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Swiss Franc loans breakthrough

Out of court settlements in connection with the alleged mis-selling of Swiss Franc loans have been widely reported in the Cyprus and UK media and we have been inundated with requests for further information.

Cyprus: Swiss Franc loanALTHOUGH numerous reports about an out of court settlement reached between a bank in Cyprus and a group alleging they were mis-sold Swiss Franc loans to purchase property on the island have appeared in the British and Cyprus press, no details of the settlement have been reported.

Since the articles were published we’ve been deluged with requests for further information. Although we have been led to believe the settlement was agreed by a consortium of law firms based in London, we have been unable to obtain any further information.

However, another UK-based group representing almost 500 home purchasers in the same predicament has provided an insight into the agreement they have reached with a major banking institution in Cyprus.

Hill & Blythe Associates

Two of the founding members of the Swiss Franc Mortgage Campaign are continuing to represent clients seeking a solution to financial difficulties arising from Swiss Franc loans.

The campaign was started more than three years ago by a handful of British property buyers who were advised to purchase their properties with the aid of Swiss Franc loans. They were not warned at the time of the pitfalls in borrowing in a foreign currency; specifically the risk of currency exchange rate fluctuation in times of economic uncertainty.

Most of them also provided Powers of Attorneys to their lawyers or agents that were certified against the Cyprus legislative provisions. Their lawyers/agents acting on such Power of Attorney signed all necessary documents for the execution of the loan without being warned of the risk involved in Swiss Franc loans.

As the strength of the Swiss Franc rapidly grew buyers saw their monthly loan repayments increase substantially some to a point where they could no longer keep up with payments. This has put people under immense financial strain and sadly, in some cases, people have lost their Cypriot dream homes with the added fear of their debts being pursued and enforced in the United Kingdom.

Whereas the original group started with a handful of members it has now grown into the hundreds most, but not all, are British citizens. The group is run by Lyn Clifford Hill, a former Senior Civil Servant and Chris Blythe, a Chartered Accountant. Both Lyn and Chris bought property in Cyprus in 2006.

There are a number of groups seeking to take action in relation to the financial harm resulting from Swiss Franc loans; some are seeking to cancel all agreements based on a number of grounds including the above mentioned breach in the Power of Attorney procedures.

The Hill & Blythe group has distinguished itself from most other groups in that their aims and objectives are not to hand in their keys and ‘walk away’ from their obligations. They love Cyprus, the lifestyle, the people and want to keep their properties and pay off their loans.

The group has therefore been seeking compensation for the economic losses of the past and looking for safety and security for the future. In particular they want to continue their lives without the stress and constant uncertainty of how much they need to pay on their loans.

If at all possible they also want to avoid the substantial legal costs associated with litigation and, of course, the risks and uncertainty of what would result from such action. In this regard the group has recently achieved a major breakthrough. It has reached an amicable solution and formulated an agreement with a major banking institution in Cyprus.

In recognition of the continuing global economic crisis and the negative impact this has had on individual buyers, the institution has agreed to offer a range of solutions such as discounting a significant amount of the current CHF loan balance and refinancing through a new loan in either Sterling or Euros. Alternatively, in return for full settlement of the loan, an increased discount is being offered.

The group has also secured important legal protection for the future in the form bank waivers.

Hundreds of settlement offers have already been accepted and settlement agreements have been signed and others are now being rapidly processed.

Looking to the future Hill & Blythe Associates is in a strong position of being able to assist others who have the same financial difficulties. Their fee structure is straightforward and easy to understand. Unlike some other groups:

  • There are no disbursement costs.
  • No ‘success fee’ where a percentage of the final compensation award is taken.

Instead Hill & Blythe Associates charge a simple and affordable flat fee for their work which can be paid by instalments.

If you would like to receive more information please contact Hill & Blythe Associates using the form below.

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Readers' comments

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  • Janice says:

    Steve Brown is right, a more coordinated approach is needed! Settling for less than 50% write off current loan seems to be complete madness! The loans are mostly invalid and there is a substantial claim against the bank for full reimbursement of all losses. You have to decide whether the ~200 euros a month net rental income from your 1 bed apartment (~300 euros for 2 bed), is going to be sufficient to pay all the new monthly interest and capital combined, and you receive the title deeds, and whether you have a waiver against claims for any other assets you own in the event of default. Remember the continuing crash in property values is becoming unique to Cyprus; is almost entirely down to the bank’s mismanagement of loans by their incompetence, dishonesty in mis-selling, and negligence. If these banks were in America, heavy fines and compensation would be due! New loans at 70% LTV, 2% interest + some capital is the only way out. Lawyers that tell you to settle for ‘18%’ are understandably bored with it all, and want out.

