Mortgage Renewal Benefits

financial Leslie Morris 12 Dec

Is your mortgage coming up for renewal? Do you know about all the incredible options renewing your mortgage can afford you? If not, we have all the details here on how to make your mortgage renewal work for you as we start to think about 2024.

Get a Better Rate

Are you aware that when you receive notice that your mortgage is coming up for renewal, this is the best time to shop around for a more favourable interest rate? At renewal time, it is easy to shop around or switch lenders for a preferable interest rate as it doesn’t break your mortgage. With interest rates expected to come down as we move into the New Year, taking some time to reach out to me and shopping the market could help save you money!

Consolidate Debt

Renewal time is also a great time to take a look at your existing debt and determine whether or not you want to consolidate it onto your mortgage. For some, this means consolidating your holiday credit card debt into your mortgage, for others it could be car loans, education, etc. Regardless of the type of debt, consolidating into your mortgage allows for one easy payment instead of juggling multiple loans. Plus, in most cases, the interest rate on your mortgage is less than you would be charged with credit card companies.

Start on that Reno

Do you have projects around the house you’ve been dying to get started on? Renewal time is a great opportunity for you to look at utilizing some of your home equity to help with home renovations so you can finally have that dream kitchen, updated bathroom, OR you can even utilize it to purchase a vacation property!

Change Your Mortgage Product

Are you not happy with your existing mortgage product? Perhaps you’re finding that your variable-rate or adjustable-rate mortgages are fluctuating too much and you want to lock in! Alternatively, maybe you want to switch to variable as interest rates start to level out. You can also utilize your renewal time to take advantage of a different payment or amortization schedule to help pay off your mortgage faster!

Change Your Lender

Not happy with your current lender? Perhaps a different bank has a lower rate or a mortgage product with terms that better suit your needs. A mortgage renewal is a great time to switch to a different bank or credit union to ensure that you are getting the value you want out of your mortgage if you are finding that your needs are not currently being met.

Regardless of how you feel about your current mortgage and what changes you may want to make, if your mortgage is coming up for renewal or is ready for renewal, please don’t hesitate to reach out to a DLC Mortgage Expert today! We’d be happy to discuss your situation and review any changes that would be beneficial for you to reach your goals; from shopping for new rates or utilizing that equity! Plus, we can help you find the best option for where you are at in your life now and help you to ensure future financial success.

How do you Measure Your Financial Growth?

financial Leslie Morris 11 Sep

If you are reading this you probably have a keen interest in improving your financial situation — but how are you going to measure your progress?

The easiest way is by setting and achieving a goal. This could be short-term and focused, like wiping out a credit card debt. On the other hand, it could be a long-term goal like burning the mortgage five years ahead of time after twenty years of scrimping and saving.

Achieving either of these goals is a great accomplishment, but they may not tell the whole story. The problem with both of them is they are independent from all of the other factors that affect your financial standing. What if the value of the house you just paid off has dropped 20% over the last year, or you eliminated one credit card balance only to see another card or line of credit head in the opposite direction?

No single metric tells the whole story of your financial progress. Paying yourself first and diligently putting $300 from every paycheque into your RRSP will definitely help you hit your retirement goals. However, you also need to monitor the growth from investing your RRSP as well as any other assets that are contributing to your retirement fund and ensure the total value is steadily tracking towards your goal.

Cash flow is another common measure of financial progress. Tracking your income and expenses helps you understand how much money you have available after covering your costs. Positive cash flow is a surplus that can be used for saving, investing, or paying down debt — but it doesn’t measure how effective you were at putting that cash surplus to work. You may think you are making progress, but if you let the cash sit in a bank savings account instead of a GIC in your TFSA, then you actually made comparatively poor progress.

If you want to keep it simple and look at only one metric to get a holistic view of your financial health, measuring your net worth can provide you with valuable insights. It’s an easy-to-understand concept that will help you analyze your financial health and overall progress towards your financial goals.

Calculating your net worth isn’t all that difficult and although it represents only a snapshot in time, the main advantage is that it provides a comprehensive snapshot. It takes into account all of your assets (such as cash, investments, real estate, and valuable possessions) and subtracts your liabilities (such as debts and loans). Monitoring your net worth forces you to be aware of all your financial accounts and can help you make more informed decisions about your spending, saving, and investing habits.

