What Are the Essential Equity Release Rules and Regulations in the UK for 2024?

Current regulations include the no negative equity guarantee and the requirement for independent legal advice, ensuring equity release products are safe and transparent for consumers. The Equity Release Council plays a key role in setting these standards.
  • Last Updated: 17 May 2024
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Francis Hui
What Are the Rules and Regulations Governing Equity Release in the UK? Find Out About Eligibility Criteria, Mandatory Financial and Legal Advice and More…
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Key Takeaways…

  • The UK equity release regulations aim to protect consumers by enforcing fair practices in the industry, with recent changes enhancing consumer safeguards and transparency.
  • Rules ensure that providers meet stringent standards, offer fair treatment, and provide means for grievances; companies that ignore these regulations can suffer significant financial repercussions and risks.
  • As a consumer, it’s crucial to comprehend the terms, gauge inheritance impacts, and consult independent financial advice.

Navigating the world of equity release rules and regulations can be a daunting task for UK homeowners seeking to tap into the wealth tied up in their homes, and you may find yourself asking, “Are equity release schemes safe?”.

With a remarkable £6.2bln in total lending in 2022, a 29% increase from 20211, it is evident that this financial solution is gaining traction amongst those looking to boost retirement income, fund home renovations, or even assist family members financially. 

In This Article, You Will Discover:

    In this article, the Every Investor team will guide you through the complexities of equity release in the UK and the essential regulations that govern the industry. 

    With this information, you will be able to make well-informed decisions about this financial tool by understanding the equity release rules and regulations.

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    Regulations in Equity Release

    What Are the Fundamentals of Equity Release in the UK?

    Equity release in the UK allows homeowners to access their property’s value, subject to specific age and property criteria.

    What Is Equity Release in the UK and What Are the Basic Rules?

    Equity release is a financial option allowing older homeowners to access the value of their homes in cash form.

    It is an alternative to downsizing or taking out a traditional loan.

    These plans, including lifetime mortgages and home reversions, let seniors borrow against, or sell part of their home, with the debt settled later, typically from the property’s sale.

    Learn More: What Is Equity Release?

    What Are the UK’s Equity Release Rules and Age Limit Regulations?

    Equity release in the UK is regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), ensuring a robust and protected environment for consumers.

    There are two types of equity release schemes: Lifetime mortgages and home reversion plans.

    The former lets you borrow money against your home, whilst the latter allows you to sell a share of it.

    Both involve age restrictions (you must be at least 55), and the property must be your main residence. Beyond these basics, there are other rules to note.

    For instance, the ‘no negative equity’ guarantee ensures that you will never owe more than your home’s value.

    Also, the product must be portable, meaning you can transfer it to a new property subject to provider criteria.

    Finally, you have the right to remain in your property for life or until you go into long-term care.

    The FCA’s regulation ensures that these rules are strictly adhered to, offering you a safe way to release equity.

    So, can you be refused equity release?

    Yes, applicants can be refused equity release based on factors like age, health, property type, and existing debts.

    How Does the Legal Framework Influence Equity Release in the UK?

    The legal framework ensures equity release schemes are transparent, fair, and provide consumer protection.

    What Are the Key Legal Frameworks Governing Equity Release in the UK?

    In the UK, equity release is regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) to ensure consumer protection and market integrity.

    The Equity Release Council sets industry standards, promoting safe and transparent practices.

    Legal frameworks mandate clear advice, risk communication, and the right to remain in the property for life or until long-term care is needed.

    These regulations are designed to safeguard consumers from potential risks, ensuring that equity release products are secure and equitable for all parties involved.

    What Are the Four Key Principles for Equity Release Providers Under Regulation?

    The four overarching principles of regulated equity release providers, as set out by the Equity Release Council, aim to guarantee fair treatment of consumers and access to a variety of equity release products tailored to their specific needs.

    These principles are…

    1. Transparency: Regulated equity release providers must provide clear and concise information about the products they offer, including fees and charges.
    2. Flexibility: Providers must offer a range of products that are flexible and can be tailored to meet the individual needs of consumers.
    3. Security: Consumers must be assured that their interests are protected and that their property will not be at risk as a result of equity release.
    4. Guarantees: Providers must offer guarantees that ensure consumers can remain in their home for as long as they choose, and that the total amount owed will never exceed the sale value of the property.

