New court rules come into effect today, which will force mortgage lenders to tell councils whether they are planning to initiate repossession actions against local residents.
Housing Minister John Healey has written to all council leaders saying that when councils hear from lenders taking repossession action against local people this should prompt them to offer practical advice or support for residents struggling to keep their homes.
This could include directing them to free debt and legal advice, helping them apply for benefits such as Support for Mortgage Interest or, for the most vulnerable households, assessing them for the Mortgage Rescue Scheme.
John Healey said:
"We are tightening the rules to help protect those struggling with their mortgages. There is support available at every stage of the repossession process, but often local authorities are unaware of the difficulties faced by residents until it's too late.
"There is a clear role for local authorities to help those in difficulty find the most appropriate options to prevent them going through the trauma of repossession, and lenders have a role in ensuring households do not slip through the net."
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, and significantly lower than the peak of 75,500 repossessions in 1991.
But Mr. Healey stressed that people are still under pressure and the risks of repossession will remain high throughout this and next year.
National advertising campaign
The Government recently launched a national advertising campaign to encourage struggling homeowners to take control of their finances and make the most of the support available for them to avoid repossession and stay in their homes.
The advertisements recommend anyone concerned about meeting mortgage payments to go to the new Directgov: Mortgage Help website or contact the National Debtline on 0808 808 4000 for practical advice to take control of their finances.
While this is a national campaign, extra advertisements are appearing in 22 "hotspot" areas facing a greater risk of increased repossession due to higher levels of unemployment and numbers of court orders.
Struggling with mortgage payments?
Over 300,000 people have benefited from financial help and mortgage advice from government-sponsored services since April last year.
There are several Government schemes to help homeowners meet their mortgage interest payments during hard times, including Support for Mortgage Interest and Homeowner Mortgage Support for those who are unemployed or suffer a temporary loss of income.
For the most vulnerable households facing the immediate threat of repossession, there is the additional safety net of the Mortgage Rescue Scheme.
Moreover, the Government has introduced the Mortgage Arrears Pre-Action Protocol, which sets out the steps lenders must take before taking borrowers to court.
** Additional Information & Advice **
You can obtain additional information about mortgages and repossessions on FindLaw.
Depending on your circumstances, however, you may want to speak with a solicitor who specialises in property law. You can be matched with a solicitor in your area for free via solicitor matching services, which can also help you to understand the best course of action and whether you are ready to hire a solicitor.