As high interest rates lead to home repossessions, London will be hit hardest

Average two-year fixed mortgage rates jumped to a 15-year high on Tuesday (Anthony Devlin/PA) (PA Archive)
Average two-year fixed mortgage rates jumped to a 15-year high on Tuesday (Anthony Devlin/PA) (PA Archive)

Along with unemployment, home repossession is probably the most distressing symptom of recession.

We still do not know if the country was officially in recession at the back end of last year — for that we have to wait for the puff of white smoke from the ONS next week.

But the scourge of repossession is almost certain to rise, with London worst affected, whatever the GDP number crunchers come up with. According to government figures published today, banks and building societies initiated 4,384 mortgage possession claims in the last quarter of 2023.

That is up 39% on the same period in 2022.

It takes about a year for the process to play out, from a claim being lodged with the county court, to owners having to hand the keys over the bailiffs. So legal proceedings started last autumn will not result in people being turfed out for many months yet.

Hopefully lenders will be able to agree repayment terms that allow owners to keep the roof over their heads, at least in some cases.

Landlord possessions are a much quicker process, typically only taking around six months. Today’s figures show landlord possession claims up 14% at 23,382 during the quarter, while actual repossessions were 23% higher at 6.649.

We are not yet back at the levels of claims seen before the pandemic, let alone after the financial crisis, or God forbid, during the Nineties property crash. But they are steadily rising — and London is on the front-line.

The highest rate of mortgage possession claims in the UK were seen in Westminster, followed by Kensington & Chelsea and Brent. For private landlord possessions, Barking & Dagenham had the highest rate of claims of any local authority area, and seven out of the top 10 were in the capital.

There has been so much talk of rate cuts that you have to remind yourself sometimes that the Bank of England continues to stay its hand at 5.25%.

Today’s figures show that for increasing numbers of people that is too much of a burden to bear.