    What Are the Regulatory Rules for Equity Release Providers?

    Equity release providers are subject to various rules and regulations for the sake of consumer protection. 

    These rules are enforced by the FCA and the ERC. 

    Some rules equity release providers must adhere to in the UK…

    • FCA regulation: Providers must be authorised and regulated in the UK by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) to offer equity release products, ensuring they adhere to the FCA’s rules and guidelines for conducting business.
    • ERC membership: Many reputable equity release providers choose to become members of the Equity Release Council (ERC), which requires them to follow the ERC’s standards and principles for consumer protection and transparency.
    • Product standards: Providers must ensure that their equity release products meet specific standards, such as providing a no-negative-equity guarantee, and ensuring clients will never owe more than their property’s value.
    • Clear communication: Providers must present their equity release products clearly and transparently, ensuring customers understand the terms, conditions, and implications of entering into an equity release agreement.
    • Treating customers fairly: Providers must treat customers fairly throughout the entire equity release process, from the initial enquiry to the ongoing management of the plan.
    • Responsible lending: Providers must assess the affordability and suitability of equity release products for each customer, considering their financial situation, needs, and objectives.
    • Independent legal advice: Providers must ensure that customers receive independent legal advice from a solicitor of their choice before entering into an equity release contract.
    • Cooling-off period: Providers must offer a cooling-off period, typically 14 days, during which customers can change their minds and cancel the equity release plan without incurring any penalties.
    • Complaints handling: Providers must have a robust complaints handling procedure in place, allowing customers to raise concerns or disputes and ensuring these are dealt with fairly and efficiently.

    By following these rules and regulations, equity release providers help to maintain a high standard of professionalism, transparency, and consumer protection within the UK’s equity release industry.

    What Determines Your Eligibility for Equity Release?

    Eligibility for equity release is determined by the applicant’s age, property value, and health status, among other factors.

    What Are the Minimum Age and Other Criteria for Equity Release?

    The basic equity release eligibility rules are that you must own a home in the UK valued at a minimum of £70,000 and you must be 55 or older. 

    In addition to these eligibility criteria, there are other factors that may affect your ability to release equity from your property, such as the condition of your property and where exactly it is located. 

    To qualify for an equity release plan, you will usually need to meet the following basic eligibility criteria…

    • Age: The minimum age requirement’s 55, though certain providers may have a higher minimum age limit of 60 or 65.
    • Property ownership: Owning the property, which should be your primary residence, is a must. Also, you may need to have no current mortgage debt or a mortgage sum low enough to be paid off with the equity release money.
    • Property value: Depending on the provider, your property must be worth at least a certain amount, usually approximately £70,000 or more.
    • Location of the property: The property must be in the UK and adhere to the location requirements set out by the provider. Many providers exclude certain locations, like the Isle of Wight and the Scottish Isles, from equity release eligibility. 
    • Construction type: Your home should be of standard construction, though some providers may take into account non-standard properties on an individual basis.
    • Property condition: Your property must be in reasonable condition. Your provider may demand that you utilise a portion of your equity release funds to make necessary repairs or upgrades.

    Please note that individual providers may have additional eligibility requirements or criteria that are specific to their equity release products. 

    It is important to consult a qualified equity release broker or advisor to discuss your individual circumstances and determine appropriate equity release options.

    Beyond Age: What Other Criteria Determine Your Eligibility for Equity Release?

    Whilst age is a primary eligibility factor for equity release, typically starting at 55, other criteria also play a pivotal role.

    Lenders assess property value and type, ensuring it meets specific standards.

    Personal financial circumstances, including income, debts, and dependents, influence the terms offered.

    Health and lifestyle factors can also affect the amount accessible through equity release, with some schemes providing more funds to those with shorter life expectancies.

    Understanding these multifaceted criteria is essential for potential applicants.

    How Are Equity Release Funds Regulated in the UK?

    Equity release funds are strictly regulated to ensure financial fairness and security for consumers.

    What Are the Spending Rules for Equity Release Funds in the UK?

