to announce that we have secured financing for the development of our Porto hotel. This location shows the viability of our hybrid-hospitality model, as together with Avenue’s residential development, it will really form a melting pot of different communities coming together: residents, students, long and short-stay visitors. The public-use garden will further support the revitalisation of the Praça do D. Joao I.”

 

Aniceto Viegas, CEO of Avenue, said: “It is always an important milestone in any development to secure the development financing. Such financing will allow to complete the construction of one of the most relevant redevelopments of Porto city centre, consolidating the renovation of the D. Joao I Square and the Sá da Bandeira street. Avenue is happy to contribute, with TSH, to bring more housing, retail, and facilities to the community.”

 

Miguel Silva Tomás, Head of Promotion to Construction in the North of Portugal, Santander, added: “This is an extremely relevant project for the city of Porto, as it brings together several aspects of the renovation of the surrounding area, bringing different communities together. The work developed with TSH and Avenue has been a challenge, but the fact that they chose Santander as a partner in this strategic growth opportunity is very rewarding.”

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I’m in mortgage arrears and due in court: How do I avoid being evicted?

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I’m due to appear in court next week about not paying my mortgage. I have been unable to repay my monthly mortgage repayments after losing my job six months ago and am concerned that my family is going to lose its home. 

I’ve been too scared to discuss the full extent of my financial difficulties with my lender – indeed, I’ve suffered plenty of sleepless nights as a result – and now find myself facing a judge as I’ve been unable to agree a new payment plan. 

What do I need to tell the court to ensure I can keep a roof over my head while I continue looking for work? AS

Appearing in court may provide you an opportunity to avoid being evicted, explains ex-judge Stephen Gold

Appearing in court may provide you an opportunity to avoid being evicted, explains ex-judge Stephen Gold

MailOnline’s Property expert Myra Butterworth replies: I’m sorry to hear about your circumstances.

While the prospect of a court appearance may well be distressing, it may provide you with an opportunity to save the roof over your head. 

If you are working hard to find a new job and are able to show evidence in court of this, there are options that a judge can use to support you.

We speak to a former judge about what information you need to share in court to help avoid being evicted and having your home repossessed. 

Stephen Gold, ex-judge and author, replies: I sympathise, but head burying under the sand is a bad idea when it comes to mortgage arrears, and engagement with the lender when difficulties arise is important. 

Some lenders actually have a heart: not exactly cuddly, though reasonable.

More often than not, there is a real chance that the home can be saved. Remember, too, that it is the court that decides at a hearing whether or not you must leave and not the lender and so ensure you participate at the hearing. 

Personal attendance is the best so that the judge can see themselves how seriously you are taking the situation. Also, speak to the free independent expert adviser who should be available at court and who may also be able to accompany you into the hearing and address the judge on your behalf. 

If it is impossible to personally attend, ask the court in advance to allow you to take part by phone or video.

Show your good faith by paying the lender whatever you can afford before the hearing, even though that is very close. Don’t ask the lender permission to do this and take to court written evidence that you have paid.

When you get to court the lender’s representative will almost certainly seek you out to discuss what you have in mind. No harm in going along with a chat. They won’t bite – usually. 

You might just be able to negotiate a course that suits you. Don’t be intimidated by them. As I said, the court decides.

If you are struggling with your home in tough times, read This is Money’s guide to what to do if you can’t pay your mortgage.

Those due to appear in court should provide evidence of how they intend to clear their debts

Those due to appear in court should provide evidence of how they intend to clear their debts

One commodity you will need to escape eviction is money. Not necessarily in your hands, but in the pipeline. That’s money to clear the arrears and to pay ongoing mortgage instalments.

It could be coming from a new job, from your father-in-law or from your son who is about to start paying his way. 

Have evidence of the intended source of this money with you at court, ideally in the form of the human being who is set to come up with it.

The lender may protest to the judge: ‘Unemployed for six months. Why should we suppose he won’t be unemployed for six years?’

Explain to the judge why you are confident – and look and sound confident – that the tide is about to turn. Ideally, write out a CV and show it to the judge. Do your best to at least fix up some job interviews before the hearing and show the judge evidence of them.

If you may be eligible for the Government support for mortgage interest scheme, which would assist towards your commitment and have not yet applied, make that application immediately and tell the judge about it.

Although the judge will wish to see the arrears paid off… they do have power to allow right up to the end of the mortgage term, even if it is 25 years, for this to be done

Retired judge Stephen Gold

Perhaps you have been unable to secure employment in the same sector in which you were formerly involved. If it be the case, persuade the judge that you are prepared to take work in any industry if it means keeping your home. Prepare a budget on the best and worst case scenarios that will hopefully demonstrate that, once back at work, you could keep up current payments and pay off the arrears within the lifetime of the mortgage.

Although the judge will wish to see the arrears paid off as soon as possible, usually by monthly instalments, they do have power to allow right up to the end of the mortgage term, even if it is 25 years, for this to be done.

