MoJ: Mortgage possession claims up 11%

Jake Carter

February 13, 2020

Mortgage possession claims rose by 11% to 6,258 between Q4 2018 and Q4 2019, data collected by the Ministry of Justice in conjunction with the ONS has shown.

The data also outlines that mortgage orders and repossessions increased by 24% and 9%, to 4,459 and 1,149 respectively, over the same time frame.

Meanwhile the number of warrants issued dropped by 17% to 3,792, comparing the final quarters of 2018 and 2019.

The median average time from claim to repossession declined from 54.6 weeks in Q4 2018, to 37.2 weeks in the final quarter of last year.

Looking at landlord possession claims, this figure dropped by 12% to 25,438 over the selected time frame.

Additionally landlord orders, warrants and repossessions all fell, decreasing by 12%, 20% and 9%, to 20,549, 12,787 and 7,528, respectively.

The average time taken for a landlord possession claim to reach repossession increased by 1.6 weeks to 21 weeks.

On a regional basis, Hartlepool noted the highest overall rate of repossessions at 56 per 100,000 households.

The highest rates of landlord possession actions were in London, with eight of the highest 10 claim rates and seven of the 10 highest repossession rates.

Becky O’Connor, personal finance specialist at Royal London, said: “For many people struggling to meet mortgage repayments, tolerance from lenders and low interest rates have successfully kept the threat of repossession at bay over the last few years.

“However, a recent increase in repossessions show that for a rising number of homeowners at breaking point, even this relatively benign lending environment is not enough to keep the roof over their heads.

“Anyone struggling to meet their mortgage bills must speak to their lender as quickly as possible to avoid any unnecessary action being taken.”

Mark Pilling, corporate sales managing director at Spicerhaart, added: “The latest UK Finance figures show that the long-term trend for increased mortgage possession activity is continuing.

“Although this is from a low base, it is still a sign that the uncertainty and low economic growth of recent years is catching up with household finances.

“According to Ministry of Justice figures in the last three months of 2019 there were an average of 68 claims for possession every day, with the total of 6,258 representing an 11% increase on the same period in 2018.

“Possession orders have increased by nearly a quarter (24%) and repossessions by 9%.

“The data also points to an ongoing regional divide, with the three highest rates of repossessions all in the North-East of England.

“Interestingly, this is where many of the Conservatives’ recent electoral gains came from so it is clear they will be under pressure to deliver on their talk of ‘levelling up’ regional economies.

“At the same time, regulatory changes are coming into force which, although well-intentioned, may have the short-term impact of making life more difficult for many people already struggling to make ends meet.

“People being required to step up repayments on credit cards and potentially pay more for authorised overdrafts will put even greater pressure on household finances.

“Repossession should always be the last resort and lenders should always look to find another option if it is available.

“The lenders we work with all have a clear strategy in place to identify borrowers who are at risk of falling behind with payments and engage with them deliver the best possible customer outcome.”

Andrew Montlake, managing director at Coreco, said: “While the numbers are low by historical standards, on this evidence lenders are increasingly playing hardball with borrowers who are struggling.

“For mortgage orders to be up a quarter compared to the last three months of 2018 shows lenders are becoming increasingly assertive in dealing with arrears and defaults.

“There can be many reasons why lenders turn up the pressure on borrowers but fears of destabilisation and economic decline if trade negotiations with the EU proceed negatively could have played a role.

“Equally, perceived benign conditions in the property market could be causing lenders to spring clean their loan books in order to improve their overall quality.

“The hope is that the extremely low level of interest rates will temper any further rises.”

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