As you work to increase your assets and reduce your liabilities, your net worth should show positive growth. This signifies that you’re making smart financial decisions and accumulating wealth over time. Seeing your net worth increase can be motivating and reinforce positive financial behaviors. On the flip side, if you notice a decline, it can signal that you need to reevaluate your financial decisions and make necessary adjustments.

Monitoring your net worth helps you understand how effectively you’re building wealth. Although the market value of assets such as stocks or real estate fluctuate, comparing your net worth to previous periods can still help you evaluate the effectiveness of different financial strategies you’ve implemented. This allows you to refine your approach and make changes as needed.

Your net worth is an essential factor in assessing your retirement readiness. It helps you determine if you’re on track to maintain your desired lifestyle during retirement and whether you need to adjust your savings and investment strategies. It can also influence your estate planning decisions. It’s important for determining how you want your assets distributed after your passing and for considering strategies to minimize potential estate taxes.

There are lots of ways to measure financial growth and no one method is perfect, but keeping an eye on your net worth is a relatively easy task that will do wonders for your motivation — why not give it a try?

Frequently (and not so frequently!) Asked Mortgage Questions

mortgage Leslie Morris 25 May

New to mortgages? Have questions but not sure where to start? We have the answers!

  1. What is the best interest rate I can qualify for?
    Your credit score plays a big role in the interest rate you can qualify for. The riskier you appear as a borrower, the higher your rate will be. While it is important to understand rate is NOT the most important aspect of your mortgage, it does still play a significant part. However, in some cases you may lose out on pre-payment privileges or porting options if you opt for the lowest rate. This is why it is important to look at your mortgage as a whole for your current and future needs.
  2. What credit score is needed to qualify for a mortgage?
    Generally, you are considered a prime candidate for a mortgage if your credit score is 680 and above. The higher you can get above 700 the better, as you will access lower rates. While almost anyone can obtain a mortgage via traditional or private lenders, if you have a lower credit score the key will be the size of your down payment. A sufficient down payment can reduce the risk to the lender providing you with the mortgage, thereby opening up lower rate options
  3. What happens if my credit score isn’t great?
    There are five main things you can do to improve a low credit score.