An estate agent’s assessment of the value of your home, or a ballpark figure obtained online, could be a clincher for you. If the gap between the value and what it would take to pay off the mortgage is comfortable, that could make the difference between eviction and being allowed to stay put because it would eliminate or reduce any potential prejudice to your lender. 

If you have sufficient equity in your home, the judge will be able to say to themselves: ‘If I allow the borrower to stay and they default again, the lender shouldn’t be out of pocket because the likely equity can soak up the fresh arrears.’

Let the judge see the valuation, although if it shows your interest is effectively worth a tenner or less, leave it behind on the bus to court.

The judge will usually have the option of saving you from eviction if that would be justified, whether you have a repayment or interest-only mortgage or a mixture of the two, or are in arrears with a first, second or eleventh mortgage. 

What are the available options? 

The judge will usually have the option of saving you from eviction. Here is the order menu from which the judge can pick:

  • Order you to leave within 28 days
  • Order you to leave in a longer period than 28 days if there are special reasons for extending time (for example, because you are trying to sell your home – see more on that below)
  • Order you to leave but suspend (paralyse) the possession order so that you can stay put, for as long as you keep up the current instalments and the arrears instalments that are specified

If you satisfy the judge that you have a reasonable prospect of securing employment which would justify the making of a suspended possession order, the probability is that they will adjourn the hearing for at least 28 days to enable you to get that work and prove you are in it next time.

If you perform really well, they may make a suspended possession order there and then in the expectation of you getting the job, and fix the first payment date to coincide with when you will have wages in the bank.

The lender’s representative may say to the judge that they cannot interfere with your contractual obligation to pay what you had agreed when you took out the mortgage on the dates that were set. 

However, remind the judge that section 36 of the Administration of Justice Act 1970 permits the court to allow monthly instalments to go unpaid for a period, if it appears likely that the borrower will be able to pay those sums within a reasonable period.

A judge has the power to allow right up to the end of the mortgage term, be it 25 years or whatever, for this to be done.

Although a judge will wish to see the arrears paid off, they have power to allow right up to the end of the mortgage term for this to be done

The court will not be able to save you if your mortgage required you to repay the lender on demand – such as a mortgage securing a bank overdraft – or if your mortgage term has come to an end – for example, if you had an endowment mortgage for 25 years, which is at its end, and what the life company pays out is less than the mortgage debt.

On the brighter side, if it is a second, third or subsequent mortgage that is in arrears, the court usually has broader powers to assist you and can make a so-called ‘time order’ to cater for temporary difficulties.

These include reducing the monthly instalments, relieving you for the time being from having to pay anything off the arrears and even allowing payments to be made after the mortgage term has ended. The powers may not exist for certain mortgages taken out before April 6, 2008.

Can I still choose to sell the property?  

You may have reluctantly decided that you cannot afford the mortgage and that the property has to be sold. Much better to sell yourself than have your lender sell – probably at auction and maybe to a vulture – after you have been evicted.

You have the right to sell at any point before you are evicted, provided the price will pay off the mortgage. The mortgage arrears and the court case make no difference to that.

It is not a brilliant idea to volunteer your difficulties to a prospective buyer, however, or they may lie in wait until after you are out and attempt to scoop up your home for peanuts. 

Ask the judge to adjourn the hearing to give you an opportunity to sell. Your chances of the judge agreeing will be enhanced if you have already placed the property with an estate agent and show proof. 

Should the judge refuse an adjournment they may still be prepared to allow you longer in the property, before you have to leave. You have the right to apply to the court to stave off the bailiff even when the deadline for you to move has passed and you have at last got a buyer or your circumstances have changed for the better and the mortgage and arrears have suddenly become affordable.

It may suit you to earn an adjournment of the first hearing on technical grounds. Nothing of which to be ashamed. The judge could adjourn in some cases. (See below for more information).

There is much more in my book. Good luck. 

  • Stephen Gold is an ex-judge and author of ‘The Return of Breaking Law’ published by Bath Publishing. For more on service charges, go to breakinglaw.co.uk

When can a judge adjourn the hearing? 

It may suit you to earn an adjournment of the first hearing on technical grounds. 

The judge could adjourn, if asked by you, where: 

  • The lender has failed to follow a protocol before starting proceedings (unless a buy-to-let mortgage) by sending you various details with a view to an agreement and giving you no less then 15 working days warning that they are going to court
  • The court papers have not been sent to you at least three weeks before the hearing
  • The lender does not have with them a form called an N123 relating to protocol compliance or certain other documentation that the judge will be looking for
  • The lender has not sent you copies of any written evidence it is relying on at least two days before the hearing

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UK mortgage borrowing down £2bn in October, BoE says

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Britons are increasingly putting their home buying or moving plans on hold and stashing their cash in fixed term savings as the cost of living crisis bites, new data has revealed.

