Halal Mortgages: Everything you need to know

by Shazia Hussain

A halal mortgage is a mortgage that complies with the Islamic Sharia rules relating to mortgages, money, and borrowing. The financing terms of halal mortgages must comply with the principles of Sharia law, and many Muslims in the United Kingdom are on the lookout for support for halal mortgage and home finance products and services when they are considering moving home.

The main difference when comparing the financing of halal mortgages and traditional mortgages is that halal mortgages do not involve the payment of any interest. The process of obtaining a halal mortgage has some slight differences when compared to obtaining a traditional mortgage but it is very similar.

Halal mortgages are alternatives to standard mortgages on the market and were created to enable Muslim customers to buy real estate using Sharia compliant finance products.

Moving houses can be a stressful time. The stress can be compounded for Muslims who are looking for banks and building societies that offer halal mortgages.The four main Islamic finance principles that apply to Islamic mortgages are:

Riba refers to usury or interest and is strictly prohibited for Muslims as dictated by Sharia law. Islamic mortgages do not have any interest payment elements. This means that Muslims can get on the housing market and purchase property without being in breach of Sharia law.

Ijara is an Islamic financing structure whereby the bank or building society that are financing the property purchase will buy the property and lease it back to you for a fixed monthly cost that has been agreed between the parties.

Musharaka refers to joint partnerships where you can make a decision with the bank to own separate shares in the property. As more and more monthly payments are made, thus the share owned by the bank is reduced until the homeowner owns the property outright. Co-ownership agreements like these are not common in the UK and are more common in commercial transactions. 

Murabaha is when the bank buys the whole of the property and sells it back to you for a higher price. The higher price is repaid in instalments and means that the bank can recover its costs, and the homeowner does not have to pay interest on the mortgage loan.

The structures within ijara, musharak and murahaba arrangements mean that Muslims can structure their finance terms in Sharia compliant ways.

When looking for a halal mortgage, the general rule is that you should approach those banks or institutions that can prove that they work in a Sharia compliant way, and that they have been advised by an Islamic sharia law authority. Islamic mortgages are regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. This means there are protections for Muslims looking for support when searching for halal mortgages.

When looking for lenders in the United Kingdom that offer halal mortgages, it is always advisable for Muslims to undertake additional due diligence on the terms and payments being offered by the bank.

Buyers should then compare the terms and process offered with other Islamic finance lenders on the market.

For Muslims looking for halal mortgages to purchase property, they normally need to ensure that they have a large deposit ready. Lenders offering halal mortgages will usually have higher administration costs.

Additionally, in exchange for not having an interest payment element anyone who takes on a halal mortgage may need a deposit of up to 20%. You should also factor in the costs of a survey, insurance, fees, stamp duty, and legal fees.

Before deciding on a lender, it is good practice to check the Financial Conduct Authority website to check that the lender is registered with them and therefore regulated.

Ethically, halal mortgages are far superior to traditional mortgages. Both parties in a halal mortgage transaction are beneficiaries. The risks may not be the traditional risks associated with non-halal mortgages (for example, increases in interest rates every few years), but you are still likely to face penalty payments if you have a co-ownership agreement with the bank for the property. This means that if you fail to make payments on time then you could be fined or face repossession.

One thing to watch out for when you are looking for Islamic mortgages is the stamp duty costs. Normally, a buyer pays stamp duty when the purchase of a property (if the property is over the UK stamp duty thresholds). With halal mortgages, as the bank is buying the property and then you are buying from them, this equates to a double payment of stamp duty.

Of course, the stamp duty costs also depend on whether you are buying your property back from the bank, or whether you have a co-ownership agreement with them.You should discuss the stamp duty costs with the bank before taking on the mortgage. 

You should also note that although the bank legally owns the property, you may need to insure the property and deal with the general maintenance and upkeep of the property. Always make sure to add any additional costs to your overall purchase plan. 

The process relating to taking out a halal mortgage is actually very similar to that of a traditional mortgage.This is what normally happens:
  • The buyer will choose a property
  • The buyer will negotiate and agree on the price with the seller
  • The Islamic mortgage provider/bank will buy the property
  • The bank will sell the property back to you at a higher price
  • As a buyer, you will repay the bank in a series of installments
With a traditional mortgage, you would then take a loan from a bank and begin paying the repayments. With an Islamic mortgage there is no interest payable. Instead, the bank will buy the property and sell it back to you for a higher price. This is a form of halal refinancing arrangement.

For example, if the property is valued at £100,000, the bank may sell it to you for £140,000. As a buyer, you can repay this sum over a period of time.You should note that there are usually administration fees associated with halal mortgages, as there are with traditional mortgages. However, the fees for Islamic mortgages are usually lower.

The most obvious benefit is that halal mortgages are not susceptible to fluctuating interest rates. As there is no interest payment element, as a buyer you will not have a changing rate of repayment.

However, if you have a lease agreement with the bank you may find the repayment rate is subject to change. This is why is it is important for Muslims to assess the terms of the halal mortgage.

Ultimately, the risks associated with halal mortgages are minimised on account of the bank sharing the risk with the buyer. Once the bank has agreed to sell the property at a fixed price, this price cannot change irrespective of market conditions.

As the Islamic finance world continues to grow to meet the demand from Muslims across the globe, so too are the options for halal mortgages. Islamic finance has firmly entered the mainstream finance world.

In addition, as halal mortgages are seen as ethically sound many non-Muslim customers are also keen to take advantage of the terms offered by Sharia compliant banks.

Many UK banks and building societies are now offering halal mortgages including Al Rayan Bank and United Bank Limited.

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