    • Pay down credit cards so they’re below 70% of your limits. Revolving credit like credit cards have a more significant impact on credit scores than car loans, lines of credit, or other types of debt.
    • Limit the use of credit cards. Racking up a large amount and then paying it off in monthly instalments can hurt your credit score. If there is a balance at the end of the month, this also affects your score.
    • Check credit limits. If your lender is slower at reporting monthly transactions, this can have a significant impact on how other interested parties view your file. Ensure everything’s up to date as old bills that have been paid can come back to haunt you.
    • Keep old cards. Older credit is better credit. If you stop using older credit cards, the issuers may stop updating your accounts. As such, the cards can lose their weight in the credit formula and, therefore, may not be as valuable – even though you have had the cards for a long time. Use these cards periodically and then pay them off.
    • Don’t let mistakes build up. Always dispute any mistakes or situations that may harm your score. If, for instance, a cell phone bill is incorrect and the company will not amend it, you can dispute this by making the credit bureau aware of the situation.
  4. What’s the maximum mortgage I can qualify for?
    To help you determine what you can afford, check out the My Mortgage Toolbox app on the iStore and Google Play. This app can assist with various calculations to determine the amount you can afford, how much your monthly mortgage payments will be, allow you to play around with payment frequencies, and so much more. You can also get pre-qualified on the app, which you can follow up with a proper mortgage pre-approval once you are ready to start shopping! This will also assist with solidifying your budget and understanding your mortgage costs.
  5. How much money do I need for a down payment?
    The minimum down payment required is 5% of the purchase price of the home. However, it is ideal to produce a down payment of 20% to avoid paying mortgage default insurance and, in some cases, to access a better interest rate.
  6. What happens if I don’t have the full down payment amount?
    It can be hard to put together a down payment. Fortunately, there are many programs available that will allow you to utilize different forms of down payments through cash-back products, RRSP withdrawal or gifting from an immediate family member.
  7. Should I go with a fixed- or variable-rate mortgage?
    The answer to this question depends on your personal risk tolerance. If you happen to be a first-time homebuyer, or you have a set budget that you can comfortably spend on your mortgage, it’s smart to lock into a fixed mortgage with predictable payments over a specific period of time. On the other hand, if your financial situation can handle the fluctuations of a variable-rate mortgage, this may save you some money in the long run. Another option is to opt for a variable rate, but make payments based on what you would have paid if you selected a fixed rate. There are also 50/50 mortgage options that enable you to split your mortgage into both fixed and variable portions.
  8. How much will my mortgage payments be?
    Your monthly mortgage payment cost will vary based on several factors, such as the size of your mortgage, whether you’re paying mortgage default insurance, your mortgage amortization, your interest rate, and your frequency of making mortgage payments. The My Mortgage Toolbox app from Google Play and the iStore has many calculators that can help you preview different mortgage and payment scenarios.
  9. What amortization will work best for me?
    While the benchmark and typically used standard amortization period for a mortgage is 25-years, shorter or longer timeframes are available. The main reason to opt for a shorter amortization period is that you’ll become mortgage-free sooner. In addition, by agreeing to pay off your mortgage in a shorter period of time, the interest you pay over the life of the mortgage is greatly reduced. A shorter amortization also affords you the luxury of building up equity in your home sooner. Equity is the difference between any outstanding mortgage on your home and its market value. While it pays to opt for a shorter amortization period, keep in mind you will have higher monthly payments as a shorter amortization period means less payments overall. If your income is irregular or you’re buying a home for the first time and will be carrying a large mortgage, a shorter amortization period that increases your regular payment amount and ties up your cash flow may not be the best option for you.
  10. How can I maximize my mortgage payments and own my home sooner?
    Most mortgage products include prepayment privileges that enable you to pay up to 20% of the principal (the true value of your mortgage minus the interest payments) per calendar year. This will also help reduce your amortization period (the length of your mortgage). Another way to reduce the time it takes to pay off your mortgage involves changing the way you make your payments by opting for accelerated bi-weekly mortgage payments. Not to be confused with semi-monthly mortgage payments (24 payments per year), accelerated bi-weekly mortgage payments (26 payments per year) will not only pay your mortgage off quicker, but it’s guaranteed to save you a significant amount of money over the term of your mortgage. With accelerated bi-weekly mortgage payments, you’re making one additional monthly payment per year. In addition to increased payment options, most lenders offer the opportunity to make lump-sum payments on your mortgage (as much as 20% of the original borrowed amount each year).
  11. Can I make lump-sum or other prepayments on my mortgage, or will I be penalized?
    Most lenders enable lump-sum payments and increased mortgage payments to a maximum amount per year. But, since each lender and product is different, it’s important to check stipulations on prepayments prior to signing your mortgage papers. Most “no frills” mortgage products offering the lowest rates often do not allow for prepayments. As well, please note that some lenders will only let you make these lump-sum payments on the anniversary date of your mortgage while others will allow you to spread out the lump-sum payments to the maximum allowable yearly amount.
  12. If I have mortgage default insurance, do I need mortgage life insurance?
    Yes. Mortgage life insurance is a life insurance policy on a homeowner, which will allow your family or dependents to pay off the mortgage on the home should something tragic happen to you. Mortgage default insurance is something lenders require you to purchase to cover their own assets if you have less than a 20% down payment. Mortgage life insurance is meant to protect the family of a homeowner and not the mortgage lender itself.
  13. Is my mortgage portable?
    Fixed-rate products usually have a portability option as lenders utilize a “blended” system where your current mortgage rate stays the same on the mortgage amount ported over to the new property, and the new balance is calculated using the current rate. With variable-rate mortgages, however, porting is usually not available. This means that when breaking your existing mortgage, a three-month interest penalty will be charged. This charge may or may not be reimbursed with your new mortgage. While porting typically ensures no penalty will be charged when you sell your existing property and buy a new one, it’s best to check with your mortgage professional for specific conditions before making any changes.
  14. If I want to move before my mortgage term is up, what are my options?
    This will depend greatly on your particular lender and the type of mortgage you have. While fixed mortgages are often portable, variable are not. Some lenders allow you to port your mortgage, but your sale and purchase have to happen on the same day, while others offer extended periods. As long as there’s not too much time between the sale of your existing home and the purchase of the new home, as a rule of thumb most lenders will allow you to port the mortgage. In other words, you keep your existing mortgage and add the extra funds you need to buy the new house on top. The interest rate is a blend between your existing mortgage rate and the current rate at the time you require the extra money.
  15. How much will I have to pay for closing costs?
    As a general rule of thumb, it’s recommended that you put aside at least 1.5% of the purchase price (in addition to the down payment) strictly to cover closing costs such as: property transfer taxes, lawyer/notary fee, survey costs, appraisal fee, title insurance and a home inspection.
  16. How do I ensure I get the best mortgage product and rate upon renewal at the end of my term?
    The best way to ensure you receive the best mortgage product and rate at renewal is to enlist your mortgage professional to review your current mortgage product, financial situation and shop the market for you. A lot can change over a single mortgage term, and you can miss out on a lot of savings and options if you simply sign a renewal with your existing lender without consulting your mortgage professional.
  17. What steps can I take to help ensure I don’t become a victim of title or mortgage fraud?

