Anyone attempting to complete a purchase or sale of a home today will be unable to process the transaction following a failure the Bank of England's Clearing House Automated Payment System.
The fault has affected the CHAPS system, which processes high value same-day transfers, used by solicitors to transfer the mortgage during the house-buying process. The system allows money to be transferred between banks in real time to fund investment banking and consumer loans.
The Bank says it identified a technical issue this morning related to some routine maintenance, and has paused settlement while it resolves it, planning to restart the RTGS payment system in a controlled manner.
It says the most important payments are being made manually and says all payments made today will be processed.
It is unclear whether house purchases are being included in the important manual transactions. The Council of Mortgage Lenders says it has yet to be alerted to problems by its members.
The Chaps system moves billions of pounds every day between Britain’s main banks and building societies.
In September 2014, Chaps processed 3.2 million payments worth £5.8trn with an average volume of 145,638 a day.
Chaps managing director Phil Kenworthy said:
“Chaps is currently unable to process payments. This is due to the Bank of England temporarily pausing the RTGS settlement system to resolve a technical issue.
“Chaps is currently liaising with the Bank of England who are working hard to resolve the issue – which means payments submitted today will be processed.
“Chaps will be extending its operational day to enable its participants to submit and receive Chaps payment instructions later than normal.”
National Association of Estate Agents managing director Mark Hayward says:
“While Monday is not the busiest day in terms of completions, the failure of the payments system for UK house purchases will have a cascading effect and it is likely any payments will now be held up for a day or more as money takes time to transfer, which also means a delay for those hoping to move.
“This week is half term for many, so it will be a time when a lot of people are trying to move house – no doubt it will be a frustration for those that are now delayed.
“The one part of a sale which is fixed is the completion date - with payments not being able to be processed today, this will not only have an effect in terms of the completion date moving, but also accompanying arrangements which may have been scheduled, such as moving support or van hire and the transfer of utilities to the new address.”