    In the UK, there are generally no strict rules regarding spending equity release funds. 

    Whilst equity release funds can generally be used for a wide range of purposes, there are certain restrictions or situations where using the funds may not be allowed or advisable. 

    Some instances where equity release funds may not be used include…

    • Illegal activities: It is against the law to use equity release funds for illegal activities like money laundering, drug trafficking, or any other kind of crime.
    • Speculative or high-risk investments: It is not advisable to use equity release funds for speculative or high-risk investments, as this could lead to significant financial losses and jeopardise the homeowner’s financial security.
    • Short-term lending or loans to others: Using equity release funds to provide short-term loans or lend money to others can be risky and may lead to financial difficulties or disputes.
    • Business ventures with no clear plan or strategy: Using the funds to invest in or start a business without a clear plan or strategy may not be advisable, as it may result in financial losses or impact the homeowner’s ability to repay the equity release loan.
    • Releasing equity to repay an existing equity release plan: Homeowners should not use equity release funds to repay an existing equity release loan without proper financial advice, as this could lead to further financial complications and may not address the underlying issues.
    • Gambling: Using equity release funds for gambling or other high-risk activities can result in financial losses and may not be an appropriate use of the funds.

    Equity release money can, however, be used for various purposes, depending on the homeowner’s needs and preferences. 

    Common uses of equity release funds include…

    • Home improvements or adaptations: Many homeowners use the funds to make necessary repairs, renovations, or adaptations to their homes, such as installing a new kitchen, bathroom, or making the property more accessible as they age.
    • Debt repayment: Equity release can be used to repay existing debts, such as mortgages, loans, or credit card balances, helping homeowners to reduce their monthly outgoings and improve their financial situation.
    • Supplementing retirement income: Some homeowners use equity release to supplement their pension or other retirement income, providing additional financial security and a better quality of life during retirement.
    • Financial support for family: Equity release can be used to provide financial support to family members, such as helping children or grandchildren with education costs, house deposits, or other expenses.
    • Travel or leisure: Many homeowners use the funds to enjoy their retirement, travel, pursue hobbies, or simply maintain a comfortable lifestyle.
    • Long-term care: Some people use equity release funds to cover the costs of long-term care, either at home or in a care facility, ensuring they receive the necessary support and assistance as they age.

    Although equity release funds can be used for various purposes based on the homeowner’s needs and preferences, it is crucial to carefully consider the long-term implications and risks associated with the chosen purpose.

    Remember…

    Equity release reduces the value of the borrower’s estate, which can impact the inheritance they leave behind for their loved ones. 

    Additionally, homeowners should be aware of any potential effects on their tax situation or eligibility for means-tested state benefits. 

    Consulting a qualified financial adviser can help you use the funds responsibly and in accordance with your financial goals and objectives.

    What Are the Four Mandatory Customer Outcomes in Equity Release Terms and Conditions?

    The four required customer outcomes for equity release include that members of the Equity Release Council must offer advice and services that is honest, impartial, transparent, and clear.

    A closer examination of these outcomes…

    1. Consumers will have access to appropriate products that meet their needs.
    2. Consumers fully grasp the features, costs, and risks associated with equity release.
    3. Consumers will have access to independent legal and financial advice before making a decision.
    4. Consumers’ property will be protected and will never be at risk as a result of equity release. (While your property will generally not be repossessed if you adhere to the terms and conditions of the equity release agreement, it is essential to understand the specific terms and potential consequences in case of non-compliance.)

    What Standards and Requirements Govern the Equity Release Council and It’s Members?

    The Equity Release Council mandates high standards and ethical practices to safeguard consumer interests.

    What Is the Equity Release Council’s Code of Conduct and Rules?

    The Equity Release Council’s standards demonstrate the industry’s maturation over the years, with rules and regulations in place to protect consumers and promote responsible, ethical equity release practices

    The Equity Release Council (ERC)2 started life as Safe Home Income Plans (SHIP) in 1991 to clean up the sector’s reputation.

    SHIP was rebranded in 2012 and is now called the Equity Release Council. 