Red flags for mortgage fraud:

  • You’re offered money to use your name and credit information to obtain a mortgage
  • You’re encouraged to include false information on a mortgage application
  • You’re asked to leave signature lines or other important areas of your mortgage application blank
  • The seller or investment advisor discourages you from seeing or inspecting the property you will be purchasing
  • The seller or developer rebates you money on closing, and you don’t disclose this to your lending institution. Sadly, the only red flag for title fraud occurs when your mortgage mysteriously goes.

Ways to protect yourself from title fraud:

  • Always view the property you’re purchasing in person; check listings in the community where the property is located – compare features, size and location to establish if the asking price seems reasonable
  • Make sure your representative is a licensed real estate agent
  • Beware of a real estate agent or mortgage broker who has a financial interest in the transaction
  • Ask for a copy of the land title or go to a registry office and request a historical title search; in the offer to purchase, include the option to have the property appraised by a designated or accredited appraiser
  • Insist on a home inspection to guard against buying a home that has been cosmetically renovated or formerly used as a grow house or meth lab
  • Ask to see receipts for recent renovations; when you make a deposit, ensure your money is protected by being held “in trust”
  • Consider the purchase of title insurance.

Mortgage Pre-Approval vs. Pre-Qualification

financial Leslie Morris 27 Apr

When it comes to getting a mortgage, there are a few things you can do in advance to make the mortgage process easier!

getting pre-qualified

The purpose of mortgage pre-qualification is to help you get a general idea of what you can afford when shopping for your new home.

Pre-qualification will take your own assessment of your financial status and allow you to come up with a budget for a home, as well as what you can afford for monthly payments.

Download the My Mortgage Toolbox app (available on the iStore or Google Play) to get pre-qualified today in under 60 seconds! Plus, you can get an idea of your monthly mortgage payments and compare various payment schedules.

getting pre-approved

While getting pre-qualified can give you a ballpark estimate on what you can afford, pre-approval means that a lender has stated (in writing) that you do qualify for a mortgage and what amount, based on submitted documentation of your current income and credit history.

A pre-approval usually specifies a term, interest rate and mortgage amount and is typically valid for a brief period of time, assuming various conditions are met.

There are a few benefits to pre-approval including:

  1. It confirms the maximum amount you can afford to spend
  2. It can secure you an interest rate for 90-120 while you shop for your new home
  3. It lets the seller know that securing financing should not be an issue. This is extremely important for competitive markets where lots of offers may be coming in.

Keep in mind, once you get your pre-approval, you will want to make sure not to jeopardize it. Until your mortgage application and sale is completed, be sure you don’t quit or change jobs, buy a new car or trade up, transfer large sums of money between bank accounts, leave your bills unpaid or open up new credit cards. You do not want your financial or employment details to change at all until you have closed on the new mortgage.

Reach out to a DLC mortgage expert to get started today!

4 Key Things to Know about a Second Mortgage

financial Leslie Morris 8 Feb

A second mortgage is a mortgage that is taken out against a property that already has a home loan (mortgage) on it. Generally people take out second mortgages to satisfy short-term cash or liquidity requirements, have an investment opportunity or to pay off higher-interest debts (such as credit cards and student loans) that a second mortgage might offer.

If you are considering a second mortgage for any reason, here are a few key points to keep in mind:

Second Mortgages and Home Equity: Your second mortgage and what you can qualify for hinges on the equity that you have built up in your home. Second mortgages allow you to access between 80 and 95 percent of your home equity, depending on your qualifications.

