Latest figures from the Council of Mortgage Lenders show there were 11,400 repossessions between April and June this year, a 10% drop on the previous quarter. But over a quarter of these repossessions were voluntary – homeowners who have fallen into mortgage arrears but rather than seek help available from Government or their lender, have instead handed in the keys or abandoned their home.
With the advice available via a range of resources, including Government help and advice from organisations such as Citizens Advice Bureau, households can get help to avoid the trauma of repossession.
Housing Minister John Healey has recently launched a new advertising campaign to encourage people struggling with their mortgages to go online to www.direct.gov.uk/mortgagehelp, or ring the National Debtline on 0808 808 4000, to find out about the comprehensive range of support Government has put in place at every step of the repossession process.
While this is a national campaign, extra advertisements will appear in 22 ‘hotspot’ areas across Britain which face a greater risk of increased repossessions due to higher levels of unemployment and numbers of court orders.
Richard from Devon and his family are a good example of this advice in practice.
When Richard lost his business earlier this year as a result of the recession it was clear that he would find it difficult to continue paying the mortgage on his family home near Tavistock.
“Both my wife and I signed-on as unemployed for the first time and things came to a head when the bank threatened to take us to court a few months later,” said Richard.
“When I got the summons I called the Consumer Credit Counselling Service and they pointed me in the direction of Shelter, the housing charity.”
With the help of a case worker at Shelter, the family were able to obtain financial assistance from West Devon Borough Council, while the Department of Work and Pensions took-up the mortgage interest payments.
“On the eve of the hearing the DWP said they would take over the mortgage interest payments and backdate it so we could keep our home.
“Losing our home would have meant enormous disruption to our lives as we have adult children and a teenager at sixth form still living at home,” he said.
“It has been a stressful time but my advice to anyone in a similar situation is to get advice as soon as possible from an organisation such as the Citizen’s Advice Bureau or Shelter who will be able to find ways of helping you through the process and bring the right organisations together to help find a solution.”
Housing Minister John Healey said:
"When homeowners are under pressure and feel their finances are spiralling out of control, the worst thing they can do is bury their heads in the sand. I want them to know that sensible, impartial advice is available online or over the phone so they are able to arm themselves with the facts and take control.
"In most cases where people seek help they are able to keep their home, so we have made sure a range of support is available to them – whether free debt advice or help with interest payments, a request for lenders to show greater tolerance and understanding to those in arrears, on-the-day legal advice for those facing court hearings or, for the most vulnerable households, the Mortgage Rescue Scheme.
"The action we’ve taken means we’ve seen recent drops in the numbers of repossessions, but there’s no room for complacency. The message is clear: it’s your home – let’s keep it that way. "
Citizens Advice Bureau’s Creditor Liaison Policy Officer Alex McDermot says:
“In my role, I’m able to see hundreds of homeowners benefit from our services. The Government has invested £130 million in free debt advice, and where homeowners have taken advantage of this resource, the outcome has been overwhelmingly positive.”
This advice accompanies the recently launched website, which draws together all the help and advice available to struggling homeowners in one place.
The website, www.direct.gov.uk/mortgagehelp, offers clear and helpful advice, illustrating the practical steps homeowners can take to resolve mortgage repayment issues and provides contact details for the various support outlets which provide help and advice.
There are a variety of schemes and resources which provide help and advice for struggling homeowners and www.direct.gov.uk/mortgagehelp draws all this information together, helping homeowners to take control of their situation and explore the option which best suits them. This support can vary from free debt advice to help with interest payments, special arrangements with mortgage lenders, on-the-day legal advice for those facing court hearings, or, for the most vulnerable households, the Mortgage Rescue Scheme.
The website is supported by a series of press and online advertisements, designed to highlight the website and the National Debtline advice number.
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