    Equity Release Council standards include guarantees that…

    • Lifetime mortgages must have fixed or capped variable interest rates (but be aware that interest rates may still be higher than traditional mortgages, and the total interest cost could increase significantly over time). 
    • Homeowners have the right to remain living on their property until the plan ends upon their passing or when they move into long-term care. 
    • You will have the opportunity to transfer your plan to a  new property if you move, provided it meets the lender’s criteria.
    • Plans must include a No Negative Equity Guarantee to ensure any debt that exceeds the final sale price of the home will be written off. 
    • You have the right to pay back a portion of your loan annually, without incurring a penalty, and / or to make monthly penalty-free interest payments to prevent the interest from compounding.

    What Are the Equity Release Council Member Requirements and Regulations?

    The Equity Release Council member requirements include a set of minimum conditions that must be met by all members. 

    These requirements include adhering to the council’s rules and standards, being authorised and regulated in the UK by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA)3, offering a range of equity release products that meet the Council’s standards, and providing independent legal advice to customers.

    Members also must submit to certain procedures to maintain their ERC membership.  

    What Is the Annual Certificate of Compliance in Equity Release?

    Lenders must submit an annual certificate of compliance on the anniversary of their membership initiation. 

    You can ask your lender to view it’s Annual Certificate of Compliance.

    How Do Member Subscriptions Align With Equity Release Regulations?

    Member subscriptions are renewed annually and are only granted to equity release companies, advisors, solicitors, etc. that meet the relevant requirements.

    What Are the Rules on Fees and Charges in Equity Release Agreements?

    Equity Release member fees and charges will differ depending on whether you are a provider, financial advisor, solicitor, or associate member.

    What Regulations Do Equity Release Financial Advisors Follow?

    Financial advice firms are charged an annual fee per advisor on a sliding scale, based on the number of advisors in the firm.

    Larger firms pay a lower per capita fee than smaller firms.

    These fees range between £195 and £300 per advisor, and there is an additional £70 application fee for each person listed on the application.

    What Are the Equity Release Rules for Council Solicitors?

    Equity Release Council application fees for solicitors are based on case-load. 

    Fees range between £450 for up to 499 cases and £10,000 for 20,000 cases and more.

    There’s also a £70 application fee for each individual associated with the application.

    What Are the Equity Release Regulations for Associate Members and Providers?

    Associate members’ and providers’ fees are assessed on a case-by-case basis. 

    This is because of the variety of product types.

    What Are Equity Card Requirements and How Do They Affect Your Equity Release Process?

    The equity card, a concept in equity release, symbolises a lender’s commitment to ethical practices and adherence to regulatory standards.

    Whilst not a physical card, this metaphorical concept ensures that lenders and advisors meet specific requirements, such as transparent dealing, fairness, and professional conduct.

    For consumers, understanding the ‘equity card’ standards can provide reassurance of engaging with trustworthy professionals, thereby impacting their confidence and decisions in the equity release process.

    How Do Regulations Impact Equity Release Professionals and Advisors?

    Regulations ensure that professionals and advisors in equity release adhere to stringent guidelines for operational integrity.

    What Equity Release Regulations Govern Advisors in the UK?

    Equity release advisors are subject to various rules and regulations to ensure consumer protection and maintain high professional standards. 

    These rules are enforced by regulatory bodies such as the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and industry organisations like the Equity Release Council (ERC). 

    Key rules that equity release advisors must abide by include…

    • FCA regulation: Advisors must be authorised and regulated in the UK by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) to provide equity release advice, ensuring they adhere to the FCA’s rules and guidelines for conducting business.
    • Appropriate qualifications: Advisors must hold relevant qualifications, such as the Certificate in Regulated Equity Release (CeRER) or an equivalent qualification, demonstrating their competence in providing equity release advice.
    • Ongoing professional development: Advisors must engage in continuous professional development to maintain and update their knowledge and competence in the equity release sector.
    • Treating customers fairly: Advisors must treat clients fairly and provide advice that is suitable, clear, and tailored to the client’s individual needs, circumstances, and objectives.
    • Comprehensive advice: Advisors should consider all relevant factors, including the client’s financial situation, needs, objectives, and risk tolerance, before providing equity release advice.
    • Consideration of alternatives: Advisors must discuss alternative financial solutions with clients, such as downsizing, taking out a conventional mortgage, or other options before recommending an equity release plan.
    • Clear communication: Advisors must clearly explain the potential risks, benefits, and implications of taking out an equity release plan, including the impact on the client’s tax situation, state benefits, and inheritance.
    • Personalised illustrations: Advisors must provide clients with personalised Key Facts Illustrations (KFIs) for each recommended equity release product, detailing the costs, features, and risks associated with the plan.
    • Independent legal advice: Advisors must ensure that clients receive independent legal advice from a solicitor of their choice before entering into an equity release contract.
    • Record-keeping: Advisors must maintain accurate and detailed records of their advice and communications with clients, ensuring compliance with regulatory requirements and enabling effective resolution of any disputes or complaints.

