The Equity Release Solicitors’ Alliance (ERSA) - a group of established law firms which specialise within the area of equity release – has officially launched.
The six specialist equity release
solicitor firms - Equilaw, Goldsmith Williams, Ashfords, Lees Lloyd Whitley, Gwyn James and Birchall Blackburn - actually created the ERSA in June 2008, but it was not formerly launched until this week.
has been formed so that homeowners considering equity release have access to independent expert legal advice before they take up an equity release plan.
In its report 'Equity Release: The importance of independent, specialist legal advice,' the ERSA says its main aims are to improve the knowledge and understanding of equity release within the market place, provide impartial specialist legal advice to homeowners within equity release and inform homeowners of the advantages of using a specialist law firm when dealing with equity release.
"ERSA members have committed extensive resources to equity release where other law firms have failed to do so," says the report, "Equity release is set to grow and it is essential that homeowners and financial advisers know where to find expert solicitors in this sector."
The ERSA also aims to create a quality mark that guarantees expertise in the field of equity release, inform homeowners of the benefits, guarantees and safety of Safe Home Income Plans (SHIP)
regulated products, provide a "reasoned response to critical commentary on equity release," lobby for positive change to equity release and "work in consultation with industry leaders and trade bodies to discuss and consider the legal aspects of equity release."
Each member of the ERSA can offer eight unique selling points that a non-specialist solicitor cannot, which include full knowledge of equity release schemes
, secure online equity release case tracking, and fixed prices.
“If current predictions are correct, the equity release market will double in the next five years, and by 2016 it is estimated that 42 per cent of the population in England and Wales will be eligible to take out an equity release plan," explained Claire Barker chairman at ERSA and partner at Equilaw.
"With the market expected to grow at such a rate it is essential that all of these consumers are receiving the best possible legal advice before proceeding with a plan.
“Solicitors have to remain independent to ensure that homeowners only take out an equity release product once they have carefully considered the pros and cons of going ahead from an unbiased third party.
"This will also help to ensure that the future reputation of the industry remains intact."
The launch of the ERSA has been welcomed by SHIP who have called the alliance a "step in the right direction."
"This is a vote of confidence from the legal sector and shows the customer that there are solicitors not only prepared to offer legal advice in this area but that several take it very seriously and can offer specialist advice," said Andrea Rozario, director general of SHIP.
"This show of dedication to equity release will be the first of many initiatives that will help to demystify the market and put equity release where it should be, a viable option to be considered alongside all other options in retirement planning."
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