Net mortgage borrowing by individuals fell from £5.9billion in September to £4billion in October, according to the latest Bank of England figures.

Mortgage approvals for house purchases also fell by more than 10 per cent to 59,000 in October, down from 66,000 in September, suggesting homebuying appetite is dissipating amid rising mortgage rates.

This is also 20 per cent down on the 74,400 mortgage approvals recorded in August.

The figures show the effects of the mini-Budget published by Liz Truss’ Government on 23 September, which spooked the markets with unfunded tax cuts – which have now largely been reversed – and led to a spike in mortgage rates.

Appetite waning? The number of mortgages approved in October fell more than 10% compared to September, as the cost of borrowing to buy a home went up

Appetite waning? The number of mortgages approved in October fell more than 10% compared to September, as the cost of borrowing to buy a home went up

Andrew Codling, chief executive of the property platform, Twindig said: ‘Mortgage approvals plummeted in October as the mini-Budget wreaked havoc on the housing market, taking mortgage approvals to their lowest level since June 2020.

‘This is clearly not a good sign as mortgage approvals are, in our view, the best housing market lead indicator. Mortgage approvals today lead to housing transactions in the future.’

> Find best-buy mortgage rates using This is Money’s tool 

The dampening of mortgage demand appears to be linked to rising interest rates.

The ‘effective’ interest rate – the actual interest rate paid – on newly drawn mortgages increased by 25 basis points to 3.09 per cent in October, according to the Bank of England.

However, many homebuyers will have been confronted the prospect of far higher rates over recent weeks. The average two-year fixed rate mortgage is currently 6.08 per cent, according to Moneyfacts.

The reason the Bank of England average is lower is that fixed mortgage rates can be agreed up to six months in advance.  

Steve Seal, chief executive of Bluestone Mortgages said: ‘The aftermath of the mini-Budget continues to take its toll, with a further drop-off in lending activity.

‘While lenders are re-entering the mortgage market after extreme swap rate volatility, there are still strong headwinds lying ahead, which will undoubtedly have an enormous impact on the homeownership dream.’

The prospect of falling house prices may also be preventing people from buying a home right now. 

It is a particular concern for first-time buyers, as they often buy with small deposits and are at greater risk of negative equity if the value of their property goes down.  

Past their peak: Mortgage rates have been falling from their October highs in recent weeks

Past their peak: Mortgage rates have been falling from their October highs in recent weeks 

But despite the Bank of England’s figures, there are at least signs that mortgage rates are falling from their recent peaks. 

Alice Haine, personal finance analyst at investment platform Bestinvest, said: ‘With the political and financial turbulence easing since Rishi Sunak became Prime Minister following Liz Truss’ resignation on October 21, the lowest two-year fix has now dipped to just over 5 per cent.

‘With the markets reassured on fiscal stability after the Autumn Statement and given the Bank of England’s gloomy recession forecast earlier this month, the Bank is now expected to raise interest rates from the current level of 3 per cent to around 4.25 per cent to 4.5 per cent – a slightly more palatable peak than the 6 per cent or more that had been feared after the Kwarteng mini-Budget.

‘With the number of mortgage products available also recovering, it means banks are competing for new customers once again – increasing the chances for new buyers and those looking to refinance of securing a better deal.’

Britons pile money into fixed rate savings 

Whilst mortgage appetite is falling, Britons who can afford it continue to pour much of their spare cash into savings.

Households deposited an additional £6.2billion with banks and building societies in October, according to the Bank of England.

Fixed rate savings appeared to be the flavour of the month, with £11.3billion stashed into these accounts, up from just £2.9 billion in September.

Fixed rate savings deals typically allow savers to lock their money away for between one and five years in return for higher rates.

> Find the best fixed savings rates using This is Money’s independent tables 

The flood of money into fixed rate savings was however partly offset by the fact that money in easy-access savings accounts fell by £4.8billion overall. 

Some of this money may have been transferred into fixed rate accounts, but it could also show Britons dipping into savings to cope with the rising cost of living. 

Savings rates have been rising to the highest levels seen in more than a decade.

The typical interest rate paid to Britons stashing cash in new fixed rate accounts with banks and building societies rose to 3.26 per cent in October, up from 2.49 per cent in September.

The best fixed rate deals breached the 5 per cent barrier last month. However, in recent weeks they have been falling back.

Sarah Coles, senior personal finance analyst at investment platform Hargreaves Lansdown said: ‘There was a fixed rate savings frenzy in October, as £11.3billion piled into these accounts – a record high.

‘This was more than eight times as much as went into fixed rate savings in September, and reflects a growing sense that we may be getting near the top of the fixed rate savings market.’

Some links in this article may be affiliate links. If you click on them we may earn a small commission. That helps us fund This Is Money, and keep it free to use. We do not write articles to promote products. We do not allow any commercial relationship to affect our editorial independence.

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