    By abiding by these rules and regulations, equity release advisors can ensure a high standard of professionalism, transparency, and consumer protection within the industry.

    Why Is a Certificate in Equity Release Important for Advisors and How Does It Benefit You?

    A Certificate in Equity Release signifies that an advisor has undergone specialised training to offer competent and ethical advice in this field.

    For consumers, engaging with certified advisors ensures informed, tailored guidance, safeguarding their interests.

    This certification reflects an advisor’s commitment to upholding high industry standards, offering peace of mind to homeowners considering equity release.

    For advisors, obtaining this certification not only bolsters their credibility but also enhances their ability to provide superior service, benefiting both them and their clients.

    What Are the Specific Rules for Equity Release Council Solicitors?

    Equity release solicitors have to follow certain rules in order to be allowed to operate within the industry. 

    Equity release solicitors play a crucial role in the equity release process in the UK, providing independent legal advice to homeowners and ensuring that their interests are protected. 

    They must adhere to various rules and guidelines set forth by professional regulatory bodies, such as the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) and the Council for Licensed Conveyancers (CLC), as well as follow the Equity Release Council’s (ERC) standards if they are a member. 

    Some of the rules equity release solicitors must follow:

    • SRA or CLC regulation: Solicitors must be regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) or the Council for Licensed Conveyancers (CLC), ensuring they adhere to their respective codes of conduct, professional standards, and guidelines.
    • Professional competence: Solicitors must possess the necessary knowledge, skills, and expertise in equity release to provide clients with accurate and relevant legal advice.
    • Independent advice: Solicitors must provide independent legal advice to their clients, ensuring that they act in their clients’ best interests and not be influenced by any external factors, such as the equity release provider or financial adviser.
    • Confidentiality: Solicitors must maintain client confidentiality, protecting any personal or sensitive information shared by their clients during the equity release process.
    • Clear communication: Solicitors must communicate clearly with their clients, ensuring they understand the legal implications, risks, and responsibilities associated with entering into an equity release agreement.
    • Due diligence: Solicitors must conduct thorough due diligence, checking the terms and conditions of the equity release contract, and ensuring that it complies with all relevant laws and regulations.
    • Client care: Solicitors must treat their clients with respect, fairness, and professionalism, ensuring they receive the necessary support and guidance throughout the equity release process.
    • Transparency: Solicitors must be transparent about their fees and charges, providing clients with a clear breakdown of costs and ensuring they understand what they are paying for.
    • Conflict of interest: Solicitors must identify and manage any conflicts of interest that may arise during the equity release process, putting their clients’ interests first.
    • Record-keeping: Solicitors must maintain accurate and detailed records of their work, communications, and advice related to the equity release process, ensuring compliance with regulatory requirements and enabling effective resolution of any disputes or complaints.

    It is important that equity release solicitors adhere to these rules and guidelines, as doing so will help ensure a high standard of professionalism, transparency, and consumer protection within the industry.

    Solicitors must also adhere to the ERC’s rules and code of conduct.

    This code of conduct states that…

    • There must be at least one in-person meeting between the solicitor and the customer—this does not include telephone or electronic meetings.
    • The solicitor appointed by the customer is responsible for providing legal advice and ensuring the customer understands the equity release process and wishes to proceed.
    • The solicitor must check that anyone acting on behalf of the customer has been validly appointed by a Power of Attorney.
    • The solicitor must satisfy themselves that a customer believed to be mentally incapacitated is indeed so, by means of a medical certificate or other documentation.
    • Where the provider agrees and permits this, the solicitor must provide this advice to the incapacitated customer’s attorney.
    • The customer must be separately represented and the solicitor must not be acting for the provider, advisor, occupier, or other third party. 
    • All legal advisors must fully comply with their regulator’s requirements.