  • Steve brown says:

    Hi just reading the majority of the comments passing about and I sense mass panic on an unnerving scale, why are people even considering accepting settlement figures when half of you don’t seem to understand what figures you are settling on either original loan amount or that with the full terms interest applied, there must be a legal position on this and until all the firms acting in this battle of the Swiss franc mortgage fiasco sort this out we will never achieve an honest outcome. Why are these legal companies not applying constant pressure to MPs, Euro MPs, European Central Bank officials, Banks, Cyprus government and all other official parties who could add a weight to this issue so that there could be some parity in the settlements and not just figures plucked out of the sky by banks and individual law firms. Your comments please.

  • Fave says:

    Mags…

    We kept our loan in CHF, I am no expert but it seemed silly to change it to Sterling or euros when the exchange rate is poor.
    Perhaps a risk but we have seen our pavements fall twice now (we buy one years worth at a time) the fall is in line with Sterling gaining strength against the Swiss Franc. We would be prepared to pay the full amount of if Sterling was at the correct level against CHF if interest rates rise in this country that will strengthen Sterling and this is forecast to happen from next year onwards.

    Like I say I am no expert, and I would ask someone with greater knowledge than I before making a decision. But so far the CHF is working for us, and we are content with the decision.

  • Mags says:

    Kath, may I ask, was the 35% discount that Alpha Bank offered you on the remaining loan amount and did you have to pay some of the loan off to get this discount amount. (the reason I am asking is that they have offered us a much less discount and requiring a payment from us of €35,000). We are in talks with Alpha bank ourselves and not sure where to go from here.

    Do people think it would be better to change from a CHF mortgage to a Euro or British Pound Sterling mortgage? All thoughts very much appreciated.

  • del says:

    the 30% discount is off the total amount you owe now not the original loan amount which still leaves it unaffordable for many myself being included and even upon speaking to the bank its take it or leave it and they will start legal proceedings against me.

  • Fed up says:

    @Russ

    The 30-40% that is being quoted. Is this regardless of how you restructure the new loan?
    Via a lawyer, we have received an offer of 18% to convert the current balance to euros, 28% to convert to sterling or 38% to repay the loan in its entirety.

    Not sure whether to accept or keep pushing. We have been told by our lawyer that it is take it or leave it!!

  • Suze says:

    Re ; Not Yet Settled

    Is your 40% discount off the original loan amount, or the figure which you owe now (i.e. does it include any interest that has built up) ?

  • @Mathews Thomas – You can contact Lyn Hill by completing the form at the foot of the article.

  • Mathews Thomas says:

    Can somebody please give me Lyn Hill’s details
    Thank you

  • Russ says:

    Hi “Not Yet Settled”,
    One of the owners in our complex received an offer very similar to yours direct from the bank. They then joined the Lyn Hill group.

    Other groups are charging thousands to join and also want a percentage of the savings.

    Great deal and great value from the Lyn Hill group, it is worth contacting them again for an update.

    Russ.

  • Not Yet Settled says:

    Hi Russ
    We are interested in your post:
    ‘Only been offered 40% ! Our groups offer is far in excess of that. One of our members had a similar offer, that’s why they joined with Lyn Hill’

    Do you mean you got a higher offer through the Lyn Hill group – or another group? We only got an offer worth about 30% through the Lyn Hill group and after that offer there could be no further negotiation – it was take it or leave it.

  • @Marianne – I understand that discussions with the Bank of Cyprus are continuing. Hopefully there’ll be some news in the not too distant future.

  • @DC on 2014/06/26 at 9:26 am – I suggest you phone the firm – if you cannot speak to the lawyer handling your case, the firm will have office staff able to advise you of what progress is being made.

    If you don’t get any joy, I see Dave has given you the name of the Legal Ombudsman in the UK – and there is also the Solicitors Regulation Authority.

    If it’s a Cypriot law firm you can make a complaint to the Cyprus Bar Association. But do not expect a rapid response!

    One thing to bear in mind regarding possible litigation – Banks may lodge appeals with the European Court of Justice about jurisdiction (you may be aware that some of the cases are to be heard in the UK).

    If a Bank appeals to the European Court of Justice, while legal arguments continue, the Bank will start proceedings in Cyprus which the Cypriot courts will not throw out on jurisdictional grounds. As a consequence, the loans will continue to increase and interest charges and penalties will continue to be added until the jurisdictional appeal has been settled and this could take years.

    Also, should you lose the case the judge may award costs to the defendants, this could prove very expensive (although I believe you can get insurance to cover this eventuality.)

  • Marianne says:

    Why are there not any results with Bank of Cyprus?

    Have BAC done a better job with their paperwork?

  • Dave says:

    For anyone interested……..

