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Can't pay the mortgage?

Mortgages come with a health warning - if you don’t keep up your agreed monthly payments your home may be repossessed by the lender14-05-2009
which means the court can order you to move out and give the lender the right to sell the property. (If you’re already at that stage see ’Facing Repossession’ fact sheet)

It’s a stark warning and the Government has told lenders they must use repossession only as a last resort. 13,161 homes were repossessed between September and December last year. The total number of households behind with repayments at the end of Dec 2008 was 340,000. The Centre for Policy Studies thinks as many as 145,000 households will be homeless by the end of the recession and another 245,000 will have repossession orders against them.
The Bank of England cut base rates to just 1% last week - the lowest interest rate ever. Some lenders passed on the cut to their borrowers making mortgages cheaper for many. But some didn’t because they need money coming in from savers and if they pass on interest rate cuts to borrowers they have nothing in the kitty to pay interest to savers. A bit of a catch 22!

And interest rate cuts are only part of the picture. If you’ve lost your job and qualify for help to pay your mortgage (see fact sheet) then you will probably be able to keep the roof over your head. But if the total income of the household is drastically reduced because of the loss of a job, yet still high enough to exclude you from claiming any help for the welfare benefit system you’re likely to struggle.

So what do you do?

Get the full picture. List all your income; your bills, credit, cards, loans; and work out in detail how much you spend on food, travel, household items down to the last toilet roll.

Look for ways you can make savings, cut spending or increase income (Take in a lodger? See fact sheet ‘Making Money out of your Home‘)

Contact the lender straight away and discuss the situation. Don’t wait until arrears have build up as it will be harder to get out of the debt.  

Work out what you can pay and try to come to an arrangement. The lender may be willing to restructure the mortgage so that you pay it off over a longer period or so that monthly payments are lower, or you may be eligible for the Homeowner Mortgage Support Scheme which allows the most vulnerable households to defer mortgage interest payments for up to 2 years.

If the lender refuses to help see a money adviser at your local CAB (find details in the phone book or online) or call National Debtline 0n 0808 080 4000. They offer free confidential help and advice. There are other organisations that can help. Check online to see what’s available in your area but don‘t delay - queues for help are building up.

The good news according to the Council Of Mortgage Lenders - is that because lenders are finding it difficult to sell properties - like other would-be sellers, they are considering ways of allowing people to stay in their homes - perhaps paying rent - until they can start paying a mortgage again.

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