Number of home repossessions jumped towards end of 2019

The number of homeowners’ properties being repossessed jumped by 17% annually in the last three months of 2019, figures from a trade association show.

UK Finance said that 1,330 homeowner mortgaged properties were taken into possession in the fourth quarter of 2019.

It said that although this represents a 17% year-on-year increase, it is from a very low base, with 59 in every 100,000 homeowner mortgages ending up in repossessions in 2019.

There was also a jump in landlord properties being repossessed, which UK Finance also said was from a low base.

Some 660 buy-to-let mortgaged properties were repossessed in the fourth quarter of 2019, up by 20% on a year earlier.

It means 137 in every 100,000 buy-to-let mortgages ended up in repossessions in 2019.

Home repossessions remain well below levels seen between 2009 and 2014, UK Finance said.

It said the increase in possessions has been partly driven by a backlog of historic cases which are being processed in line with the latest regulatory requirements.

“Lenders continue to show flexibility to borrowers in financial difficulty and possession is always a last resort,” UK Finance said.

The figures also show that fewer homeowners had fallen behind with their mortgage payments towards the end of 2019, compared with a year earlier.

There were 70,880 homeowner mortgages in arrears of 2.5% or more of the outstanding balance in the fourth quarter of 2019, 9% fewer than in the same quarter of the previous year.

Within the total, there were 21,770 homeowner mortgages with more significant arrears, representing 10% or more of the outstanding balance.

This was 9% fewer than in the same quarter of the previous year.

Mark Harris, chief executive of mortgage broker SPF Private Clients, said: “With interest rates so low, one would hope that the vast majority of borrowers are managing to pay their mortgages in full and on time each month.

“The number of homeowners in arrears remains at historically low levels, and although the number of homes being repossessed has risen, UK Finance points out that this is from a very low base.”

He continued: “It is important for anyone finding themselves in this position to keep their lender in the loop and seek independent financial advice as early as possible.”

Andrew Montlake, managing director of mortgage broker Coreco, said:
“The hope is that the extremely low level of interest rates will temper any further rises.”

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