    Legal Ombudsman
    PO Box 6806
    Wolverhampton
    WV1 9WJ

    telephone. 0300 555 0333

    http://www.legalombudsman.org.uk

  • Dave says:

    DC and all other unhappy members of Legal Groups, I was a member of one of the Legal Groups and I lost all trust in what they were doing and telling me, totally mixed messages so I picked the phone up and spoke to Alpha Bank in Nicosia personally it was certainly interesting what they told me. It didn’t tally up with what the Solicitor was telling me.

    So I began negotiations with AB and we settled on 35% reduction with various safeguards included (waiver, mortgage rate set for entire length of loan etc) I am more than happy with our deal and our property, unfortunately my Solicitor charged me to get out of his claws.

    So it’s certainly worth considering talking with the Bank, and for any disgruntled people who are unhappy with their solicitor consider putting a complaint into the Legal Ombudsman, weight of numbers may make them act and stop the Solicitors gravy train.

  • DC says:

    I paid thousands to join another group run by a lawyer who promised they could get our mortgage and sale agreement cancelled and get all our money back. I am also paying by direct debit every month to stay in the group.

    Nothing is happening and the lawyer will not tell us what our money is being spent on.

    I’m at my wits end. I’m bleeding money but nothing is happening.

    What should I do?

  • Tommy Taylor says:

    Seems as if the Lyn Hill group are the lucky ones, having been represented by people with honesty and integrity.

    There is a lot of hard feelings out there with regard to some of the Legal Groups who would seem to have seen an opportunity to make huge amounts of money from vulnerable foreign investors with promises to sort the situation out quickly and cheaply.

    Needless to say this hasn’t happened and complaints to the Ombudsman and the Attorney General are now commonplace.

  • Andrew says:

    Hopefully this breakthrough will mean that all buyers will receive waivers in respect of all Developer mortgages, from all Banks.

    The Swiss Franc debacle is only a small part of the problem in Cyprus. Many people have paid in full for their homes, or are quite happy with their current mortgage.

    Yet these same buyers did not know that Developers had already mortgaged the land sold on to them. These undisclosed Developer mortgages were also hidden by Banks, Lawyers and Land Registry.

  • Michael Osborn says:

    The article is a fair representation of what Hill & Blythe have done for this group. They have been extremely helpful and I have now settled my loan, the discount for full settlement was c 40% with the waiver that hopefully doesn’t apply to me in any case.

    I am also released from taking out expensive insurance with Alpha Bank and have halved the cost of this.

    I might have got a bigger discount elsewhere but I’m not sure how long this would have taken to sort out.

    I’m extremely pleased of the work that Lyn Hill did and hope they get some future recognition for it.

  • @Andrew – Bank waivers are included in the deal that Lyn’s group have negotiated with the bank – “The group has also secured important legal protection for the future in the form bank waivers.”

  • Russ says:

    @Marianne
    You will find the Lyn Hill group most helpful.
    We have a private owners forum for where we are in Paphos.
    Many of whom went direct to their banks and then joined Lyn’s group instead.

  • Andrew says:

    Banks should also give waivers to all buyers, who bought properties which came with undisclosed developer mortgages.
    Banks knew full well that developers would, under separate sales contracts,sell on highly encumbered land to unwitting buyers.

  • @AJWC – I believe there has been some softening in the Bank of Cyprus’ attitude towards dealing with the issue, but I haven’t heard from anyone who’s managed to negotiate a settlement. I’ll make some enquiries.

  • AJWC says:

    Can any commenters tell me if they have been successful with achieving resolutions with BOC.

  • @Marianne – Lyn’s group is not exclusively British. I suggest you get in touch with him using the contact form.

  • Marianne says:

    Hi

    Need to have an advice on this. This is very British deals Is it anything I can do with this from Norway?

    I also wonder if any settlements have been made with Bank of Cyprus or is it only Alpha bank?

  • Kath says:

    We settled with AB directly, 35% reduction on loan! low interest rate for the life of the loan…this was without having to pay any expensive lawyers costs. We would certainly recommend talking to the bank.

  • Russ says:

    Ref: Not Yet Settled below,
    Only been offered 40% !
    Our groups offer is far in excess of that.
    One of our members had a similar offer, that’s why they joined with Lyn Hill

  • @Brookes Ayton – Ah! I believe at least one of the groups has instigated legal proceedings against the developer of Arcadia and the bank? I wish them every success.

    This is a different situation. The properties here have been completed and delivered – this issue is around the problems of home loans denominated in Swiss Francs.

    I know many people are trying to use the excuse that although the property they purchased has been completed and delivered, the rest estate has yet to be finished. (I bought my first home off-plan in Kent. When we took delivery the roads, street lighting, etc had not been completed – and there was much building work going on. This is very common and isn’t an excuse for repaying a loan.)

  • Brookes Ayton says:

    Nigel – yes, Arcadia Gardens is not complete.

  • @Brookes Ayton – Are you saying that the property you purchased has not been completed?

    What’s the name of the development?