    What Are the Implications of Property Type and Valuation on Equity Release?

    The type and valuation of a property significantly influence the equity release terms and the amount that can be borrowed.

    What Are the Property Valuation Guidelines Under Equity Release Regulations?

    Yes, there are guidelines to property valuations for the equity release industry that valuers and providers must follow to ensure accurate and fair valuations. 

    Accepted norms for property valuation when it comes to equity release…

    • RICS standards: Valuations for equity release should be carried out by a qualified surveyor who is a member of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS). RICS sets professional standards and guidelines for it’s members, ensuring high-quality valuations that adhere to the RICS Valuation – Global Standards (the ‘Red Book’).
    • Independence: The valuer must be independent of both the homeowner and the equity release provider to avoid any potential conflicts of interest, ensuring a fair and unbiased valuation.
    • Market value: The valuation should be based on the property’s current market value, taking into account factors such as size, location, condition, age, and any improvements or modifications that have been made to the property.
    • Comparables: The valuer should use comparable properties in the local area to support their valuation, considering recent sales and market trends to determine an appropriate value for the subject property.
    • Physical inspection: Accurate valuations require a property inspection. During the inspection, the valuer assesses the property’s condition, features, and any factors that could affect its value, such as structural issues, dampness, or planning restrictions.
    • Valuation report: The valuer must produce a written report detailing their findings, methodology, and the property’s estimated market value. This report is used by the equity release provider to calculate the maximum amount that can be released from the property.
    • Revaluation: In some cases, homeowners may request a revaluation if they believe the initial valuation is inaccurate or if significant changes have occurred to the property since the initial valuation. The provider may require an updated valuation report from a RICS-qualified surveyor to reassess the property’s value.

    Property valuation is a crucial aspect of the equity release process in the UK, as it determines the amount of equity that can be released from a property.

    Equity release valuers can ensure accurate and fair property valuations by following these guidelines, thereby allowing homeowners to access the appropriate amount of equity from their homes.

    How Does Non-Standard Construction Property Impact Your Equity Release Options?

    Non-standard construction properties, characterised by unconventional building materials or methods, present unique challenges in the equity release process.

    Lenders often perceive these properties as higher risk due to potential resale difficulties, which can affect the loan-to-value ratio offered.

    Owners of such properties may face stricter scrutiny, additional valuation assessments, and possibly limited lender options.

    Consequently, understanding how your property’s construction type impacts equity release terms is crucial for homeowners considering this financial avenue.

    Common Questions on Equity Release Rules

    What Are the Latest Equity Release Rules and Regulations in the UK?

    How Have Equity Release Rules and Regulations Changed in the UK?

    What Are the Consequences of Not Following Equity Release Rules and Regulations?

    How Do Equity Release Rules and Regulations Protect Consumers?

    What Are the Key Considerations in Equity Release Rules and Regulations?

    Do You Need to Receive Financial Advice First With Equity Release?

    Do You Need to Receive Independent Legal Advice With Equity Release?

    Can I Release Equity With a Bad Credit History, What Are the Rules?

    Can I Be Rejected for Equity Release Plans?

    Is Equity Release Taxed? What Are the Rules?

    Does Equity Release Affect Your State Pension?

    Concluding Thoughts on Equity Release Rules and Regulations

    Understanding equity release rules and regulations in the UK is essential for homeowners considering this financial option. 

    Equity release can be a useful financial solution for UK homeowners who meet the eligibility requirements. 

    It is essential to understand the associated risks, consult a qualified financial adviser, and consider the Equity Release Council’s standards when evaluating equity release options.

    By familiarising yourself with the various eligibility criteria, industry standards, and the responsibilities of professionals involved in the process, you will be able to make informed decisions and fully benefit from equity release. 

    As the market continues to evolve, staying updated on equity release rules and regulations will remain crucial to ensuring consumer protection and maintaining trust in this valuable financial solution.

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