THE number of homeowners in north-east England and Yorkshire facing the threat of repossessions has soared by 20% in the past 12 months, latest figures reveal.
Figures from the Ministry of Justice show court cases involving cash-strapped mortgage borrowers totalled 6,441 in the past three months – up by a fifth on the same period last year.
Adam Sampson, chief executive of homeless charity Shelter, said the figures suggested some lenders were resorting to court action earlier than ever before to “manage” their borrowers’ mortgage problems.
He said: “The worst fears of thousands of homeowners are now becoming a tragic reality. Mortgage lenders should be helping homeowners to stay in their homes, but with some, it’s a case of miss a couple of payments and you’ll find yourself in court.
“Homeowners are being hammered from all sides as they face the end of fixed term deals, are saddled with new costlier mortgages and cope with soaring food and fuel bills. People are sinking in a sea of debt and sadly under the pressure, they are losing their homes.”
Shelter has called for the government to give courts more powers to insist that lenders only repossess as the very last resort.
It wants a national mortgage rescue scheme for people facing repossession and a reduction in the time people have to wait for state help from nine to three months. It is also calling for immediate extra financial support for arrears and repossessions help and advice phone lines.
Said Mr Sampson: “As part of Gordon Brown’s pledge to ‘listen and lead’ he needs to provide urgent help for people in mortgage difficulties. This way, he will be the prime minister who helped thousands of ordinary families avoid the misery of repossessions and homelessness.”
The MoJ figures are backed up by new Shelter statistics which show more than 6,000 worried homeowners approached Shelter with mortgage problems in just the first three months of 2008, an increase of 38% on the same period last year.