An equity release trade association has teamed up with a range of national law firms in a drive to strengthen legal standards in the sector.

The Equity Release Council’s new legal forum is composed of solicitors from Eversheds Sutherland, Ashfords, Equilaw, Boyd Legal, Enact, Goldsmith Williams and Adlington Law, and will be chaired by Equilaw’s managing director Claire Barker.

The body is tasked with ensuring legal standards in the equity release sector remain fit for purpose and safeguard consumers’ interest. The council said the forum will also help to educate legal professionals, financial advisers and funders on the important role of legal advice in the sector.

Last year, the Financial Conduct Authority warned that advice given to people taking out equity release loans was ‘not up to scratch’, according to national media reports. While the regulator found that the market worked well for many customers, it said some companies were not giving personalised advice to consumers.

According to trade association, the equity release product range has grown by 142% in the past two years, driven by existing and new providers offering flexibilities.

David Burrowes, chairman of the Equity Release Council, said: ‘The legal forum will provide unparalleled insight into the role of legal advice in the equity release process, which will only serve to strengthen the council’s gold-standard consumer protections and safeguards.

‘The forum brings together representatives of major law firms who have industry-leading technical expertise. It will not only be crucial in helping evolve our standards but also in educating the wider industry about the role of legal advice in delivering good customer outcomes.’

Claire Barker, chair of the legal forum and managing director of Equilaw, added that the forum will give law firms a chance to influence the discussion around consumer protections in the market.