For example, if you seeking 95% Loan-to-Value loan (“LTV”):

House Value = $850,000
95% LTV (maximum mortgage amount) $807,500
less: First Mortgage ($550,000)
Amount Available Through Second Mortgage $257,500

Second Mortgages and Interest Rates: When it comes to a second mortgage, these are typically higher risk loans for lenders. As a result, most second mortgages will have a higher interest rate than a typical home loan. There is also the option of working with alternative and private lenders depending on your situation and financial standing.

Second Mortgage Payments: One advantage when it comes to a second mortgage is that they have attractive payment factors. For instance, you can opt for interest-only payments, or you can select to pay the interest plus the principal loan amount. Work with your mortgage broker to discuss options and what would work best for your situation.

Second Mortgage Additional Fees: A second mortgage often comes with additional fees that you should be aware of before going into the transaction. These fees can vary widely but often are a percentage of the mortgage. Other fees to consider include appraisal fees, legal fees to set up the second mortgage and any lender or broker administration fees (particularly with alternative or private lenders).

Second mortgages are a great option for many homeowners and, in some cases, may be a better solution than a refinance or a Home Equity Loan (HELOC). If you are interested in learning more or want to find out if a second mortgage is right for you, don’t hesitate to reach out to me today.

5 House Hunting Mistakes to Avoid.

financial Leslie Morris 21 Dec

Buying a home is one of the largest investments you will ever make! In order to make your home hunting experience the best it can be, there are a few key mistakes to avoid and be aware of before you start your journey:

  1. Not Getting Pre-Approved: One of the most important aspects of buying a home is the mortgage application and approval process. No matter what type of home you are looking for, you will need a mortgage. One of the biggest mistakes when it comes to the home-buying process is NOT getting pre-approved prior to starting your search. Getting pre-approved determines the actual home price you can afford as it requires submission and verification of your financial history to ensure the most accurate budget to fit your needs.
  2. Not Setting or Following a Pre-Determined Budget: Another mistake that people make when home-hunting is not setting, or following, a pre-determined budget. It can be tempting to start looking at the top of your budget, or even slightly over, but when you consider closing costs and the long-term financial responsibility of home ownership, it is best to avoid maxing yourself out. Getting pre-approved will help determine what you can afford, as well as making an appointment with your mortgage broker to determine your financial situation and the best options for you now, and in the future.
  3. Not Hiring a Real Estate Agent: Your mortgage broker and your real estate agent are two of the most important members of your homebuying A-Team! In today’s competitive real estate market, it can be very difficult to acquire property without the help of a realtor. One reason is that realtors can provide access to properties that never even make it to the MLS website! They can also gain access to information about homes that may come onto the market, before a listing is even signed. Most importantly though, a realtor understands the ins-and-outs of the home buying process and can tell you how to be successful in your endeavors to purchase a home by guiding you through the process from the first viewing to having your bid accepted.
  4. Focusing Too Much on Aesthetics: While we understand that bad interior design can really affect the perception of the home, you don’t want to be blindsided by it. At the end of the day, aesthetics can always be updated! Giving up the perfect price or location or size for a few aesthetic details (such as paint color, flooring, or even outdated appliances or light fixtures) is one of the biggest mistakes people make! Most homes have incredible bones that only need some minor tweaks to become your perfect space.
  5. Not Thinking Ahead: What you want and need in a house today, could be very different from what you want and need in a house in the future. It is important to be able to look ahead – are you planning on having children? Are your parents getting older and in need of a retirement space? These are things that are good to take into consideration when buying a new home. Buying a home isn’t a permanent decision as you can always sell your home later on if it doesn’t work for you in the future, but it is almost always easier to plan ahead so you can grow with—and not out of—your home whenever possible.

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Retirement Worries Weighing you Down?

mortgage Leslie Morris 14 Nov

It’s natural to have uneasiness over the state of your retirement preparedness due to the inherent uncertainties involved:

  • How long will I live?
  • Will my health or my spouse’s health fail? and when?
  • How much will my current assets and investments grow in value?
  • How will inflation impact the next 5, 10 or 20 years?