  • Brookes Ayton says:

    Nigel – the “development” is LITERALLY a building site. All the properties lie not even half finished. Why would I pay for concrete shell? Are you suggesting I should?

  • @Brookes Ayton – I’m afraid that the fact that the development hasn’t been completed is of no consequence. If the property you purchased (as stated in your contract) has been completed and delivered, you should be repaying the loan.

  • Brookes Ayton says:

    All well and good if you have a property. We are on an unfinished development with no signs it will ever be completed but the loan accumulates monthly. We did get one thing out of all of this – a writ from Alpha Bank. Cheers AB!

  • Not Yet Settled says:

    We were part of Lyn Hill’s group who did an excellent job if the final settlement offer from the Alpha Bank was acceptable to your circumstances and you wanted to settle quickly, inexpensively and easily. The offer we received was approximately 30% discount off the full loan amount. Our personal circumstances meant we had to refuse this offer and we left the Swiss Franc Campaign Group to go it alone. We have subsequently been offered 40% discount directly from the AB and are still negotiating.

  • Russ says:

    We did try going direct to the bank.
    Yes they did make an offer.
    It was no where near as favourable as the offer obtained via the Lyn Hill Group.
    Very systematic and affordable, a fraction of the cost of other groups/firms.

  • Janice says:

    The CHF mis-selling is only a part of the NPL problem. As Ivan rightly points out, the arbitrary (150%) increase in interest rate margins (2% to 4.9%) in 2008-2010 stifled out any remaining ability to repay the loans after the CHF doubled in value vs £. The deferred capital that became due in 2012 vs reduced (illegal) rental income knocked the loan out for good. The resulting collapse in property prices (created by the bank’s incompetence and greed), has cost us 100,000’s euros. The devaluation of property is mainly down to the banks and should be fully compensated! Apart from not being advised about CHF risks, we were not properly advised about the arbitrary increases in margin, nor the risk to other assets, nor the legalities of renting which we made it clear would be relied upon for the repayments. I would be looking for a refund of over charged interest, 100% compensation for CHF losses, and a 70% LTV repayment loan at about 3% – together with title deeds. We could then get on with our lives, the housing market/jobs would flourish once more – and the banks would be back in their main role of supporting the community – rather than chasing 10,000+ bad loans! Seems a no brainer!

  • Phil Wood says:

    As another purchaser in Alehriko I can endorse PhillD’s comments. Lyn and his team have done and are doing an excellent job.

  • PhillD says:

    I am also one of the many delighted members of this Group & know personally others who have benefited from the certainty now achieved, a number of us having bought property in Alethriko in the Larnaca region.

    Lyn & Chris have a systematised process that is cost effective & certainly preferable to approaching the bank yourself (we tried that!)

  • Mark French says:

    Can anyone tell me what type of discount is acceptable for the restructure of a CHF loan into Euros? We are busy negotiating with Alpha Bank.

  • Ivan says:

    Mortgages in Cyprus are usually arranged on the basis of a fixed rate over the LIBOR rate.

    As an example for a Swiss franc mortgage agreed in April 2008: Swiss franc 6mth Libor + 1.5% = 4.385% interest.

    Current interest rates (June 23 2014 0.07000 %) CHF libor + 1.5% = 1.57% interest

    Using the exchange rates for the different period: 2008 £1 bought me nearly 2 Swiss Francs which meant to pay the interest on a CHF100,000 loan (4385) I would need to spend about £2200 a year. I can now only buy about CHF 1.5 for my £ but the interest due is now about CHF1570 so I would need to spend about £1050. That’s a huge saving by using Swiss francs, only problem is the BANKS decided to go against all agreements and increase their profit margin by piling on extra interest, they are the ones causing the problem with mortgages.

    They should be prosecuted.

  • Sudem says:

    Yes, but what about those people who have purchased an over priced apartment/house? You could re roc a discount but that does not help those that cannot afford to clear there loans! What the banks should do, is re value at today’s market, re structure the Loan at the current market rate, and have a fixed interest rate for the next 3 yrs paying both interest and capital. This is the right form of compensation for those that have lost thousands!!!! Not to mention the stress!

  • Joe says:

    All home owners facing the same issue may go direct to the bank without a need of a lawyer and the banks will offer the same, if you continue to persist. No need to pay a lawyer a single penny for this. Just email the bank yourself and push. The figures talk for themselves.

  • Russ says:

    I joined the Lyn Hill group.
    Very affordable and straightforward service.
    We can now enjoy our Holiday Home as we intended.
    A brilliant settlement from this group of people.

  • carl chambers says:

    I was one of these few that have now settled out of court – with a massive thanks to Lyn hill and his group !
    I have saved in access of £80k in this settlement – I have now paid off both properties and happy with the fact I have a waiver from Alpha bank also !!!

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