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Top tips for homeowners struggling to keep up mortgage payments

Chief Executive, Gillian Guy said: "With the cost of living going up daily and incomes lagging badly behind, mortgage lenders and the Government must focus on helping people stay in their homes. Repossession is a terrifying prospect and should always be the last resort."

She reminded anyone struggling to meet their mortgage repayments that they can get free, independent advice from their local CAB.

"You have a greater chance of staying in your home if you seek advice and take action as soon as you think you’re having problems," she said.

Top tips if you start to fall behind on your mortgage:

* Make mortgage payments top priority – you could lose your home if you fall behind with payments;
* Let your mortgage lender know if you’re having problems – don’t just stop paying or miss payments. Your lender should treat you fairly and sympathetically and be willing to negotiate affordable repayment arrangements with you. If they know you are doing your best to stop the debt growing they are more likely to allow you more time to sort the problem out;
* Get free, independent advice as soon as you realise there’s a problem. Don’t wait until you’re threatened with court action by your lender. Contact your nearest Citizens Advice Bureau (for contact details, and for more detailed information about dealing with mortgage arrears, go to the CAB website www.adviceguide.org.uk; or try National Debtline (0808 808 4000 www.nationaldebtline.co.uk  or Shelter (0808 800 4444 www.shelter.org.uk);
* You may be able to cut down your monthly mortgage costs. For example, your lender may agree to reduce your monthly interest payments, increase the term of the mortgage to give you more time to pay, or allow you to make interest-only payments for a while;
* Check for any mortgage payment protection insurance you may have if you suddenly lose your job or are unable to work because of illness or injury;
* Get advice on benefits, tax credits and other help you may be entitled to if you are struggling. A CAB adviser can check if you are missing out on additional income and help you make a claim;
* Don’t ignore court papers and court hearings. If you are notified that your lender is seeking possession through the courts, it doesn’t mean you’ve already lost your home. Don’t be intimidated by your lender into believing there’s no point attending the court hearing. Do go to court, but get advice first if you can. Otherwise look out for an advice desk at the county court run by a free independent advice service such as the CAB or Shelter. Getting advice – even at this stage – will give you a much better chance of saving your home;
* Find out if you qualify for Government help. If you are facing repossession, the Government’s mortgage rescue scheme (MRS) may allow you to sell your house but continue to live in it and pay rent. Ask your local council for details. If you’ve lost your job and are claiming benefits, you may be able to get help towards paying your mortgage interest.

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