There is no shortage of variables to consider when trying to figure out how you are going to fund your retirement dreams. There is also no magic number — often quoted numbers like $1,000,000 or formulas like six times your annual salary at age 50 have no basis in fact, especially not your facts. They have no way to know if your retirement plans include restoring a pricey vintage car or spending most nights glued to a hockey game on the TV.

A financial advisor can help crunch the numbers and offer investment alternatives, but you need to make the big decisions on the type of retirement lifestyle you envision and how much you can realistically afford to sock away along the way to fund that dream.

If you really need some kind of number for reference, 2019 Federal Government data showed the average annual spend for a household over 65 (including taxes) was $64,461. As you get closer to retirement and some of the bigger bills fade away (mortgage, kid’s education) you will have a clearer picture of your needs.

Retirement age and life expectancy are two more uncertainties to deal with. The average Canadian calls it a day just shy of 83 years, but it is on the rise. If you are 20 now, it is expected that you will have about a 50/50 chance to hit 90! The average age for retirement is 63, so simple math (83 minus 63) tells us you will most likely need at least 20 years of retirement income.

Hopefully you have been saving and investing with your RRSP and/or TFSA and have also developed some other passive income streams to supplement your government pension income. If your employer has a pension plan and you maxed out that and your CPP for 35 years, you may be able to live entirely off of your pension income and not worry about saving anything for retirement!

The key point is to confirm how much you are going to receive. The average CPP cheque is $625/month or just over half of the $1204 maximum. Makes sure you investigate any private or employer pension benefits you have as well as your CPP and OAS benefits to determine how much you will receive. A reverse mortgage may also be an option to generate cashflow.

It’s never too late to get started with retirement savings and investing, but you have to realize that catching up will be harder than it sounds, even as your income rises. If you have unused TFSA or RRSP contribution limits (you can easily check by looking at your latest income tax assessment), by all means, start playing catch-up as soon as you are able.

Another problem with starting late is that you miss out on the magic of compound returns. Maxing out your TFSA every year from age 25 to 65 with an index fund at 5% would yield $725,000. Starting at age 40 would leave you with only $287,000. You could try and compensate for a late start by taking on riskier investments with higher returns, but that doesn’t always end up well!

If you are planning to rely on a side hustle, spouse and/or inheritance to get you through retirement, just be aware that those options can be easily derailed. If your spouse dies, your survivor’s pension could be considerably lower. Side hustles are great, but your health may fail or maybe you can’t find a job – only 10 to 20% of retirees report doing some sort of work. As for inheritance, your parents may live to be a 100, they may make some bad investments, or they may even get remarried.

Anxiety is a natural by-product of retirement planning, and the cure is having the knowledge and facts you need to make your own judgement on how much is enough.

5 Tips to Reduce Heating Costs

financial Leslie Morris 14 Nov

When it comes to the winter season, it can be easy to go overboard when it comes to heating – but there is a better way! With a little awareness – and the right preparation – heating your home this winter won’t have to cost you a fortune. To help you save, we have put together a few helpful tips to reduce heating costs:

  1. Inspect Your Heat Sources – Regardless of whether you rely on a fireplace, gas or baseboard heating, it is always a good idea to have all heat sources inspected for efficiency.
  1. Check Your Fireplace – It is recommended to keep your fireplace damper closed, unless there is a fire burning. Otherwise, it is the same as having your window wide-open during the winter! For those of you with a fireplace you never use, now might be a good time to plug and seal the chimney to keep warm air from escaping.
  1. Manage Your Thermostat – As tempting as it is to turn your heat all the way up in the winter, proper thermostat management will help you save costs in the long run. A thermostat with a timer is a great option to help you save this winter. Turn it on earlier so the room heats up in time for use, instead of cranking the heat when you need to get warm quickly and have it turn off 30 minutes before bed or before leaving the home. If you find you are chilly at night, a safely positioned space heater and closed door is a far more inexpensive choice.
  1. Close The Door – To keep your heating system from working too hard, close doors when rooms are not in use. This prevents heat transfer in and out of vacant rooms, and will ensure the space you’re currently using remains warm and cozy.
  1. Be Mindful of Drafts – Checking for drafts is another important way to reduce heating costs. If you notice any issues, using a weatherstrip or caulking to seal doors and windows is a relatively inexpensive fix that can have a huge savings impact on your heating bill.